When I was twenty-five years old, I discovered that my friends were saying things about me behind my back. My roommate let slip that former co-workers had “issues” with the way I was “so vocal on social media”.
I’d be lying if I tell you that it didn’t sting, because it did. I was dealing with heartbreak and sought validation by unsuccessfully trying to be funny for the world to see. I had ten to fifteen updates a day, filling everyone’s feed with verbal snapshots of this life that I thought looked effortlessly happy and content. I had no idea that my friends dissected every single thing I wrote.
“They don’t really mean anything by it,” my roommate said.
But did they really?
I can admit it now: I was not a pleasant experience on Facebook. Or even real life.
It was my first time dealing with very public rejection, and also the very first time in my adult life that I had a platform to freely express how I was feeling (on a nearly minute by minute basis, mind you). I was blind to the toxicity I had unleashed to every one of my online friends. My pain reduced my worldview drastically. Everything had a patina of bitterness.
Within a 3-year period I had evolved (devolved?) from a gushy young adult to a bitter and sarcastic woman. That’s the hard part about being an extrovert. Today’s internet makes it very clear that being one is considerably less desirable than assuming introversion. The world was (and still is) not very nice to hurting extroverts who just needed to rant.
The turning point for me was meeting a friend who happened to be a life coach. He told me point blank, “You do project too much.”
I wondered if I could ever get out of that pit.
A few years ago, a former friend had a very public meltdown on social media.
She was suffering from depression that was triggered by a break-up and money troubles. I watched as my friend, the gifted academic, began to implode. She fought with everyone, spoke to herself on Facebook, and bombarded everyone with random outbursts of aggression. I made several unsuccessful attempts to help her seek the medical attention she needed, but she had lashed out at me just as violently. I admitted defeat and just moved away from her. I sadly cut ties with her, but prayed that her family would finally listen and intervene as necessary.
Then I learned about her hate page. Yes, a hate page.
Someone from her circle had set-up a private hate page that had no other purpose but to let random people from our circles to talk about her. They shared screenshots of her social updates, spoke in thinly-veiled code about her outbursts, and lampooned every fiber of her being.
While I had equally been a target of her outbursts, the page made me sick to my stomach. I wrote a note on the page, encouraging everyone to cease the talk and just encourage her to get help from a professional. The page was shutdown within a couple of days.
“Why did you do that? It was just beginning to get entertained!” A friend of mine guffawed.
It was a very sad thing to hear.
I hear she’s doing good nowadays. I wonder if she still remembers how she was in 2009.
But see, I am just as guilty about being vicious. I once quipped to my best friend: “If the screenshots in everyone’s phones were ever made public, I doubt anyone would have any friends left.”
I have been guilty of making jokes about people who know seem to have a lot to say on social.
I had made fun of acquaintances with code names.
I had subtweets upon subtweets about exes, exes of exes, hell even former bosses.
I still have screenshots upon screenshots from pages of people I barely know.
I have passed so much judgment. Judgment that I had been so afraid of receiving, but was so quick to give to others.
People, including myself, can be so vicious.
I thought very hard about whether I should delete my social media accounts (a true travesty if you, like me, are in the digital profession). Is it worth the trouble? Should I delete every single update that I had when I was going through a rough patch? Will doing so even change everyone’s preconceived notions about how I am as a person now? Can I erase what I was in the past? And more importantly, should I even care?
Can you really tell everyone to quit being who they are at this precise moment? Can we expect anyone to let go of their personal lenses, and just start being “social media acceptable’?
If the only thing we can truly control is the self, how then must we react?
I can’t tell you how but I can try to open up your mind to other things.
If you see a friend in obvious pain on social media, the kindest thing to do is to not pass judgment. This is much easier said than done, but I think we owe it to others to try. Force yourself to understand her circumstance first. If understanding is not possible, then simply unfollow the friend and let her be. People evolve and devolve in different paces. Everyone is different.
Remember that not everything is about you. I need to have this tattooed on my forehead, as this is my favorite sin. When someone has trouble with life in general, it can be quite difficult to see the bigger picture. I think most people learn this the hard way, as they are often blind to the adverse effects one can cause as an instigator or receiver of conversation.
Be kind to yourself. I didn’t really know what this meant until recently. It is so easy to forget that your reaction to a negative person is more a reflection of your character than his. I find myself getting agitated by people who displayed similar traits that I had when I was still emotionally unstable. I am grateful for the kind understanding that was given to me by my own support group, and I try to do right by them by extending the same care to anyone who is not in a good place. When you are kind to others, you are kind to yourself. You are in everyone that you meet.
Let go. Let others express themselves, and try not to place them in buckets. However vexing one may be, the truth is that you cannot control how he or she reacts to life. Let life happen to them, the same way others have let life happen to you.
On that note, I need to admit the following.
I do not regret speaking my truth. I cannot apologize for being an extrovert, because it is authentically who I am. I am now mindful about what I say publicly. But even when I wasn’t as careful about what I shared, I was just being myself. I had obliviously believed that I was just entertaining. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very pleasant to be around.
I do not regret imploding. This may seem out of place, seeing how sheepish I was just now. I am still a little embarrassed by my public outbursts of the past, but those were necessary to my journey to being a decent person. I’m still struggling.
I do not regret losing people along the way. While I respect anyone’s decision to cut me out of their life, I also believe that your truest friends will take the good in with the bad. I cannot fully express how grateful I am for the handful of people in my life who stayed despite all my shortcomings (I sense a few quips about my height here. I’m looking at you, Gelo). A rough patch can help sieve the people who are meant to stay. But I respect you for letting me go, if you felt you had to.
I accept every pre-conceived notion you might have about me. I cannot erase the last few years. I cannot take back what has already been said. But I do ask you to try and re-consider. The world is a lovelier place when we give one another a chance to evolve.
I end this entry with blanket apologies that I owe you.
I am sorry for judging you. If I may have seemed judgmental to you, it’s because I was/am. It’s an ongoing journey, and please throw me a bone as I try to get this out of my system.
I am sorry for speaking so harshly. I had little to no appreciation for being kind with my words. Now I know that I can speak kindly yet still be direct.
I am sorry for not being present to your own pain. My myopic assessments about life and people were all over your feed. I am sorry for spewing negativity all over your day. Whether you paid little to no mind about me before does not matter, the truth is that you deserved better.
I am sorry for talking about you behind your back. For sharing screenshots of your feed to others, for calling you names, for taking offense at anything you ever did or shared despite the fact that it had nothing to do with me. I am most sorry for doing this to and with friends. I am trying to be a better person by letting this go.
I am sorry for not being mindful of my energy. I don’t have much to offer anyone (except maybe my humor—but that’s dubious at best), but I am keenly aware of how an individual has the power to change the energy of a room. There are simply no excuses for the way I had behaved and the way I had chosen to be a vessel of pessimism.
From hereon, I will try to be kind to you always. I hope you can be kind to others, too. Please accept my humble apology.