Stuff floating around in my head for a while now, brought into sharp focus by the comments section on this post.
The internet is a strange and wonderful place.
Wonderful in that we feel more free to share bits of ourselves that we might not be willing or able to speak aloud. In that friendships can develop with people you've never met, never even seen, and those friends will go to the mat for you and with you, just like the people you went to elementary school with or did shots with on your 21st birthday. Sometimes they go to the mat for you more.
Strange in that feeling more free to share also means many of us feel like we get a free pass to be hateful. To say harsh things to others that you would never say to their faces. It lifts real people who happen to write about themselves on the internet to this weird "pseudo celebrity" status in which their lives and their choices are all fair game. Bloggers: They're Just Like Us!
I've seen "I'm just sayin'" comments on social media bring strong people to their knees. Tear families apart.
I've seen cliques form around making fun of other people. Real people. And it's cool, because it's all in the name of snark and the sharpest 140 characters wins the prize.
I mean, this is all human nature, and it's not like we weren't awful to one another before Al Gore invented the Internet. It's just so... out there now, you know?
I'm not immune to the desire to judge. I wish I were. I just happen to be so conflict-averse that most of my judging takes place behind closed doors. I tweeted something douchey about a celebrity not too long ago, and later that night I found myself lying in bed thinking that that celebrity could be searching for her name and find what I had written and I felt like I had to ask for forgiveness. I don't understand the instinct to climb to the top of the heap by stepping on other people.
I have written a lot of things here that make me vulnerable. Luckily I don't have a ton of followers, and those who do read are usually those who know me in some way, so if one of you said, "yo, I'm worried about you after reading your blog post," I think I would listen. I have gotten those comments before, and you were right to be worried, and I did listen, and I'm still here.
Given my current lot in life, I'm not writing a lot about parenting these days, because I don't want it used against me in any way, but it's so so hard right now and I cry more days than I care to admit because this phase doesn't show any signs of stopping and I don't know how many more nights of it I have left in me. And yet--and yet--I adore my child with every ounce of my being and miss her desperately when she's at her dad's and I know more than I've ever known anything that I'm a damn good mother.
That's the paradox of most things in life. If it's not simultaneously life-giving and also energy-taking, if it's not the mountain and the valley, then you're probably not telling the truth, maybe not even to yourself. And if you're presenting on your Facebook or your blog or your Instagram a life full of rainbows and unicorns and beautifully completed Pinterest projects, that's cool--as long as you know you're managing others' impressions of you. (I could say the same about the people whose timelines and feeds are full of "life is the worst". It's impression management, just of a different sort.)
I have no control over anyone else's behavior. Which sucks. But for my own part, I'm committed to slicing through all the layers of pretend life I sometimes throw out there. Trying to be a little bit more real. Not a lot more. Just an inch beyond my comfort zone. And during the season of Lent (which starts in 6 days HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?), I'm committing to working on being more compassionate. Slower to judge. Quicker to forgive. There's no "end point" to this Lenten discipline--I won't ever be perfect--but maybe I'll be a little more conscientious, at least. Anyway, I'm sure I'll totally have it fixed by Easter and then I can move on to more important things like figuring out the economy or where I can find plus-sized clothes that are well-made, cute, and not budget-busting.
Because, when it comes right down to it, aren't we all depending on the kindness of strangers?