2018 Facebook Resolutions

[This is an adapted version of a private note I posted to my personal Facebook profile on January 1st, 2018.]

I’m a very pro-social-media person. I love having so much access to so much information, and I love having so many ways to keep up with friends and family that I don’t get to see in person nearly as much as I’d like. And maintaining social media boundaries has always come naturally to me. I have some public accounts for networking [all of which you can find in the sidebar of this log], but my private Facebook has always been just for family and personal friends.

All that said, the last couple of years have been, well, the last couple of years. The way 2016 and 2017 affected my mental health isn’t sustainable. I discussed this a little in my #NaNoSoMeMo post. I knew coming into 2018 that, if it’s going to be more of the same, I need to be more deliberate about Facebook boundaries. I decided to post what I came up with in case it’s helpful to anyone dealing with the same thing.

Disclaimer: This is a list of personal boundaries that I came up with based on my own mental health needs, my own friend list, and my knowledge of my own abilities and resources. These elements are different for everyone, so I’m very much NOT suggesting this list is what everyone should be doing.

  1. NPR has a daily 10-minute world news podcast called Up First. I’m going to listen to that every morning and then ignore news for the rest of the day except for news about STEM and arts and entertainment stuff. This will include ignoring news articles that I support and agree with. I may end up hiding news pages that I like and respect, like NPR, The Washington Post, and The Hill. I hope my friends understand that this isn’t apathy or disdain, it’s just gaming Facebook algorithms. If anyone is curious about my opinion on a post I haven’t interacted with, they’re welcome to message me and ask.
  2. I will not be posting any articles about sociopolitical current events to Facebook. Again, this is just me gaming the algorithm. If I post one article about, say, patriarchy, racism, or homophobia in mainstream evangelicalism, Facebook thinks that’s all I want in my feed for the next ten days. And I don’t need it in my news feed because I already lived it. Besides, I have a small friend list, and everyone on it is either already educated on the issues I care about or knows how to Google them.
  3. My Facebook memories show me that, in my first few years of Facebook use, I posted more about random stuff I was doing, watching, reading, or thinking. Not sure when or why I stopped, but I want to do more of that.
  4. As far as my public/professional accounts, my rules for this year are that I’ll only engage on sociopolitical issues if (1) I have something to say that I don’t see anyone else saying, (2) I have a big enough following on that platform for my words to have any kind of an impact, and (3) I have the psychological resources to engage with the general public on that issue. Other than that, I’ll remember that I’m a writer/entertainer, not a news service, and expect my followers to remember that, too, and I’ll be gaming algorithms to show me feeds conducive to better mental health.
How are you planning to use social media this year? Let me know in the comments!

 

Advertisements

#NaNoSoMeMo 2017, or, Being On Social Media In 2017

This is one of those posts that I keep starting and restarting, because I feel like the thing that I’m trying to express can easily be construed as another thing that I wholeheartedly disagree with, or an attack on people for whose work and effort I have nothing but admiration and gratitude. So I’ve decided to write this post as an interview with the imaginary person telling me why all my previous drafts are terrible.

Person In My Head: So, Amethyst, tell the seven people who will read this post what #NaNoSoMeMo is.

Me: It stands for National Novelists’ Social Media Month, and it’s really for creators in any media, not just novelists. I created it as an alternative to #NaNoWriMo for people like me who are good at prioritizing writing, but bad at prioritizing social media and networking. I’m challenging myself to update my public Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest every day for the month of November.

PIMH: “Good” at prioritizing writing? You haven’t produced a complete manuscript in three years.

Me: Your face hasn’t produced a complete manuscript in three years.

PIMH: I don’t have a face. Or a mom. This is going to be fun. Anyway, a lot of people are saying it’s difficult to keep up with social media in this day and age. I’m assuming you agree, since you failed your own challenge last November.

Me: Yes.

PIMH: I know, right? Social media has gotten so negative and divisive these days! Can’t we all just forget about politics and political correctness and find common ground and focus on beautiful things like sunshine and kittens and love? And can’t we all put our phones down and start talking face to face again? No one is ever misunderstood, disagreed with, or verbally abused in face-to-face conversation.

Me: No, the problem isn’t that we’re talking about “politics” or “political correctness,” or the fact that we’re having these conversations online instead of face to face. The problem is stuff that is actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING.

PIMH: Meh, potato, potahto; “actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING,” #FakeNews. Can’t we ignore these meaningless differences and talk about video games and sitcoms?

Me: See, that’s the problem. The fact that I can now lose an entire day on social media trying to explain to people that it is in fact possible to know what is actually, literally, empirically, demonstrably, verifiably, objectively HAPPENING.

PIMH: Okay, you’ve convinced me. So I guess you now have a sacred duty to spend your days telling everyone on the internet about all the bad things that are happening, why they’re happening, and what they should do about them. Oh, and issuing public statements that you know bad things are bad. Otherwise you’re being neutral and choosing the side of the oppressor.

Me: Which isn’t something I can sustainably do. I’ve spent a lot of this year avoiding social media because I can’t mentally handle getting involved in conversations about this stuff that is happening.

PIMH: That sounds awfully privileged. Marginalized people can’t just avoid this stuff and look at pictures of kittens. It’s stuff that affects them every day, Beckita.

Me: A lot of it is stuff that directly or indirectly affects my life, or that I can reasonably expect to affect my life in the near future. Whether or not it affects me in any way, it’s usually stuff that I don’t have the physical, mental, professional, or financial resources to help. So I put down my phone, spam Lin-Manuel Miranda’s playlist a few times in hopes that I’m generating a few pennies of financial support for victims of at least one of this year’s disasters, say a prayer, which all my atheist friends are reminding me doesn’t actually help anyone but me, chant “Our Existence Is Resistance,” and make sure my apartment and pets and self are getting the basic upkeep they need.

PIMH: Wow, that does sound stressful. Like, clinically stressful. Why are you still on social media at all?

Me: Because one does not become a successful author/artist in this day and age without having a successful social media presence.

PIMH: Ahhh, that makes sense. Well, be sure you sound sufficiently woke in your social media presence. Teenage girls who are reading about how to dress for a protest in Teen Vogue might not buy your books because of a tweet from five years ago that didn’t use a word that didn’t exist yet. But don’t sound too political. Those teenage girls’ parents might not buy your books because you expressed opinions about things ever, and you shared things about yourself that remind them people different from them exist. Oh, and don’t forget to post about your own art every now and then, because you are on social media for the primary purpose of promoting it. But if there’s anything terrible happening in the world, don’t even think about posting about your own art or about anything other than the terrible thing, because if you’re posting about anything else while something terrible is happening, not only does that mean you don’t care, it means you’re encouraging other people not to care, too. And you’ll be on the wrong side of history. You will be remembered as “Amethyst, the bitch who cared more about last night’s episode of The Good Place than fires, floods, earthquakes, police brutality, terrorism, and actual Nazis.”

Me: Or I could remember that I was taught to be honest about what I believe and who I am, and that I’m one voice among millions, and that I can be grateful for the people who are doing the hard work of keeping people informed about what’s going on in the world while acknowledging that people doing that work also need entertainment that lets them escape their troubles, and that I’ll never be able to provide that entertainment if I don’t protect my mental health.

PIMH: Wow, that sounded surprisingly reasonable.

Me: It did, didn’t it? I just may survive #NaNoSoMeMo after all.

PIMH: ALL RIGHT, FOLKS, YOU HEARD IT HERE! AMETHYST SAYS YOU SHOULD ALLLLL STOP POSTING ABOUT CURRENT EVENTS AND POST FUNNY, CUTESY CRAP INSTEAD BECAUSE SHE KNOWS WHAT’S BEST FOR EVERYONE!

Me: I give up.

PIMH: As well you should. Before we go, you mentioned that #NaNoSoMeMo is for all kinds of artists, not just novelists. Sure, that sounded nice and inclusive. But not everyone is an artist. Who are you excluding, exactly?

Me: Just one person.

 

Let’s try this weekly recap thing

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging as much these days. Or maybe you haven’t noticed because you’re one of the many people who doesn’t read blogs that much anymore. Which is no big deal. Internet culture changes fast, and it’s an internet creator’s job to keep up with it.

So that’s why most of my posts have been on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. lately. I’ll write up original content as a Facebook post and literally get ten times the views I would have if I’d written the same content as a blog post and shared the link on the same Facebook page. It makes sense to put my writing where the most people are going to see it.

But on the other hand, I don’t want people to stumble upon this website and find a bunch of tumbleweeds, so I’m trying something new. I want to do weekly recap blog posts where I link to my favorite things that I’ve shared on other platforms throughout the week. Might be original stuff, might be other people’s stuff that I’ve linked to. Here goes.

Oh Look, Someone Else Has Porphyria

I have a rare disease. Like, it’s been featured on House and I’m usually surprised to find that real-life doctors have heard of it. I’m even more surprised to find that someone on YouTube has come out with a porphyria-related vlog that’s informative, accessible, and entertaining. I really hope this vlogger is able to finish the series, and that his condition doesn’t get in the way of his work too much.

 

So, Yeah, Brexit Is A Thing

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last weekend. President Obama addressed it by saying “One thing that will not change is the special relationship between the US and the UK.” To which I had this to say:

 

Do You Like Piña Colada (Wraps)?

I threw stuff in a pan and put it on flatbread and it was really good. I call it a piña colada wrap.

Social media guilt: Speculation on the fall of Selfie

John Cho as Henry Higgs; Karen Gillan as Eliza Dooley. Image via Variety.

Selfie, the ABC sitcom remake of My Fair Lady starring Amy Pond as Eliza Doolittle and Mister Sulu II as Henry Higgins, has already been canceled. I’m sad to see it go, because I feel like it never got a chance to meet its full potential. I’m not going to pretend to know why it’s being canceled. But what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t speculate on things I know nothing about? Here goes.

Hypothesis: Selfie failed because it was obsessed with shaming its target demographic for using what could’ve been its most effective marketing tool.

Now, it could easily be argued that the show was about Eliza’s misuse of social media, not social media itself. The possibility to take the show in that direction was what kept me watching. Unfortunately, though, it never quite got there. Each episode reinforced messages that we see everywhere: That our Facebook friends aren’t real friends. That we’ve lost the art of meaningful communication because of our communication devices. That using a digital platform to talk about yourself and your life is a sure sign of narcissism. That if you have EVER dared to take a photograph of yourself and utilize a platform that :gasp: allows other people to see it, you are a hopeless attention whore who thinks the world, nay, the universe, revolves around you.

To be fair, Selfie’s Henry Higgs is as lost as its Eliza Dooley. Although Henry prides himself on not being the type to settle for shallow digital connection, he’s as lacking in real-world connections as his insta-famous mentee. It’s obvious that Selfie wants to be a show about two out-of-balance opposites meeting each other in the middle. But this misses the entire point of the source material. My Fair Lady (like the non-musical play it was adapted from, Pygmalion) was a satire of middle-class manners. In the original, there was nothing wrong with Eliza. And Eliza didn’t substantially change over the course of the story. Her basic personality, which was fine to begin with, remained intact. Higgins simply changed the way she spoke, dressed, and comported herself so that she could successfully conform to upper-middle-class arbitrary social conventions. The guttersnipe became a princess just by putting on a pretty dress and pronouncing her consonants. The story mocked the society that accepted or rejected Eliza based on these shallow, arbitrary standards, not Eliza herself for playing their game and winning.

I feel like Selfie could’ve been so much better if it had taken its social media farce in this direction. It could’ve subverted the platitudes of social media guilt that have become as ubiquitous as social media itself. Why aren’t Facebook friends real friends? They’re actual people. They aren’t computer programs. Isn’t it your choice if you’re adding people you don’t want to be friends with, or if you’re posting shallow or drama-filled statuses instead of using this neutral tool to cultivate real friendships? Why can’t phone apps be a way to enhance meaningful communication? That funny Pinterest pin you send your sister could spark a conversation that brings you closer than ever. Why can’t people read their family’s and friends’ posts because they’re sincerely interested in these people’s lives, and why can’t you post things about your own life with the understanding that this sincere interest is mutual? Maybe the real narcissist is the person who’s annoyed by their family and friends wanting to – OHMYGOD – talk about their lives! Why does taking a selfie have to mean that you expect the whole universe to stop what it’s doing and worship at your altar? Can’t it be just another chapter in humanity’s ongoing quest to document our existence? Part of a tradition that goes back to cave paintings?

But now back to my elephant-in-the-room hypothesis. Social media is an invaluable platform for promoting a work of entertainment. Especially for a generation that keeps finding new ways to avoid viewing paid advertisements. We Millennials will adblock our favorite shows out of existence, but we’ll check out that thing our BFF keeps livetweeting. Remember my post about The Quest, another ABC show? I didn’t notice a single commercial for it, even though, unlike most of my Millennial friends, I watch programming on an actual television set. I started watching The Quest because my sister sent me a text about it. On her phone. And then my sister and I joined thousands of other people who tweeted about the show on the hashtag #TheQuestArmy. It was by no means the first show I’d consistently livetweeted. But, although I tuned in to watch Selfie every week, I can’t say I was ever inclined to livetweet a show that kept telling me in the most anvillicious ways possible to put down my damn phone.

Ironically, I think Selfie might’ve had a better shot on a different platform. Since The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, YouTube has been flooded with modern adaptations of classic English literature. Most of them, it seems, star cute redheaded female leads. Selfie could’ve easily had a place among them.

But to do that, they would’ve had to cater to all those millennial narcissists on social media.