Friday, July 18, 2014

Facebook assumptions: sappy, not happy

You know what just happened?  I lost a whole post. I lost a whole post I worked on for at least an hour and a half. So what happened? Was I going too fast? People think I go too fast, that in fact I work at light speed, and when very angry, I do. It's like rocket fuel in the veins.

It started with the last post about unsolicited advice on Facebook. Something was triggered, I guess, and I was off. It was those sappy little "things", like the truncated thing above - I realized that though I see them every damn day, I don't even know the name of them or where they come from. They circulate around and around and around the waters of Facebook like pond scum.

I think it's the smug assumptions behind these things, these announcements of how you are supposed to feel about close kin, that enrages me. EVERYBODY has a wonderful sister, don't they? Kind of like that White Christmas sister act, where the body types of the two women are so radically different that there could not be a genetic link even 100 generations ago.

And oh God, mothers! Here is what my mother was really like, and never mind what my memories tell me. A duck would have made a better mother than mine was. Mother ducks are extremely loyal and protective, would fight to the death to protect their young. My mother may have been somewhat aware that I existed in the house. Maybe she was just waiting it out.

I very much doubt if this quote is by Kubler-Ross, whose theories have been so distorted and overpopularized as to be unrecognizable. (For example, she NEVER wrote about "stages of grief". Those stages described the process of actually dying.) But it doesn't matter. The same quote can be attributed to Einstein, Freud, Mark Twain (a current favorite, for some reason, maybe cuzzada cool moustache), Emily Dickinson, or even JANICE Dickinson, and no one notices, cares, or even wants to know. Though that doesn't stop them from hitting the "Share" button.

I won't even get into the lame misspellings, misplaced commas and quotation marks, and other awkward, careless useage you see in about 80% of these things. This kind of "loose, relaxed" approach to grammar (with "it's" and "its" constantly being reversed, and the verb "to lie" misused, even in news broadcasts, so that "the victim was laying in the road") is trickling down, or up, saturating the culture, to the point that it eventually worms its way into the dictionary and becomes "correct". Language, after all, must be fluid! It must change with the times. It's future lies in being dymanic. Don't let it just lay there.

And oh, this: probably written by some teenage girl, obviously equipped to guide and correct my behaviour and attitudes. This is a sort of Ten Commandments of emotional reaction, a what-not-to-wear of little things like promising, replying and deciding. So let's look at the inverse of this negative life-directive: promise when you're unhappy, reply when you're not angry, and decide when you're not sad (happy?).

I won't comment here. These weren't in my original draft, my polished draft, my GOOD draft, the draft that just fucking disappeared for no reason at all, because Blogger always automatically saves everything. Like I said, I just slapped them up here because I just have to win this, have to win over the forces that would screw up my whole day. But I remember some sort of choice quote on Nazi Germany, now gone forever.

I used to think humans were herd animals, but now I realize they are more like flock animals, with one aberrant member being pecked to death by the forces of conventional mediocrity. Except that in some ways, birds are superior. I mentioned mother ducks. And I forget the rest of this post, so I just have to stop now. And now I know what those "things" are - I think. They're called status quotes (because they're quotes that go on your status updates) or picture quotes (because they have pictures and quotes on them). They're things you sort of "put up", like you'd slap up a poster in the olden days. Except that these are standards, nay, imperatives for how we are supposed to feel, how we are meant to look at life. The average chimpanzee would have a steadier moral compass, but all that doesn't seem to matter any more.

Crap advice

Actual Facebook post, July 18/14:

Margaret Gunning

Sometimes I'm so tired it's like I'm living below the floor of
my threshhold of energy.

(FB "friend"):  Nice phrase, but -- ??? Overwork?
Or health issue? All kinds of safe-ish energy boosts
available, from matcha green tea to B12
to stuff like Adrena-tea and Rhodiola.

I think I'm just tired! I
said it when it was 1:00 a.m. and just really bagged. Um,
nice advice though.

Maybe it's too early in the day for a rant, but here goes. This is an example of the many things that gall me about Facebook. Last night I was well and truly bagged. I had stayed up so late I lost track. Still, it had been a good, even hilarious day, much of it spent with Caitlin and Ryan who act as a fizzy tonic to my sometimes discouraging life. I was just saying, Whoo, boy, am I ever exhausted. Wow. Can't even describe it!

So what did I get, from a complete and anonymous stranger?


Not only advice, but advice delivered in a didactic and even judge-y way: "Nice phrase, but - ???" seems to indicate that I'm putting a lot of fancy words down on the page for nothing. (Three question marks seems like overkill to me. What? What? What?) Or for something: a cry for correction.  Being completely bagged, it could be I was guilty of trying to garner some sympathy, or at least empathy, and I failed miserably: instead, what I got was this. Then came the barrage of theories:

Overwork? ("Are YOU suffering from overwork? Fatigue? That tired feeling? YOU need. . . ").

Or health issue? ("Why aren't you looking after your health issue? and/or Why are you talking about your health issue here, which is completely inappropriate? Do you even KNOW what your health issues are, and what you should be doing about them?").

All kinds of safe-ish energy boosts available, from matcha green tea to B12  to stuff like Adrena-tea and Rhodiola.  (So here's the infomercial, not quite as if she is selling the stuff, but nevertheless magazine-like, delivered in a flat news report tone, implying - I think so, anyway - that for God's sake, don't I know that there are tons of "safe-ish" energy boosts that are readily available to alleviate this mysterious fatigue that I'm complaining about? It's solution syndrome, the thing that makes people with chronic conditions keep their mouths sealed shut. Here, I'll fix it for you - don't you even know about this, aren't you willing to even TRY this? - and then you can just shut up again.)

It's not so much the message (which is pushy enough: "the answer to this whole issue is blah") as how it is delivered. There is no sense of  "you know, I've had fatigue too. I've tried some things, and this really worked for me," or even "why don't you give this a try?", or even "Try this, dummy!" Such a tone implies, at least, wanting to help instead of a sense of "oh my, that's a very elegant phrase you just wrote there, BUT. . . ",  before launching into a lecture.

Another assumption, given the content,  is that I am automatically "into" herbal and alternative cures. Not that I haven't explored them. Through the entire course of my perimenopause (and PLEASE don't tell me how I handled this the wrong way!), I tried remedy after remedy, including some that nobody talks about now because they have been completely discredited as a useless or even dangerous waste of money and time/hope. Remember St. John's wort (now found to be hazardous and ineffective), soy powder (can cause cancer), and evening primrose oil (which might work if you dabbed it behind your ears)? All of those attempts went down the toilet, literally, and I finally went on the pill for a year, which almost instantly fixed everything - I am not kidding, the symptoms just STOPPED and never came back, with virtually no side effects. That was fifteen years ago, but I know some people would still think I was weak or brainwashed by the patriarchy.

I quickly learned to keep my remarkable cure to myself, however. If I talked to women about it, more often than not I got a look like this:

(Maybe that's why, throughout my entire life, most of my close friends have been men. Not politically correct, but true. As a rule, they're more direct and have fewer labyrinthine hidden agendas and unaddressed power vacuums. And no, they don't grab me in back alleys. Well, maybe once.)

Presenting a list of herbal cures to someone you don't know is insulting, because it makes the assumption that the stranger you are advising thinks they are relevant. Take them for yourself, share them with people you KNOW are open to them, but please, don't proselytize or try to win me over to your (obviously superior!) side. And if you must recommend, RECOMMEND, don't just present me with a laundry list which keeps you on the shielded side of vulnerable. Here. Here it is. Too bad you're the way you are, but hey, cheer up, I've got the cure.

For God's sake, I was TIRED, bagged, not in need of a course correction in my sad little life. But no. No "poor baby", not even a "tough shit". What really drives all this compulsive and automatic correction, beyond towering ego, is a profound discomfort with anyone else's pain. It must be "fixed" now, and at all costs. At the same time, the self-proclaimed savant can wear the mantle of mastery and gain admiration and respect. Pretty sweet deal, I'd say.

I won't name the person in last night's FB encounter, but she was a bossy-big-sister type, the likes of which I have encountered before and hope never to encounter again. But it will happen. Any time I have expressed any sort of vulnerability on FB, I get an avalanche of not-well-meaning advice from people who would really rather I shut up, because my statements subconsciously remind them of all the crap they have not addressed in their own lives, all the stuff they don't want to look at. I am annoyed and even infuriated by the quick fixes they spew, unsolicited, playing "expert" to keep from facing their own unresolved shit. 

This was not a statement of  "I'm tired, does anyone have any advice out there to help?" This was not a "I really need some herbal remedies that have worked for people." This was, "boy, I am so bagged I can hardly think straight." Immediately, like a suckering vacuum, my statement drew a sour and self-righteous, even judgemental weather report from someone I barely knew.

Who has been unfriended now. Because to be honest, she is no friend of mine.