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Social Graces

Posted in justachik1

I love social media. I really do. There was a time I even referred to it as my hometown. When one’s parents move as often as mine do/did, it’s not possible to have a hometown. Sure, I can always go my family’s home and I’m confident I have one of the best – but I can’t go home.

Before Facebook, I had very tenuous ties to my past childhood haunts. I could glean bits of information from my lifelong friends, but I couldn’t experience it firsthand. All the changes and local gossip were seen and heard through someone else’s eyes and ears – and filtered accordingly. So when I joined FB several years ago, it felt like going home. I didn’t have to ask – Hey whatever happened to so and so? or Does anyone ever hear from whosabucket?

I simply had to type their name next to the magical little spyglass and hit enter. Suddenly, I was home. With a few clicks, I was reliving my summers in Montana and sharing old memories (and new ones I’d forgotten) with friends I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. I was looking at old class photos full of kids with lopsided ponytails and missing teeth proudly posed behind white-lettered signs displaying our grade and teacher. I was reminiscing and laughing with my childhood cohorts from Small Town, Arizona. My college dorm mates were no longer mere memories but real people living real lives with kids and jobs and mortgages. It was fun.

Those first few weeks were exhilarating. I felt like I was driving the streets of Kalispell or Snowflake or Mesa or Tucson (and all the places in between) and bumping into hometown folks on a daily basis. It gave me a connection I’d never had before. As the weeks morphed into months and then years, the feeling of exhilaration subsided and became more a sweet sense of security. I had a rich and varied past and it was nice to know it was there and I could check in when I wanted to. 

I enjoyed it immensely – still do for the most part. But, it has changed over the years. It’s gone from being a fun little happy hour among old friends to one of those dreadfully obnoxious parties I can’t seem to leave.
We started out with niceties and pleasant conversation – keeping things light and abridged for the most part. We enjoyed hearing about everyone’s kids and job. We oohed and ahhed over cute photos. There was the occasional awkward moment of shock and/or grief when certain natural questions about parents and family were answered with unexpected responses, but by and large, nothing was too crazy or over the top. We were cordial and basically interacted within accepted social norms.
However, somewhere along the way, we began to slip. We lost sight of the fact we are in a social setting and that, although virtual, some measure of grace and decorum should still be levied. We have abandoned any type of self-censorship. That fun little reunion with light appetizers and cocktails? It’s now become a full-fledged kegger complete with soggy Doritos and bad takeout pizza.
I mean just imagine if Facebook wasn’t a digital meeting space. Let’s put all these family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances in one real room. Oh, my – now that’s a party.
In one corner of the room, we’d have the crazy cat lady who never shares anything about herself or even real people. She merely shows you every known photo or video of cute kittens or puppies or birds. Over and over and over again. And when you try to leave, she grabs hold of your arm and says, “Oh, but you just have to see this one with the baby gorilla nursing a tortoise. Isn’t it just precious?”
In another corner, we have the glory days hero who wants to relive every high school victory- both on and off the field. We are forced to listen to yet another rendition of the game-winning play and how in that moment all our teenage memories were saved my his super-human heroics. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to claim we were state champs back in nineteen-eighty-whocares. Eventually, someone tries to pull him into the present, only to be met with recent photos of his Mini Me and how the fruit of his loins has taken on the ever-important role of high school royalty.
Often in that same corner is the Peter Pan party-er. The one who will never grow up and is perpetually drunk or stoned. He has a never-ending stream of remember that one time when? He’s the one for whom you must run interference because at any given moment your partner, parents, or god forbid, your kid will walk in and hear just enough of the story to later ask for more details.
Then there’s the Stepford sisters. They hang out all night to compare Pinterest posts and exchange recipes. None of which they ever actually try or make, but it adds to the illusion of perfection and joy.  Most forget we actually know them in real life.  They may look down their noses at us, but we know they served cereal for dinner three times last week and the holiday decoration on their mantle was purchased from a neighbor’s Etsy store.
Occasionally, these Stepfords mingle with the big-boobed, Botoxed Barbies – the ones wearing less clothing than Pamela Anderson did in Baywatch.  And, while hell yes they look good – we really don’t need to see that much of them. And I personally can’t like or comment because as always my son is at the same party and I would like to keep him from staring at cleavage the rest of the night.
Right on cue, my son pops in just long enough to let me know he’s still here in case anything good or incriminating should happen – though mostly he’s hanging out with the cooler, more hip crowd in the Twitter room.
Next to the Twitter room is the Instagram room. This is mostly for the professional selfie-takers and masters of the one liners. It’s fun to pop in for a look and listen. While it doesn’t provide a whole lot of substance, it’s usually good entertainment. I even chime in on my own sometime and show some love.
As I wander back into the main room, I hear the armchair politician pontificating about the latest social upheaval. He is often joined by those who have just taken their first political science course and are earnestly set on changing the world one narrow-minded view point at a time. Never mind the articles and stories they reference are often complete fabrications by either the extreme left or right or if not fabricated are at least a year or two old. Of course, you can’t point any of this out because this is usually the crowd most likely to start throwing punches and the last thing I need is for my colleagues or my son to see me in a fight – especially since I’m wearing my hot new outfit which is now my new profile pic.
I quickly leave that group only to find myself in an even scarier crowd – the highly religious. They have already sized me up and determined my eternal fate. A few will warmly welcome me into the group and invite me to join them on their next church function – no pressure, of course. Others will pull me aside to privately ask if I’ve been saved and will continue to follow me around the rest of the party to ask again and again until I finally have to admit to them I’m hell bound and too far gone for them to save. With that, some will forever block me from their presence while others will remain friends because that’s the righteous thing to do.
Then there’s always the group in the corner talking quietly among themselves who erupt into laughter at consistent intervals. As I lurk around the edge of that group, I realize they are sharing inappropriate conversation on politically incorrect topics or off color jokes. And they are funny. Fucking hilarious actually, but I can’t stay too long because my boss is around here somewhere and I’m pretty sure someone will invite HR soon if they haven’t already.
At least this group is attempting to be subtle, unlike those outside doing beer bongs,  smoking crack, and asking all female guests to show their tits. These are the same ones who openly comment on your appearance and still post photos of their favorite porn stars.  They then whisper in your ear that they always had a crush on you and would love to catch up over a drink sometime. Wow, so flattered.
The longer we stay at the party, the crazier it gets.  Like all parties gone awry, the guest list seems to grow exponentially and the alcohol is dissolving more and more of that little thing called social grace.  We get louder and more obnoxious by the post.
Just about the time I think I’ve had enough fun, I run into the friend I’d forgotten about. The one who, like me, appreciates a warm hug and quick catch up. Who likes the meager 1-2 photos I posted last holiday. Who doesn’t call me out on my politics or religion. Who enjoys a good laugh as much as I but knows there’s a time and place. Who checks the validity of the latest FB scam before posting it. Who is proud of her kids and loves her dog but doesn’t find it necessary to document their every moment. Who remembers that true social interaction is a give and take. That there are rules and guidelines that should be followed. After all, we exist in a society. Just because it’s a digital society doesn’t make it any less real.
We need to remember this – myself included.  If we were all physically present in the same place, would we really share that story?  Make that comment?  Express that opinion in that manner?  Be a complete asshole?  Perhaps.  But usually only if we’ve had too much alcohol and our judgement is impaired.  Thankfully, in real life, when we get that drunk we either pass out or puke.  Either of those puts a much needed stop to our poor decision-making.  And, for most of us, we wake up with a bad hangover, a little bit of remorse, and a promise to never do that again.
There will, of course, always be those who don’t learn and I suppose that’s OK.  As the saying goes – There’s one is every crowd.  But can we all try to limit it to just one?  Please?  Because I’m running out of bars in this hometown of mine.


Facebook Comments


  1. Anonymous

    Love this so much! I have been having an internal conflict, to delete myself from FB or remain glued to it… It is all so disengenuine. False. Fake. And mostly irrelevant. I went through my “friend” list and deleted many people. My rational was that if I have no face to face relationship with this “friend” they don’t need to know what is going on in my life or see my pictures. But perhaps instead of removing others, it is time to just remove myself. Hmmm, thank you for making me think more deeply about this.

    November 2, 2015
  2. C7

    Interesting perspective. I agree that a lot of the stories shared should probably be run through a filter first!

    November 1, 2015

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