In the midst of my Midlife Crisis -- or maybe there is a less dramatic term for this, like Midlife Exploration? -- I am letting go of some of the things that used to give my life purpose, such as chardonnay, worrying about what parties I did or did not get invited to and controlling everything I can. I recently realized that during this process, I have learned many valuable things about myself, simply by using Facebook.
Disclaimer: I think counseling is a great option when you feel like you are at a crossroads in your life or psyche, but it's also kind of nice to find meaning without getting out of your jammies.
Here are seven things I have learned about myself, just by using Facebook:
- My sense of humor (and posts from The Onion) are not universally understood
I think I am pretty funny. Sometimes, I wake myself up laughing at things I've said in my dream. If I had to say what one quality I would want to have for the entirety of my life, it would be a sense of humor because it is fun and beautiful, even when (or especially when) you are old. But sometimes, I confuse my friends and loved ones with the things I post. Just recently, I posted that I wanted to be a pancake flipper at the new Bisquick World Headquarters in Silicon Valley (as reported by The Onion), and my mother, who is watching my Midlife Exploration with love and trepidation, thought this might just be my true goal. I am thinking that her confusion mostly stemmed from the fact that I don't cook, but I had to face the reality that I am not always all that universally funny. I'm sure that the fact that requests to have lunch have fallen off a bit is just a coincidence.
I have lived my life in fear of saying what I really think because I am, *ahem,* just a tiny, little bit leery of criticism. Criticism makes me want to crawl into a small hole, cover it with earth, then rocks, then concrete and remain there until the half-life of the criticism has passed and I can repopulate the earth, criticism-free. Marriage has knocked the edges off this tendency since you don't get to stay married to the same person for 18 years without toughening up a bit. But, in baby steps, Facebook has allowed me to share my actual opinions without having to look in someone's eyes and see either praise or ridicule. I get to just feel what I actually feel. As a direct result, I can now sing "Let It Go" in the car with more pizzazz, something my 16-year-old daughter truly appreciates.
Honestly, that man either never sleeps or has amazing time management skills to allow him to read the entire internet and be amusing. That is my dream job, although I do like to sleep.
There are numerous counselors that have helped me to realize that this is a coping mechanism -- when I get a headache, I get to go lie down and the conflict is avoided. Much like I don't invite people into my living room that I know will argue heatedly, I generally don't have people in my Facebook circle that do that either. But as I get better at sharing what I actually think (see number 2, above), I am actually generating conflict and it gives me a headache. But it also gives me the opportunity to work through my fear of conflict in a way that feels much safer than face to face, and I am grateful for that opportunity. I am also grateful for Ibuprofen, which is a food group.
I used to resent the perfect lives portrayed on Facebook. Especially on days when I am not enjoying my "Midlife Exploration," it can be hard to see fabulous vacations, meaningful hobbies, perfect children and marriages made in heaven. Conversely, I also used to get annoyed by the people who only complained. But lately, I find myself more able to just take a step back and realize that every post is just the glossy, French-manicured tip of a giant iceberg that I cannot see and, honestly, don't want to see. I am learning to just "like" the happy posts and to try not to fix the complaining ones. I'm treating it as if the posts weren't actually targeted towards me at all! Although I'm sure that can't be right...
I am pleasantly surprised by how kind and supportive people are in my Facebook circle. My Facebook friends give to each other's causes. They comfort people going through crises (even if they're really just the "Midlife Exploration" kind of crises.) They very rarely point out the philosophical error of a person's way of thinking. Because on Facebook you get to choose the people with whom you associate and you can painlessly cull the people you don't enjoy from your circle, you can choose to see things that bring you joy. If we were better at doing that in real life, every day might feel happier, although chardonnay sales might suffer.
I am always happy to see pictures of people's dogs in costumes, in some weird position, drooling. In the end, sometimes you just need to laugh and even if my sense of humor isn't cutting the mustard, someone's dog is going to be hilarious. Maybe that's my favorite Facebook lesson of all.
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