You know, I don’t mind people posting their However Many Days of Thankfulness on Facebook. Maybe it’s just the people I know who do it, but the exercise seems to be a daily reflection communicated in a short but sincere way, and that’s more than I can say for the people who spam everyone’s feed by posting a dozen of those e-card things, most of which were only mildly funny when I saw them three years ago. Add these people to the morons who keep signing the Facebook “Alabama requires Drug tests For Welfare Users, Our state should To” petition, as if Alabama has ever led the country in any kind of legislation and at all exemplifies the kind of world we should be living in. Then throw in the people I know from elementary and high school who are just now getting divorced and speaking very candidly about it online, and my Facebook feed seems very clearly delineated into two groups: Normal People and Batshit Idiot People.
I understand the purpose of Facebook and I understand that what I consider to be private isn’t necessarily what someone else would consider private. I also know that not everyone writes the same or copes with problems the same, and that sometimes, and by that I mean hardly ever but sometimes, what I consider to be oversharing might be a good thing for someone else’s mental health or personal situation.
However. I’ve personally been a witness to three Internet divorces within the past year, and another four come to mind immediately that are either pending, ongoing, or really should happen based on what their participants are putting online. And when I say “Internet divorces,” I don’t mean fake divorces. I mean people in real life who are getting divorced and putting all of the information on the Internet for just anybody to see. I mean, it’s fine to tell the world that you’re getting divorced and maybe why*, but I’m having a hard time thinking of situations in which it would be appropriate to air long-held and long-winded grievances about someone’s family, background, or overall worth as a parent. What might feel validating for you feels icky for everyone else, and in the case of Facebook, at least, you do have to consider the reactions of others. That’s the whole point of putting shit on the feed.
Recently, someone I know was complaining that everyone posts edited-for-Facebook life alerts, so to speak, as in, everyone is always presenting the best version of themselves and if you only know an old high school classmate from Facebook, then you’re apt to think that they’re living the coolest, most successful life possible. Aside from the people I mentioned above, of course. And I guess this is true, although I don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with that. One of the best things about the Internet is that it allows unlimited communication, but unlike old timey gossip or invasive press, we’re allowed to control what people know about us. This is a marvelous development in terms of privacy, and we’re fully capable of choosing to control this or remaining ignorant of the option. I choose to post some things online while keeping other things to myself. I do this because a) some things are better kept private, b) I have other people’s feelings to consider sometimes, and c) if I ever get published, I need to save all the crazy shit for the book. I love that I can do this, and I love that I can spin or present the information I choose to share in a way that’s (I hope) entertaining to others.
Besides, a Batshit Idiot Person doesn’t even write cleverly, and an astute observer can tell what’s going on in everyone’s edited-for-Facebook posts, anyway. On the one side, I know all about the marital details of way too many people I once knew in elementary and high school. On the other side, all those cutesy girls who still go to clubs every night and brag about how many guys hit on them every day are actually bone-crushingly lonely, as evidenced by those 11pm-on-a-Tuesday posts where they just want someone to come over and watch movies with them. Basically, everyone’s life is crappy at least some of the time, so why not be more selective about what you admit? Even if some people see right through it, the effort counts.
Sometimes I wish I could notify the Batshit Idiot Person of what they’ve done and why it qualifies as a batshit idiot thing to do. Personal messages are gauche, like I think I’m better at this than them (even though I am, but humblebrag humblebrag humblebrag). Attacking them in their own comment feed, while appropriate considering their sharing habits, is tacky. Perhaps some of us could start a group, and someone could design a sort of ticket system, and we could issue tickets to these people to let them know that their behavior has been noticed and that it would be unwise to continue for reasons of privacy, decency, or, in some cases, legal trouble, because I can’t for the life of me understand how some people who have children are so willing to attack their spouses online when every episode of Law & Order says that it’ll be counted against the attacker in a custody hearing. If a person amasses enough Oversharing Tickets, then their account could be flagged for removal. I know it seems harsh, but these people have trouble understanding consequences, anyway, so at least we’d be providing them with a learning experience.
*There was no MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter when I got divorced. Shit, there was barely even Friendster, and I certainly didn’t have a blog. Nonetheless, I was told my by soon-to-be-ex-husband that I shouldn’t tell people why we were splitting up because according to him, it was “none of their business.” I disagreed; if someone had sent me money or listened to me cry on the phone after he stole all of my mine, then it was certainly their business. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if I would have put this information online had this kind of Internet been available then. Probably I would have. But I wouldn’t have exceeded 60-or-so characters and there would have been some attempt at black humor. Also, in the case of anyone who does something illegal to someone else, that motherfucker really fucking deserved it.