NotWorking–On the Occasion that You Find Yourself Lonely in the Social Media Crowd

Dear Lily June,

I’ve written variations on the theme below, here and here. I guess I keep returning to this well because I am still so confused about the world of today–your world–and its emphasis on surface viewings over deeper interactions, especially as relates to technology.

I find myself wondering, in a culture dominated by the term “social media,” why I often feel so very lonely in my way of thinking. My thoughts below are as disorganized as my mind is when it comes to this. Little one, forgive your mother her hundreds and hundreds of extraneous words in trying to determine what it takes to build real character. For what it’s worth, to say all of the below would take 60 whole tweets.

***

 1. Of course, there is a reason it’s called Facebook and not Mindbook, Heartbook, or Soulbook.

2. I get into a debate over the following status, written by Spencer McFarland:

Selfies.jpg

I agree with all of this but Take selfies. I ask, Why still the focus on external validation?

3. A girl in her twenties takes issue with my comment, fervently defending selfies by saying they allow her to get over her anxieties about how ugly she looks. Her words.

4. She calls me a part of an out-of-touch generation that is constantly shaming the youth for their tools of self-esteem. She is a proud millennial.

5.Wikipedia says,

“Demographers…use the early 1980s as starting birth years and…the mid-1990s to…early 2000s as final birth years for the Millennial Generation.”

6. I was born in 1984, just as millennial as she is. I lash back, calling her “ageist.”

7. Later the same day, I will read the Facebook status of a poet I went to undergrad with, Claire Donato:

“Let us be kind to one another’s internet masks.”

8. I remember the need to argue, not just passionately, but compassionately. My debate is an ugly reflection. I delete my comments, but change my current status:

Status

9. The girl in her twenties had said that her parents had boxes of photographs from their own wedding, so how were selfies any different?

10. IMHO, generally, photographs are personally perused to recall specific memories of actual moments while selfies are socially shared to memorialize appearances.

11. I look at the world in which we are “sharing,” and I see what the photographer Eric Pickersgill saw when he took a series of photos entitled “Removed.”

12. Remove the iPhones, and you see people turned away from one another, looking down into empty hands, together while entirely distanced, avoiding one another’s eyes.

13.A poem I read when I was in college, Jeffrey McDaniel’s “The Quiet World,” begins,

“In an effort to get people to look / into each other’s eyes more…/

14.

“…the government has decided / to allot each person exactly one hundred / and sixty-seven words, per day.”

15. McDaniel’s poem was written in 1998, eight years before Twitter will be launched, reducing the sum of human experience to 140-characters. Or less.

16. My father, at the peak of his alcoholism, spent 6-8 hours a day on Twitter, gathering “followers” at an enormous rate because of his incendiary comments on politics.

17. My father has a phone full of selfies featuring himself and the women who’ve left him.

18. When I was 16, my father bought me my first computer. Christmas Eve, he called me in to look at the screen. He was purusing Match.com and wanted me to help rate its women.

19.  “Alyssa,” he’d point to a body and ask, “is she too much of a fattie for me?”

20.  In 2012, Tinder makes superficiality a science. Swipe right if you like what you see. Swipe left if you’re driven by judging others & celebrating vanity you don’t.

21. In 2016, my father announces to me that he has a heart problem, atrial fibrillation. He scoffs at the diagnosis, saying I shouldn’t worry.

22. It’s probably, he tells me, just a result of his abuse of laxatives and a lifelong battle with bulimia. Simple as that.

23. The “men’s lifestyle” e-tailer, Avaj, conducted a study that claimed, on average, men look at themselves in the mirror 23 times a day to women’s 16 self-glances.

24. It may re-establish equality if women, as McFarland suggests above, “Take selfies…” in order to look at ourselves more, instead of looking outward at others.

25. Pupil, the part of the eye that lets light strike the retina (like how light is recorded on film in a camera) comes from the Latin Pūpilla, the word for “a little doll.”

26. Pupil became associated with eyes when it was noticed you could see a small reflection–like a little doll–of yourself in the person’s eyes you were looking into.

27. Is looking at a selfie the same as gazing in a mirror? For both, our eyes take in our reflections upside-down, but our mind reassembles the light until we look upright.

28. My sister, fallen in love with filters, can spend 6-8 hours per day tailoring her selfies until she sees an image of herself that doesn’t trigger disgust, depression.

29. No one in the family is claiming my sister has an addiction.

30. Was that a judgmental comment? Something I even had the right to share?

31. Last night, I stayed up until 1:00AM just to straighten my hair, even though it means I ended up getting less than 5 hours of sleep.

32. This morning, in the mirror, I put on old makeup and a new top, and I liked my reflection. Does that make me a vain person?

33. Does claiming a moral high ground because I won’t selfie this rare moment outside of my status quo self-loathing put me “above it all” or “right in the thick of it?”

34. I have recorded this moment–in words–on a public blog. #Vulnerability? #CarefullyCraftedPersona?

35. Emma Stone says,

“I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself.”

Interesting irony, coming from an actress.

36. If you type “Emma Stone hot” into Google, you get over 75 million hits, most of which debate the relative virtues of her appearance and find her wanting.

EmmaStoneSept09
#Seriously?! #NoHopeForTheRestOfUs

37. Facebook, in 2003, was originally “Facemash,” a program allowing Harvard students to compare the faces of their fellow peers to decide who was “hot” and who “not.”

38. Most apps have blemished pasts: I’ve heard rumors Snapchat, nee “Picaboo,” was invented to allow its creators to take and share temporary photos of naked women.

39. In 2012, Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel, said,

“Snapchat …[is] about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect.”

40. Snapchat alleviates “emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the internet.”

41. The irony seems to be that Snapchat allows you to both quickly tell the real truth, then untell it.

42. I write a limerick in response to the Challenge on antonyms, words that function as opposites (ex., public versus private), but it cheats. I call it “Selfie-Esteem.”

43.

The word “selfie” implies it’s for you,
yet once taken, what do you do?
You post it for likes,
and reshares and stat spikes
till your face is one we all see through.

44. As soon as I hit post, I will be embarrassed by this. I can already feel my face reddening.

45. Would this blog be improved if you had a selfie of me blushing in it?

46. 9 times out of 10, if someone tags me in a Facebook photo, I will delete it. I’m not “above” anything. I do it because I’m self-conscious about the images they’re posting.

47. 9 times out of 10, my profile photo is a photo of you, Lily, too young to give consent, too pre-verbal to request your privacy.

48. I post your images because I’m proud of you, not for how you look, but for the fact that you exist.

49. I think you’re beautiful, but that fact is entirely irrelevant to how much I do and will love you.

50. You’re going to live a lifetime of people looking at you, whether you decide to participate in, endorse, deny, or reject that.

51. I used to teach my students that Emily Dickinson, notorious hermit, predicted social media and hated all of it.

52. Dickinson wrote,

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

53. Dickinson wrote,

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

54. If Facebook had been around in 1847, how many Likes might the famous daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson have received?

Black-white_photograph_of_Emily_Dickinson
#BecauseSheCouldNotStopToCare

55. What right have I to judge anyone’s enjoyment of selfies? My training is in poetry, an art nobody particularly enjoys anymore.

56. All I can tell you is T. S. Eliot once wrote,

“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;”

57. “Eleanor Rigby” is famous for its chorus:

“All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? All the lonely people. Where do they all belong?”

58. Still, I like the line where a woman goes about “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door” and the speaker asks, “Who is it for?”

59. Maybe we aren’t more vain as a species than we ever were. Maybe we just have more–and more efficient–mirrors.

60. Of course, there’s a reason it’s called Facebook.

***

Picture Credits:

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18 thoughts on “NotWorking–On the Occasion that You Find Yourself Lonely in the Social Media Crowd

  1. orchidblueblog says:

    Another beautiful truth and one that I entirely agree with. I’d love to live in a world that spent more time appreciating the person than the selfie.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Blathering says:

    I think the way you do about most of the above, but I’m generation X so all this potential self-publicity arrived like a late shock to me, plus I’ve always been very self-conscious. I never post photos of myself anywhere….actually except on Linked In where it seemed to be obligatory, but who uses Linked In? I’m pretty private generally, but also, I rarely like pictures of myself – I usually find them depressing because (in my opinion) I look so awful. I don’t obsess over my appearance these days but it’s just something I’ve come to accept – in photos I always look awful.

    Love the photo of the unknown woman!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      I’ve probably written it elsewhere, but it’s one of my favorite lines from Ani DiFranco. She sings something like, “It took me too long to notice that I don’t take good pictures because I have the kind of beauty that moves.” 🙂 Blathering, I hate photos, too, but maybe we just have a kind of moveable beauty that can’t be caught on film/phones.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blathering says:

        Hello again, I had to mention this because I love random coincidences like this: when I read your post yesterday, I’d never heard (or at least, would not have been able to identify) that line from T.S. Elliot. Today, while reading “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith (which I am loving btw) I read this line, with recognition: “She prepared a face – as her favourite poet had it – to meet the faces that she met….”! Synchronicity!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Elle says:

    I use selfies for self-esteem, too: look! they say, you don’t look as awful as you think. And in some of them I do: I’ve taken selfies post-hysterical crying and makeup-less, as well. I’ve never shared those, although I’ve thought about it a lot. I use them as tools. That’s not to say everyone does, but I think the potential healing power of selfies is enormous, and I’m an unabashed fan of using them that way. To me they’re a bit like food: in itself, neither morally good nor morally bad, moral charge of any sort dependent entirely on how you feel about them and what you do with them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      My concern, at least for my daughter, would be this: I don’t want her self-esteem to only, or even primarily, be wrapped up in how she looks. And I want her to know that she’s allowed to look any way she wants. There is no looking “awful” if you’re not comparing yourself to other people or their scales of beauty. I want her to know that she is FAR MORE than her appearance. You are too, Elle. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      Like

      1. Elle says:

        That’s a fair concern! It’s a world we should all work for. On the other hand, there’s something joyous about exercising creativity in dressing yourself – whether it conforms to other people’s standards or not! – which is probably the ultimate basis of my defense of selfie culture. Following accounts like @effyourbeautystandards and @dothehotpants on Instagram has made me so much more aware of the possibilities for joyful, playful, non-conforming self-presentation 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. dearlilyjune says:

        Now THAT, Elle, I can get behind. While fashion isn’t my forte, I have to remember that it provides my daughter the opportunity to express herself creatively. Thanks for opening my eyes a little wider, here! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Allie P. says:

    My hubby and I were taking selfies before the word existed in public domain. For us, it was a way of capturing a moment of joy or togetherness, usually while on a trip or at an event, rather than force only one person to be in the shot while the other was on the other side of the camera. The images, however, were meant only for us. I am, by some measures a millennial, but other measures Gen X, depending on which generational expert you ask. When I was a child, you groaned when people brought out slide shows of vacations you weren’t invited to. Now living vicariously is the norm. It isn’t all bad. I get to see places I long to visit and am more aware now of other cultures. Facebook allowed me to reconnect with high school friends when I was a new mom struggling against self-doubt. However, social media is just another networking tool for me. My best friends are the ones who come over just because it is Saturday (or Tuesday). They are those who will ignore the dust on my baseboards, or the bits of debris my children’s games left behind. They are the ones who don’t need to see my face online to know my status but enjoy reading what I have to say all the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      Allie–I can definitely see “selfies” (or “us-ies?”) as capturing a moment. (I love your international toilet series, too!) And I, too, seem to swing between X & Millennial, so I feel like I have a foot in both worlds.

      But living vicariously takes on a darker tone when you’re writing to low-income families. There are times when my husband and I have had to take second and third jobs just to eat/pay rent (while still keeping up on our student loans), and you’ve given me some insight into the fact that some of my criticism may be stimulated by envy. It’s hard to have to see others enjoying what we’ll like never have (honeymoons, large houses, designer clothes, etc.) None of which mattered to me before I had a daughter, and now I see how many disadvantages I’m already putting her at…

      Another truth, though, is that I’m just getting a little sick of our visual, surface culture. Like you said, your real friends come over. It’s up to everyone to choose what works for them; I’m just scared it will feel less like a choice to my daughter (who will have her little feet firmly planted in the NEXT generation).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Allie P. says:

        Full disclosure – the rise of the pseudo celebrity famous only for their instagram feed makes me want to vomit.

        Now on to your other points. It is funny, most of those things, the large house, the clothes, etc mattered more to me before I had kids. Now, I better understand the hidden expense of maintaining that lifestyle. I would like to be able to offer my kids more travel and life experience and do find myself envying those who can globe trot on a whim. i have to force myself (and it can be a major struggle at times) to remember that they’ve probably made a few sacrifices too and are just keeping those choices private.

        Food for thought though: the priorities of generations tend to shift like a pendulum. Just as Gen X rebelled against live to work mentality and excess of the baby boomer, chances are the generation that follows millennials may become deeply private as they reach adulthood in response to a perception of overshare.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. dearlilyjune says:

        I’ve never been one to keep up with the Joneses. Near-first generation college kid with no support will do that to you. And yet, when I think of all the things I won’t be able to give my daughter because I put pursuing my dreams, my art, in the moment over planning for her future (a future I never imagined would exist)? It makes me feel so selfish, so sick. But I digress. Sorry for unburdening myself on you! (But thanks for making me think more about all of this, as you always do.)

        Allie, when it comes to your last point, I hope so. Or, I hope at least, that my daughter chooses her own values and follows them, regardless of my own. Maybe they’ll align; maybe they won’t. It is her path to walk, but I’m sharing my perceptions with her, if for nothing else than to give her something to rebel against! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. bitsfromheaven says:

    I recently created a fb account after being free of all social media for around three years.
    I chose to do so because of loneliness, my loneliness.
    It doesn’t help. At all. Lol.
    If anything it’s just another way that I feel I’m being watched. *why must everyone know when I’m on there!!??*
    I just don’t fit in with that world. I like things, move on, maybe comment. But I like my world without open invitations to judge. And I don’t ever want my daughter to feel that likes will make her more desirable.
    I don’t do selfies. I watch the ever changing images of some of my ‘friends’ and it is a never ending revolving door of self proclaimed neediness/need for validation….
    You DLJ, have seen the only selfie I’ve taken in a year or more. And it was because I wanted you to see me. No makeup, filters or editing. I am who I am. And if it’s not good enough for ME, I shouldn’t share it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. fancypaperblog says:

    I have taken a selfie for charity. It was to be without make up etc. I felt so awkward that I brought my dog in on it. I have had lots of fun doing the group selfie thing at weddings etc. Besides that, I just don’t get it.
    Hours on Twitter gathering followers by being a caustic nasty (mostly nasty) I don’t get. I know if people who do it and are ‘successful’.
    Huh??😕

    Like

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