With the advent of social media, especially Facebook, people have been given license to say pretty much whatever they want, whenever they want, about any subject–though mostly the preferred subject is oneself. When social media was growing to the behemoth that it is today, commentators praised the democratization of thought that social media could foster, touting the notion that in the marketplace of ideas, all were welcome.
While this might have been true in the late Oughts (2006-2009), over the last decade, with the influx of Snopes-worthy posts and dubious assertions about how the world (politics, science, justice, social equity, etc.) works, one can be left feeling disoriented and confused about “the truth.”
But there seems to no method by which to verify the “truthiness” of personal posts. “Speak your truth” and “You do you” are the sorts of banal platitudes that permit endless streams of “Look at me” and “See my awesomeness.”
I’m thinking about one stellar example of this trend to invite people to be witness, and hopefully comment with supportive enthusiasm, to the machinations of living. A former friend of mine incessantly posts about herself, her children, her spouse, her pets, her house, her car, her job, her hair, her family, her community, etc. In each and every post, she oozes just enough self-deprecation to lead observes to conclude that she doesn’t think the world revolves about her. But that manipulative calculation is easy to see if reading her words through critical eyes.
She wants you to not only know that she’s interested in that item you’re offering up for free, local pickup but also why she’s uniquely entitled to be the one to get it because she’s intending on using it for some altruistic purpose. A sort of “No, no . . . it’s not for me personally (selfishly), it’s for my lovely child who will use the item to cure cancer” or some other Herculean task that her child alone, thanks to the love and encouragement of her alone, can accomplish.
Reading about her life, which takes little investigation as she is always telling you about it, amounts to an exercise of suspended awe. How she is able to be all things to all people and be so spectacularly competent in her efforts is stunning. (Note: when comments begin to rack up by members of her sycophant posse, her (falsely) modest replies can only be described as cloying.)
Her contribution to the marketplace of ideas flows through the smallest of apertures, open just enough for her “friends” to see the utter perfection she has achieved in living with irreproachable morals, unimpeachable values, and faultless intellect.
She asks others: “Look at me. Be like me. Love me.”
This leads me to only one conclusion: she’s insecure. She lacks any sense of self-worth as evidenced by her need to seek approval and adulation from others. The incessant requests for affirmation of how well she does by herself, her children, her spouse, her pets, her house, her car, her job, her hair, her family, her community, etc., is sad. Every invitation into her perfectly average life, which of course she views as exceptional, even extraordinary, does nothing more than shine a bright light on her dearth of confidence. She’s not living a life to envy; she’s narrating a life to pity.
Her true subtext is: “Look at me. Be like me. And try not to pity me and my constant need for your approval.” Because that’s what she is asking for.
I was once one of her disciples. I would cheer her pursuits with the same verve that I would cheer my children’s accomplishments. But she’s an adult who shouldn’t need the applause of others when she manages to take off her training-wheels.