(I apologize for the downer post here. If you’re not in the mood for emotional and mental pretzels colored by equal parts despair and confusion, I won’t hold it against you if you back out without reading 😉 I’m writing this primarily for the purpose of getting it out there, because to write it is to release it, and release is the first step to healing–or at least, feeling better. Which is ultimately what I’m trying to do. It hasn’t been an easy afternoon so far. Since there’s still plenty of day left, I’m hoping that this is a temporary wave. It’s hard to say right now. As you’ll see, I don’t have many answers; they elude me.
It’s been said that the World Wide Web–and particularly the landscape and climate of social media–is a reflection of the offline world.
I’m inclined to agree, both at the level of the macro-realm, and also in terms of how I personally experience this phenomenon.
It’s very real to me. Navigating the choppy seas of the internet and online relationships doesn’t differ too dramatically from the care I must take to do so in offline life, with the people physically surrounding me.
I’m almost afraid to pull up the social media apps. What awaits me today? What posts will I see that trigger some traumatic memory or uncontrollable emotion? What will shut me down? What will do me in?
What drama occurred overnight while I had the audacity to sleep? What conflicts erupted during the day while I made the mistake of getting work done? What notifications (or not) have exploded?
Who did I offend this time? What wrong word did I use (that I probably didn’t know the “other”, less-common meaning of)? What error in judgment did I make? What post did I share? Who did I accidentally ignore? What did the social media algorithms not show me, and how tightly will that be held against me?
What is lurking in my newsfeed that’s going to trigger fear/anxiety? Or irritation/anger? Or self-consciousness/insecurity?
Which posts (that I thought were really cool, were benign, or would go over well) will fall flat? Which ones will set people off? Which ordinary, everyday, seemingly-innocuous words should I avoid?
Who unfollowed or unfriended me? Which of their allies followed suit? I’m always afraid that I’ve done something wrong. Or, in some cases, what I’m getting blamed for is that which I DIDN’T do. Let’s add a French-twist: “for which I didn’t do” fast enough.
Apparently, if I don’t bang the gavel down on the “correct” side, and before the arbitrary, unannounced expiration time, then I’m cast out of an entire group. The question becomes, did I belong there in the first place? Is it my character flaw or is it theirs? Who needs to do the growing? I honestly don’t know.
And then there’s the pure fear I feel when trying to reach out to those who have drifted away or warninglessly cut off ties. I don’t want to offend. I don’t want to sound dense. I don’t want to come off as desperate. But I do want to come off as though I care. Because I do.
Emotionally, I get very fragile, kind of like eggshells. Sometimes I actually do get a little shaky (yes, physically). Sometimes I really do feel the adrenaline in my legs (my thighs, to be specific). Sometimes my heart really does speed up. Sometimes whatever train of thought I was on before, derails. Sometimes all I am is a pile of mental and emotional carnage, by a point too early in the day.
What will the fallout be? Which friends will become unfriends? Whose feelings will I hurt? Who will I trigger? What will I trigger inside them? What nuclear chain reaction do I unknowingly set off? When will I finally relax enough to sleep? What time will that be?
And then there are the accusations. I was actually labeled “two-faced” today. Am I really? I don’t honestly know the answer to that, either, but I do know that I wasn’t trying to be. Sometimes, to live true to myself, I must maintain allegiance with opposing sides. I might agree with one more than the other, but I don’t always perceive the gaffes of one side to warrant my cutting off ties, just to appease the other. If I feel strongly enough about it, I will. If not, then I won’t.
Sometimes, I am truly offended by what somebody on one “side” said or did. And other times, I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal. The latter is probably due to a lack of personal experience with the issue in question; maybe it’s just that I haven’t personally been affected by it. That doesn’t make me a sociopath. That doesn’t make me “neurotypical” (the word used occasionally by some in the autistic community to put down other autistic people who don’t act the way some think they should), either. That doesn’t mean that anyone’s right or wrong; we’re all human, prone to error, and therefore, it just is.
I can say this with certainty, however: I’m not trying to be diplomatic. I’m not trying to appease anyone. I’m not trying to walk both sides of any fence. I’m not trying to emulate any slippery politicians. I’m not engaging in double-speak. I’m not trying to be hypocritical. What you read here are my true thoughts and feelings, sanitized only for blatantly ableist vocabulary (at least, that which I’m aware is ableist) and a few swear words (when I feel like sanitizing them). Everything else is plain, straightforward truth. If it looks like I’m trying to “play” to both sides of an argument, that’s because that’s how I truly feel. What you read is what I think, and that’s that.
When these catastrophies happen, they often happen without warning, while I was away. I find myself caught up in it without ever having signed up. It’s like my energy, my fate, and my day, have been hijacked. Stolen, yanked out from under me, against my will. Who has the right to do that? Did I do that? Am I inadvertently giving them that right by caring so (too) much? Or am I not caring enough, because I didn’t check in as often as I might should have? I don’t know.
Is there forgiveness in my future? Is there any hope of reconciliation? I don’t know that, either.
I don’t have a whole lot of answers.
What I have noticed, however, is that this that this phenomenon tends to be cyclic. There are peaks and valleys, times where I’m popular and perceived as golden, someone who can’t seem to do any wrong, and then there are other times–times where I might as well be a leper, an “untouchable”. I try not to let the zeniths go to my head, because that digs the holes for the nadirs that much deeper. And what goes up always comes down, and vice versa.
Thus, because what goes down will (usually) eventually come back up, I also try not to dwell too much on the low points, either, because I know that they’ll pass. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be the same again. But the emotional effect might wear off. Selfishly, I’m hoping that the icky residue doesn’t linger too long. For me or for them.
Meanwhile, I’m eternally grateful for the friends who stick around, who see me for who I’m truly trying to be, who consistently recognize (internally or publicly) my efforts and my character for what they are.
Tomorrow–or maybe even later tonight/this afternoon–will be better. At least, I hope so.
At least, the next post will be, anyway. I’ll make sure of that ❤