2017 is upon us. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the girl you took 10th grade Geometry with who posts eleven identical cat selfies every day before noon. As much as we still try to pretend that social media is this amazing tool for connecting the masses and bringing global awareness to important issues, in reality, it’s still just a mindless click-bait junkyard complete with a festering pool of over-filtered, egotistical sludge.
I’m not trying to be hypocritical, because I’ll be first to admit that I use social media for narcissism and shameless self-promotion just as much as the next guy.
In fact, there’s a good chance you’re reading this because of a link posted multiple times by me, or a friend that I harassed into sharing. Our collective, growing addiction to providing endless evidence of new haircuts, half-eaten lunches, and every other mundane detail of our daily lives is mostly harmless, though there are times when I think we can all admit, (myself included), that we cross the line into the cringe zone. I truly believe that if we all work together, we can give each other a few less reasons to eye roll as we head into 2017. As I can claim zero authority on this subject, and have committed most of the offenses we’re about to discuss myself, let’s dive right in to my suggestions:
We’ll start with the basics: This is the year we need to start owning our narcissistic motives. If you have a picture that you look good in and you want to post it, do it. Loud and proud. This used to be the case, but for some reason, everyone has lately become hyperaware of how conceited we all seem, and have decided to try and *trick* people into thinking they are actually posting about something else, my favorite misdirection being the inspirational message. I can assure you that posting a picture with a motivational quote underneath it will not somehow fool me into thinking that you are not, in fact, posting a hot picture of yourself. Newsflash: You have every right to post hot pictures. Presenting your best, edited self is basically what social media is built on, and we all do it, every day. So what’s with the quote? Is it somehow meant to grant me guidance on getting my eyebrows that perfect? Is it supposed to make you appear as this benevolent martyr, bestowing your valuable wisdom on living a fuller life, and not someone who just wants to show off how good their ass looks after doing squats for the past six months? I have news for you: It doesn’t. Instead, it makes me simultaneously scratch my head at your choice of biblical excerpt, and feel conflicted about asking for your squat regimen because Jesus is now involved. Show off that cleavage and perfect contour/highlight with pride, and leave the Chicken Soup for the Soul out of this.
As long as we are all willing to admit that we’re into social media for the same selfish reasons, then we’re good. I’ve posted about 500 selfies of me holding a cup of coffee. What is the point of that other than to collect some feel-good Likes on a day that I didn’t feel like showering? As long as we don’t take things too seriously and remember that our posts are just as filtered and carefully edited as everyone else’s are, the ego-patting we get from social media isn’t hurting anyone.
However, when we start to involve other people in our posts, the line between self-indulgence and common decency needs to be drawn a little thicker this year. When you want to wish someone a ‘Happy Birthday’, just do it. If you want to include a picture of the two of you, that might be a lovely idea, but ask yourself a few questions first: Is it a special or funny picture? Is it indicative of the closeness of our relationship? Does it have anything to do with what I’ve written? If the answer is ‘Yes’ to any of these, have at it. But before you hit Upload, ask yourself a few additional questions: Have I even thought about this person in the past month?… Do I look better in this picture than they do?……. Do I even know how old they’re turning?…………….. IS THIS REALLY JUST AN EXCUSE TO POST A PICTURE OF MYSELF? Honestly, in most cases, it probably is. Wishing someone you barely know well enough to share a cab with a ‘Happy Birthday’ by posting a terrific picture of yourself that your friend is barely in frame for, is the equivalent of wishing it to them in person while staring into a mirror, calling them the wrong name, and then leaving to go hang out with prettier people. What a good friend you are.
Wishing your congratulations over social media can be even more tricky, so take a good, hard look at your motives beforehand. Here’s a generic example of one my favorite “heartfelt” congratulatory posts:
“Congratulations to my BEST friend [insert tagged name] for making their BROADWAY DEBUT. It feels like it was just yesterday when we were on stage together in [insert important show]. LOVE YA GIRL!!!”
Please. The underlying messages here are clear and multi-layered. Let’s break them down:
1- Look at me! I am clearly important because I have friends doing big things.
2- Take note y’all: Practically days ago, me and this bitch were in the same production, so by association, I belong on Broadway too.
3. …..I do not love this girl. And I want her life to be mine.
Chances are, if you are genuinely happy for someone, you will feel satisfied with sending them a private message or phone call. If, you are so excited for them that you really want to shout your congratulations from the rooftops via social media, do it! That’s awesome! BUT. Make sure you are actually making the post about them and their accomplishment, and not piggybacking their success for attention or to pat your own hurt ego…. in public, no less. How embarrassing.
While we’re on the topic of motives, can we finally be done with being ‘grateful’ in 2017? We can and should practice gratitude every day of our lives, but let’s keep that shit off social media. It could have been a good thing, but we have completely ruined it. Being hashtag-grateful has basically become the go-to vehicle to humble-brag about whatever it is that we’re currently wanting attention for, and unfortunately, I have been a HUGE perpetrator of this in the past.
Vomit. This post of mine from 2011 makes me cringe so hard it gives me a headache. I have no recollection of what the hell this was even about, but I can read the subtext like a book: “LOOK AT ME. Even though I am still totally insecure, I need you to know that I did something today that proves I am successful, and I get to work with talented, important people and you don’t. Oh. And I’m grateful for it.” I am certain that I really did experience feelings of gratitude that day in a moment of reflection; However, if I really, truly felt so grateful that I just had to write about it on a public forum, I could have simply said, “I feel really grateful for dance today.” Period. The elaboration I felt compelled to write made it absolutely nothing about gratitude, or the “amazing people” in my life, god bless ’em, and everything about me, screaming for validation from the depths of my bottomless, attention-seeking well. I consider myself currently in recovery.
If being overly-specific to draw attention to ourselves isn’t bad enough, being under-specific is a thousand times worse. Anything alluding to our current state with vague, dramatic posts like, “I guess some people never change…” or “I don’t even know why I bother anymore *crying emoji*” make me want to pluck my eyeballs out of my head and soak them in bleach. No, I will not ask you what’s wrong or give you some heartfelt hurrah to boost your spirits, (though I bet your Great Aunt Daphne will, and leave you some xoxo’s in the comments). Yes, I will judge you and most likely block you on my newsfeed if you do it again. If you want to bitch and complain about something, just go for it. If what you’re going through is not appropriate to post details on, do us all a favor and write in your journal about it.
Finally, I understand that we all have our opinions (um, hello) and there’s nothing that makes us feel more validated than posting an article that expresses exactly what we are feeling on a subject, but can we all start doing some damn research before posting and learn the difference between facts and opinions? Everyone has their own views of which mainstream media sources are most credible and that’s fine, but I think we can all agree that a pair of toothless brothers writing an angry blog out of the back of a trailer in Kentucky is probably not a reputable news source. Neither is the article on the “scientific study” that gives you permission to drink a gallon of wine every day and expect to lose 30 pounds and shit rainbows. The amount of effort it takes to research the source of what you’re reading is so minimal you could actually do it in your sleep. If you don’t know where to start, just take a gander at the site you’re sharing from. If there’s ads for porn everywhere and a flashing link to a magic fat-burner pill, it’s probably not legit.
My main point here is not to point the finger at anyone, because I am just as attached to the high of hitting that 100-Like mark with my stupid pizza selfie as everyone else is, and I could honestly spend hours every day rotting my brain out scrolling through GIFs and memes. But I also try really, really hard to fully own up to my self-promotion, not be a jerk, and consider the real people I could be affecting while in the midst of my one-woman-Snapchat-parade. Let’s shamelessly march into 2017 with our self-loving colors blaring, with a little more awareness of others, and hopefully, a lot less Facebook Events to deal with. Happy New Year.