relieve me of the bondage of selfie

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How do I look?

How do I look when I’m struggling?

How do I look when I’m happy?

How do I look when I’m grocery shopping?

How do I look when I’m dealing with family members, cleaning up cat barf, watching reality TV or cooking dinner?

More importantly do you think I look?

Luckily for me, I have the magic mirror of narcissism that is social media which answers those questions with bubbly hearts. When illuminated several times over, I have won at the game of self-worth. The numbers can even tick up in front of my eyes like flashing beacons that say, “You’re doing amazing, sweetie.” Conversely, when nobody gives a damn these bubbly hearts stay clear, invisible, with no numbers beside them to alert the world that my likeability has confirmed kills. Yet recently, I reached the very bottom of the mirror and stared at the whole thing. Yes, that’s correct. I really feel as though I’ve read all of what Twitter and Facebook has to offer. I’ve heard the opinions. I’ve had my opinions. I’ve seen their opinions become my opinions.  I’ve seen them take my opinions.  In fact, I’ve now heard and read so many opinions that none of them matter or stand out anymore. Even my own. Yes, I truly think I’ve read it all. And what I’ve learned is, to quote Jon Bon Jovi, it’s all the same, only the names have changed.

This is okay. I mean how many things do we all have to actually talk about? It’s normal that we’d ramble on and ramble and repeat crap again and again. Besides, humans and their ability to have different spins on the same topics is one of the best things about humans. The “best things about humans” would be a great hashtag, by the way since it appears our collective qualities are harder and harder to celebrate these days and therefore should be gathered as evidence. It would be a great hashtag if I was doing those sorts of things anymore. But I’m not. In fact, I’m not really doing any social media anymore.

Or should I say “for today” I’m not doing social media. In case you didn’t know, “for today” is that give a way phrase we addicts use to signal that for hopefully 24 hours we won’t engage in something that is addictive and unmanageable. And by “not doing,” I mean I’ve cut back on Twitter and deactivated my Facebook for like 2 days so far. I know. I’m practically a monk. As someone who has worked in digital content and social media for the past seven years, I guess this is the part of the post where I should talk about the virtues that social media does have. You know– the ability to bring people together from around the globe, the ability to share information quickly and the ability to make you feel bad about you had for lunch– those types of things. And they are all valid and worthwhile. But I’m not going to talk about those virtues. Because my problem with social media is (wait for it) me.

Sometime over the summer after I had spent entirely too long styling a selfie for an author photo a website that I  contribute to, it hit me maybe my relationship with all of this is too intense. Putting my self-worth in the hands of others is something I’ve done for decades. So much so that if the folks at MasterClass are interested I’ll gladly share my knowledge with the world for the low, low price of $90.00. Us ninja level codependent people pleasers didn’t need no stinking social media to wrap our self-esteem in the approval of others but it sure the fuck makes it a lot easier! Now, instead of calling people or walking to their houses or showing up to their events that I don’t want to go to but will go to in hopes of them liking me more, I can just post witty, wise crap that will endear me to their hearts. In my pocket at all times, I hold the power to turn over my power to faceless others in 140 characters or less. Weeee!

I’m making light of this because that’s sort of what I do when a behavior of mine has become problematic. Like, “Ha, ha, ha! Isn’t it a hoot how much cocaine I can snort?” But the reality is my relationship with social media started to feel problematic. More than once, I’ve ignored my husband or missed what he was saying because my face was stuck to my iPhone like a fly on the windshield. Not a cool thing to do to my literal favorite person to talk to. Also troubling? Something about my dependence on it felt odd. Like here I was preaching the gospel of being sober and present in my life but all the while I had gleefully become my iPhone’s bitch. Uh, what?  I at the very least don’t use my phone or text during meetings. I mean honestly if I can’t live without looking at it for an hour, I really need help. But nearly everywhere else I’m glued to it and that’s primarily because of social media.

Even worse, I’d committed the cardinal sin of social media, the one I’d warn clients about, the one every article back in 2009 would caution against: I started to take it too personally. When the tweets of others start to feel like attacks or the vague online personalities of people you don’t actually know in real life start to affect you, it’s time to get a grip. After all, it’s all for entertainment purposes only which I fundamentally know. Yet somehow here I am. But it also kind feels like something else. Like it feels hallow and immature for where I am right now. Worse for a snob like myself, my dependency on it is shamefully basic. I’m no better than our president or Taylor Swift. Look what I made me do.

So what? I grab a stack of novels and go live in the woods? Not really an option especially since I have real life commitments and hate mosquitos. Like my other addictions, I have to figure out how to treat it. Listen, I’m my motto has always been “Why do something you enjoy when you can turn it into an obsession?” so I’ve been down this road with booze, drugs, cigarettes, tv, sugar, people, sex, ad nauseam. By the way, if you’re struggling with drugs and alcohol and this sounds like some trivial-ass bullshit, that’s because comparatively it is. Nevertheless, I know I first need to admit it’s a problem, which I guess what this 1200 word declaration is all about and then I have to take action. For me, action looked like deactivating my Facebook account and taking Twitter off my phone. The obsession, as the sober kids say, has not been removed just yet and I’m really starting to see how much time I was actually spending on it. Yikes. It’s becoming clear how much of a crutch it actually is.

Suddenly, I don’t aimlessly scroll like a zombie in search of little bubbly hearts. Suddenly, I don’t have you to tell me how I look. And now I have to look at myself.

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standard bitch

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The Google image title of this photo is actually “White Standard Bitch” which could make an excellent book title, btw.

Everybody has something they bring to the table. Even people who are awful have that one thing they contribute, even if it’s just their general awfulness. Personally, that thing I can bring to the table is my sense of humor. Look, this is not some passive aggressive outcry for compliments. Jesus fuck no. I just know that being funny is something I can contribute. So when that contribution goes tragically awry and gets misinterpreted causing all sorts of bullshit Facebook comment fallout, what I’ve wound up bringing to the table is basically a big turd salad.

There is no more special of a hell than that in which I am forced to explain a joke or intention behind what I said. I take this personally as a funny person because it means I’ve belly-flopped on this whole “aren’t you clever” gig. As Erykah Badu would say, “Keep in mind I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.” Yet that’s exactly what happened last week when I made a joke about hurling myself into a volcano based on my pre-existing conditions being problematic to the recently passed by congress ACHA. Sigh. Before we go any further, I know that it’s a buyer beware situation with stuff like this on Facebook. Notoriously lacking in a sense of humor and ready to pounce with unsolicited advice at a moments notice, I know that I get what I deserve when I post on Facebook. Yet I did it anyway. As a HIV positive man with mental illness who is also an addict/alcoholic in recovery, my joke was that I should just save myself some time and hurl my body into a volcano instead of trying to get healthcare. I mean if I can’t make fun of my pre-existing conditions than I’m really screwed. Plus one of my other pre-existing conditions is being a sarcastic bitch so I felt like the joke was well warranted and more than that it was what was on my mind at the time. To no one’s surprise, this joke went over like BLTs at a Kosher meal. Some of my comments were left by people who laughed and made jokes in return. These people can stay and are reason why I friended them on that mind-sucking social media hell hole in the first place.  Everybody else? Not so much.

These folks fell into two camps: people who told me to rally or people who were “internet concerned” about the state of my well-being. The first group of people can, and I mean this in the most Christian way possible, eat a bucket of dicks. The ones who did this it should be noted are affluent folks with no pre-existing conditions who are also white and straight. So yeah. One bucket of dicks, coming up! I’m sorry I don’t tell you how to detail your Volvo because, gee, I don’t know, I DON’T OWN A VOLVO. So zip it with the “go rally and call your senator” battle cry. Unless you plan on magically becoming a HIV positive drug addict with depression than I kind of don’t give a shit. Plus, I wasn’t wallowing. I was doing what I always do: making a joke instead of stepping in front of a bus. It felt healthy and appropriate given the bad news.

Which brings me to the second camp of people, the ones who thought I was really serious and upset. One friend worried that I was going to relapse. One shared a story about a loved one struggling with mental illness and suggested an online support group for me to join. Insert a deep sigh that comes from the bottom of my toes here. I mean first of all, if you’ve followed me for more than a week on social media, than you know that I’m not serious about anything. Ever. So that I would put out a Facebook status message with serious thoughts of suicide is freaking ridiculous. Secondly, none of these people were that concerned. Like they didn’t direct message me or call me or text me. They just posted to make themselves feel better which is fine and it’s something we all do. But girl. Don’t pretend my dumb post made you go pray or call 911.

After a few hours, I decided to just delete the damn post. The fault here was not my friends. It’s not even Facebook’s fault. It was my own and I knew it. Insert another gigantic sigh here. I was feeling feisty and bitchy which led me to momentarily forgot the whole “restraint of pen and tongue” thing. Lesson learned or at least temporarily learned. It’s one day at time with this shit too, people. For the next few days, I wondered if maybe I should exam my bitchy, cynical nature. Maybe this attitude was toxic. Maybe I should use my voice to share motivational thoughts or inspiring words.

Well , thank god those thoughts quickly passed. Because that’s just not who I am. I didn’t stop killing myself with drugs and alcohol only to censure myself. I’m big, beautiful smart ass me. Despite one joke tanking, I really like who I am. I think humor can be really powerful and the people who make me laugh save my life. Therefore, if I can do the same for someone else, I feel like I’ve made a difference. And that’s about as inspirational as this standard bitch is gonna get.

everybody hurts (but some people are just assholes)

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“There’s a lot of people out there hurting right now,” a friend of mine said a few months ago. Sigh. She’s probably right. Given if you’re a woman, a person of color, LGBT or disabled and an American it’s hard not to feel hurt by the current state of the country. The insane collective thought is so disgusting and disheartening that you’d have to be made out of steel not to feel the slightest bit disheartened. Knowing this and taking my friends’ words to heart, I have tried to consider that perhaps maybe some bad behavior can be chalked up to people being in pain. Likewise, I’ve tried to let people off the hook and avoid inflammatory conversations. Being a little extra nice to people behind the counter at coffee shops and grocery stores can’t hurt either so I have made a conscious effort to do that as well. The truth is many people are hurting and therefore they might lash out and act erratically. You know, the old “hurt people hurt people” adage is true. Yet I also believe some people just suck.

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What any of this has to do with old disco Jazzercise ads from the past, I have no idea. But please enjoy the spandex and we’ll sort it all out together. This has been on my mind a lot in 2017. I am über aware of my own short fuse these days and I try to stay in a more spiritual place in my day-to-day dealings. But sometimes, I’m a human being and I’m insensitive. More often than not, stupid shit just inadvertently flies out of my mouth and I have to clean it up later. Such is life. “We are all doing the best we can” or so I keep telling myself especially when dealing with assholes. There is no better place to remember this mantra than the internet.

As a paid social media professional and copywriter, arguing with people on the internet falls under the BBB (basic bitch behavior) category and I try to avoid it as much as possible. When I started doing social media marketing back 7 years ago, the industry rule of thumb was if you wouldn’t say it at coffee or at a party then you shouldn’t say it on Facebook or Twitter. Obviously, that unrealistic, fairytale has flown out the window but I do try my best not to yell in all caps or get involved in threads started by mentally unhinged people. Despite my efforts, however, shit happens and somehow you just wind up there. And that’s exactly what went down the other day.

Without getting into the exhausting, BBB details of this internet altercation, I will say I disagreed with a popular media commentator with a huge following and a person who’s writing I actually enjoyed (up until this point, anyway). I tweeted my thoughts in a conversation that one of my online followers and friends was involved in. Holy shit. This already sounds like the most terrible junior high bullshit ever. I apologize and I’ll wrap this portion up soon. Basically, the dude with the published articles, big following and fancy scarf in his profile photo put me on blast and sent two tweets quoting my tweets and verbally dragging me which then caused his followers to tweet-beat me like I was a human piñata. While not pleasurable, it’s not like being mugged or getting the gay bashed (two legit terrifying things that actually happened to me long ago) so I sort of laughed it all off. I mean, let’s get real. Being in a fight with someone you never met on Twitter is not a tragedy or reason to get upset. Plus, and here’s a pro-tip for you, I turned all notifications off on Twitter forever ago so I had no idea what other people were or weren’t saying about me. Time went on, someone famous died, our president said some stupid shit and my moment was quickly forgotten.

This being 2017 and me being a guy who really does try to be less of a dick on a daily basis, the first place my mind went was, “Well, this dude is probably in a lot of pain.” After all, he’s part of a group currently being marginalized and attacked right now so no harm, no foul. And then I read his other tweets about this topic. Turns out, he’s just kind of an asshole. I wasn’t unique that morning and he lashed out at sevreal others in the same juvenille bitchy way. Him being a just an asshole was actually a relief.  Sure, maybe this asshole-ness is a biproduct of being in pain but none of that was my business. This asshole and his fancy scarf were quickly unfollowed and I’ve probably followed a dozen more assholes since then.

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The moral of this story, other than “The Internet is Fucking Stupid” is the only person’s behavior I can worry about is my own. I have to check my motives when I reach for the dangling carrots of drama and conflict. What’s missing in me, what’s hurting with me that fighting with a stranger on Twitter sounds like a fantastic idea? When my impulse is to read someone or put someone int here palce, the bitch I actually need to be concerned about is me. Because, yes many times my bad behavior is born out of emotional pain but more often than not, I’m just being an asshole.