No doubt you’ve heard about that study that says Facebook can cause depression. The short, short version: the perceived joy/success of others can cause a two-way street of envy and/or loneliness. My take: social networking is the modern-day equivalent of high-school. Except without any possibility of graduation.
Fine, I’ll just drop out for a little bit. Unplug. Easy peasy. I can get to work on that shiny new idea. Why are they always shiny? No, this one’s dark and awesome and original. But is it? Better check out Goodreads. Fish around, get distracted by reviews of that bestseller I despised to figure out why people liked it so much. Do I even understand today’s teens? Do I even know my audience? Man, can I even write anymore?
Screw it, I’m heading to Facebook because maybe somebody posted a video of a panda cub sneezing or will hit me up with some Buzzfeed nonsense. And sure, it’s useless, but it’s funny and the world could use more funny. Except on my way to hilarity, I see that she just posted a smiley face in isolation, which can only mean one thing and he just mentioned how he wrote 10k words in a day. And yeah, I’m happy for their squee moments, but it’s been awhile since my own squee moment and I’m not gonna call them squee moments, because the word twists me wrong. Dad had a story once I really liked. Confetti Moments. Yeah, I need my own confetti moments, not to see somebody else’s.
Maybe I should work on my sequel… contracted, tyvm… but damn this thing’s kicking my ass into my throat, slogging along at 500 words a day if I’m lucky, but hell, it’s got dragons in it and I actually think it’s kind of good when I’m away from it, so there’s that. I’ll go tweet something clever to remind others that I’m supposed to be relevant, or at least should be soon. Dammit, somebody’s squeeing with way too many exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pantry time. Chocolate doesn’t squee….
So, as you can unclearly see, I’m still trying to figure out the whole social media networking marketing thing. Not doing a good job of it. Tend to get distracted, sometimes even bummed. But then I thought of something that has nothing to do with marketing but everything to do with social media.
If perceived joy can lead to reciprocating bummagery (ness?), what could perceived failure lead to…
Sure, maybe somebody out there’s got the golden ticket and boarded that happy train that never broke down once, but most of us have been through the suck a time or twenty. We just don’t advertise. We smile in our beautiful pictures, announce our confetti moments, but hide the bad ones. Don’t get me wrong, we should hoist up those celebration balloons whenever we can. Celebrate the victories, small and large (I am horrible at this).
It’s those bad moments that need more visibility. Not necessarily the ones that currently swallow us, because those often carry too much emotional reflux. But what about those past mistakes or slip-ups, the ones we can still see on the horizon when we squint in the right direction?
After all, we create our bonds through common struggle, not through disparate joy (side note: this is as important a reason as any for conflict in books; if MC can make it through all that turmoil, we can. At least that’s the theory. I couldn’t hang with Job.) The internet’s fairly superficial, but with so much power to affect, why limit ourselves to the sunshine models we too often try to project for the outside world?
The internet gives us the power to (theoretically) speak to millions. Yes, those misery vultures might feast in the shadows of our discontent, but if we can make a connection with one person stuck in the suck, perhaps make them feel a little less alone in the void, remind them that we all make mistakes (and have gotten through them), perhaps even brighten their day a precipitous smidge by exposing ourselves, isn’t that worth it?
In that vein, I will share a very significant failure in my life. I could discuss the 250 or so rejections I’ve had or the college writing professor who surely thought I was a hack, but I’m going to recount something more personal, which has a silver lining*, but does not have a happy ending. Until now, the only person who knew this story was my wife.
In tenth grade, I met this girl. She was one of those rare people who could fit in with any crowd. I was one of those rare people who couldn’t fit in anywhere (sports, band, drama, not even the Magic the Gathering crowd). Yet somehow she overlooked my strange sartorial choices and my strange persona and we became friends. After-school friends, not meet-on-the-weekend sort of friends. I was way too awkward for that (my opinion, not hers).
For the entire year, our friendship grew. She was pretty and super smart and incredibly funny, and I think I may have loved her. But yeah right, no way was I gonna make a move because she was way out of my league. On that last day of school, we were out in the lawn in front, beneath a tree, and I guess she just got tired of waiting. She leaned in, pulled me to her, and kissed me.
Oh man, the scariest most wonderful moment of my life up until then. She got on her bus, I got on mine and we went home for the summer.
I didn’t talk to her. Didn’t call, didn’t write. Nothing.
For 3 months.
I can’t remember why. Fear, ignorance? I’m not sure.
When school started back up, I thought we’d be buddy-buddy again (and maybe hoped for more, or maybe I feared it. Can’t recall. A very uncomfortable time in my life) Ha! Stupid, stupid, boy. Long, painful story short: she acted like I didn’t exist. Never talked to me again.
I was ashamed, depressed. Hated myself. Became even more of an outcast. But it got better. Never felt like it would, but it did. Wish it hadn’t taken so long. Social media didn’t exist at the time. I truly believe it would have helped.The distance and relative anonymity it affords us, I think, could have shortened my hangover. I certainly wasn’t the only idiot boy out there who’d royally screwed up a relationship. Hell, maybe I’d have even made some friends along the way.
If this FUBAR event in my life didn’t brighten your day a hair by confirming/reinforcing the emotional ineptitude of many a high-school boy (particularly this one) or perhaps by making you feel slightly less bad about a pothole in your own road, there’s always this timeless classic:
*Eventually I did find my silver lining. When I met the next girl, I’d figured things out a little better. Called her. Kept calling her. Never stopped.
Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014.