“I hate facebook. It makes me feel like doo doo.”
( 10 minutes later )
“Hmmmmm. I wonder what’s happening on facebook.”
( 10 minutes later )
“Oh man. I love facebook. That video of that cat that knows how to find the coin under the moving containers. Oh man. So good. Oh crap, it’s my best friend’s birthday. Phew. That was close. And, oh holy shit, that huffpost article by the blogger who just died of terminal cancer, woah. That changed my life. And, holy canoli, I need to go backpacking in Europe like that dude I knew from high school. Oh wait, he doesn’t have kids. Yeah. Speaking of which, I ought to get some professional photos done of my girls in grassy fields wearing white. I AM SO BEHIND. But, life is awesome. Buzzfeed knows all. I have lots of friends. And people do cool shit. Man, I love facebook.”
( 10 minutes later )
“Wait, Joan Rivers died and that’s my know-how of current events of the day? I need to go buy a newspaper. facebook is evil.”
Yeah. You feel me?
At the end of the day, you won’t get glowing reviews of facebook culture from me, but you certainly will also not get me posting videos or condescending articles about it being the root of all human disconnection and future doom for future generations.
Because I believe facebook to be an influential, often impeccable TOOL for communication, contact, the spreading of ideas, supporting local and distant businesses with meaningful missions, and diversifying common threads of cultural perspective. And, for this, I truly appreciate facebook: As a digital high five of casual contact.
However, if it holds a place in my life greater than mere TOOL and treads into the realm of connection, well, I feel burdened and drained by it. In fact, I find it intrusive and distracting to the things of life that beg my fleshy attention.
And, let’s be real. It is often more of the latter. We often go to facebook to connect. To be seen. To be heard. To be vulnerable (seemingly) and to receive validation for that (seeming) authentic expression. To get something external that our internal has displaced. And the more that happens, the more it seeps into our life more formally and deeply than a casual high five.
Case in point: My dog, Sassy, of 12 years passed away recently. Her passing was preceded by a harrowing week of late night seizures and the rapid withering away of a life intrinsic to my family’s daily existence, which led to difficult decisions regarding her euthanization. Ugh. Right?
And, I kid you not, as my dog was lying on the floor, her breath slow and limp, her spirit slipping away before the doctor could even administer the IV drip of The End, I felt this heavy, distracting, pulsing presence of my phone in my bag. It was as if I was too far away from the buzz, from the world it held. I wanted to post about what was happening. I even started conjuring up the words I’d write about it. Yes, as this was happening in front of me and as I was crying my heart out and grieving and experiencing the haunting yet beautiful privilege of being with an animal during this time. Right then. Yet, as soon as I acknowledged it fully, the pull shifted from a tug to an invasion. It was as if there were 1,000 people standing in that room yelling their statuses and comments and throwing likes at me like confetti surrounded by party poppers and noise makers while holding signs with pictures of bikinis and beaches and frittatas and and and -
I had let these people in that room. Right there, right then. In that sacred moment. I had opened the door and ushered them in.
This is the danger of looking to facebook for connection. The connection I needed was not knowing about their life or them knowing about mine. It was about me needing to sit there in silent ceremony with my own thoughts, my own vision, my own feelings, my own tears, my own beliefs, my own tether to life’s meaning, and to what this amazing dog and spirit needed from me at that exact moment.
This was not a moment for a high five from friends. Nor are many moments of my day, for that matter. This was sacred, just as eating dinner with my kids is and as dancing with my friends is and telling someone I love them is. And, so, I needed to excuse everyone from that room and ban all noise and get back to the connection we as humans have the privilege of experiencing: Divine closeness with an abstract, impossibly out of control fragile unknown, and perfectly capable foundation of our unique self and how it extends to each present moment and those we hold intimately to it.
This is the work. This is the important thing to hear. We don’t need to learn to be more self-expressive or communicative. No, we need to practice connecting to whatever we consider divine on a daily basis so that it swims in the tide of our day like salt in the sea.
And this is where I’ll state the following: I think we have all taken the good wisdom of Brene Brown and turned vulnerability into a minimal construction like IKEA has done with bookshelves and beds. We hear what she has to say and we’ve held high hopes that by expressing ourselves and being completely un-withholding, we will attain the level of inner peace and outer acceptance she assures us exists in exchange of vulnerability.
This means we post without restraint, we read without critical analysis, and we peruse others lives without boundary. We have allowed vulnerability and its incredible potential for true connection to that Something Divine to don a disguise of mere self-expression and high-fiving contact.
This is what I’d like to call faux-vulnerability. Faux-nerability, should we need to stay IKEA-esque.
Who can fault us?
We are all desperate to connect, to be seen, and to experience worthiness that vulnerability provides, yet we just haven’t taken the time or done the daily (rigorous) practice it is to really dig into that. And the problem is that the connection we get from this faux-nerability is like most other addictions: It’s fleeting, flacid, metallic, cold, distant, unhealthy, incapable, and insatiable.
It’s not your fault. But, it’s also not facebook’s fault.
We’re human. We’re willing to try. And facebook seems like a damn good fit for vulnerability and connection. Yet, "seems" is the key word, isn’t it? We all know how we feel after being in that digital land for too long seeking too much. We all know that no matter how empowered and evolved we are, we regress to pubescent eighth graders with one developed half nipple boob on Valentine’s Day in terms of insecurity every time we post and await a flurry of responses. There’s nothing wrong with you for that. Welcome to the club.
Here’s the thing. You’re so close to being there. Me too. We want connection. We want acceptance for who we are. We want to live brilliantly on our own terms and communicate our missions and our experiences to the world. This is the redeemable part we need to focus on.
The other remedial part remains here: True vulnerability is not about just speaking your truth. True vulnerability is about sitting in your often ugly, messy truth so squarely that the sludge and the underbelly of you, your past, your stuff, your -isms, your dreams, all come bubbling around. You let it come. You become convinced that it will all suck you under like that quicksand scene with Rodents of Unusual Size in the dank forest in Princess Bride. But, you stay with it. You don’t numb out. You don’t make it better. You certainly don’t apologize for being there. You flail. You react like a toddler. You cry. You pray. You yell at Something Divine. You also ask for help. You tap into an understanding of life bigger than you. You surrender to the idea that you have zero control. You become willing to love yourself still. You accept that you might lose everything. But, you love yourself still - and with mercy. And then - THEN - you don’t just write or post or tweedle twat, you act. You do. You be. You become. You move forward. You live with no option to hide. THAT is vulnerability.
Once we do this work, then let’s go hog wild with high fives and communication and the conscious escapism that is facebook. Let’s let the army of wild distractions in to our life at the moments warranted and be grateful for such technology that allows it.
But, engaging in facebook without doing the real work of connection and vulnerability is like running marathons every weekend without having ever run a block in between. Meaning, you will get injured after the high of the race. And you will eventually burn out the ability to run the marathons you love.
Protect yourself. Use technology for what it is. Practice connection daily. Be smarter than the engines in our culture that beg you to descend into the quicksand of the minimal design of faux-nerability.
And with that final fancy hyperbolic sentence, I feel one step above my most recent facebook status concerning my phone and the passenger seat seatbelt alarm. Cheerio.