While I was sitting in the hair salon getting my own bangs trimmed the other day, the woman in the chair next to me remarked that she was getting a bang trim just in time for Burning Man. Of course, I relayed this humorous social tidbit to Facebook via a status update, as I do with many of the hundreds of random observations I make about other humans. It was funny to me because, well, I would not assume you would need to visit a salon to do anything before spending a week on the playa getting whipped around by a dust storm and sleeping in an abandoned school bus or whatever.
As a human, I live for observational humor; it's how I understand, interact and consume the world around me. I spend a large portion of my waking life people-watching and eavesdropping — then taking that raw, hilarious human data and turning it into stories, tweets and, yes, status updates. But post my posting of this particular anecdote I chose to share with social media, I started thinking about why I was having (and therefore stating) an opinion on Burning Man, an event I have never been to, know nothing about personally and never even cared to care about before? As I churn through the social network that is now an integral part of my daily life, I am constantly in awe — and often, very bummed out by — the things other people choose to have an opinion about. But I'm even more appalled by how other humans use social media as their aggressive sticky note to the world, their megaphone with which to loudly advertise their dissidence on a topic or person or occurrence in popular culture that they might be better off not sharing.
I'm not saying we don't all have the right to share our grievances or disagreements with others. Debating is a fantastic way to learn more about the world around you, and can lead to a better understanding of the human experience. But when my mindless internet scrolling comes across a rant — or even worse, a terribly assembled, misspelled meme or just an image with a bunch of incorrect facts crammed onto an Instagram-size photo block — about how much you think candy corn sucks and I check my calendar and realize it is only the beginning of September, I have to say: Enough. Really? You hate the innocent, little waxy pieces of orange, yellow and white sugar so much that you find t necessary to bombard your Internet friends and relatives with a terribly constructed, photoshopped image that embodies this hatred?
Oh, so "This is you not giving a shit about football?" Well, then, this is someone else not caring about your Walking Dead updates and this is someone else who doesn't want to feel anything about your 27 unedited camera-phone photos of Blues Traveler at Red Rocks and this is someone else who could give a flying fuck about the Oscars/VMAs/Teen Choice Awards you love to watch and update social media about every three minutes. We all have things we like a lot and, simultaneously, we all have things we don't care about — that doesn't mean you have to tell the world that you think something you're not involved with or know anything about sucks. It's like being proudly ignorant but taking it a step further and being hateful about being ignorant about knowing nothing, too.
Personally, I don't care for pumpkin spice anything — but I have an even stronger dislike for people who go out of their way to broadcast how much they hate pumpkin spice. You hating pumpkin spice enough to subject us to a crappy photo of a latte with a giant red "no" symbol over it makes me concerned for you. Even more, it makes me have negative feelings for the person who posted it — a person I may not ever see in real life anymore because we last hung out twelve years ago at the job I had in college. It's hard enough to accept that the actual conversation engagements I get into online with people I "know" can lead to the harboring of negative feelings I wish I didn't have about them, but when something as trivial as scrolling across a shitty meme causes totally avoidable negativity, it's somehow more depressing.
I think about what it would be like if I could be invisible and just sit and observe my friends as they curated their social media pages. I have a desire to understand what goes through the mind of someone I know as they share meme after meme of nonsensical political propaganda or type out long, bitter grievances against things/people in pop culture that they hate for no reason or don't understand, like Taylor Swift and/or Kanye. What is going through a person's mind who looks at a terribly photoshopped image created somewhere in the Internet abyss and decides it is this hideous thing that they want to represent them online for the day? When I log on to Facebook and the first thing I see is that kind of post from that particular person, I wonder: Is that misinformed social stance you're taking really how you want me to think about you?
I realize that as a writer who makes words for the Internet, I use social networking in a different way than many other humans I interact with online do. I'm a person, yes. But I'm also a brand in some ways — my social network is made up of a large percentage of strangers, many of whom I *hope" will read the links I post to the articles I write, as my actual friends will. Though I have not always been the best at representing my particular brand of me, I've been slowly and painfully learning what it means to have sense of "personal PR." Sometimes, my personal PR has been terrible — what I choose to say online and how I say it has affected relationships with others in unfavorable ways. Sometimes, it has taken a real-life interaction with an acquaintance to bring that to my attention, but sometimes I'm not so lucky — and I lose an actual friend over a bad situation that transpired online, often because of my own bad personal PR.
But sometimes, our personal PR is so terrible or makes others so uncomfortable, they don't feel like they can express it to our face — you know, in real life. If you've become a figure within your own social network who repeatedly posts about how much your job sucks, how sick you are all the time, how tired you are of being single, how bored you are with your life or how much you hate your neighbor/boss/co-worker/significant other, then your personal PR is probably screaming something you don't even realize is now the predominant theme in your life to others. I think this is why I love selfies, wedding pictures, baby pictures, family pictures, pet pictures, graduation pictures, vacation pictures and posts about personal accomplishments so much — they up your personal PR and remind me why you are a person I enjoy having in my life.
I thought people hating on other people for posting "too many" pictures of their kids' first day of school was low on the vibrational plane of negative-for-no-reason human emotions, but the real bummer time came when the Kim Davis situation took over my newsfeed. Suddenly people I thought were cool, open-minded, politically active truth-seekers were posting terrible memes about how Kim Davis hates gay people so much she couldn't even get someone to do her hair. All I could think was, who are these hate-mongers and what have they done with my friends? Whatever happened to fighting for civil rights and fighting against true bigots like Davis using facts as weapons? Davis will forever go down on the wrong side of history — but do you really want to be a person who shamed her with a meme about her appearance? That's a pretty dumb side of history to choose to be on.
If there's anything to poke fun at online when it comes to a situation of complete ignorance and homophobia like Kim Davis's actions, then let it be the fact that she somehow was able to exit jail to a theme song, like some kind of superhero bigot with Mike Huckabee as her sidekick. Because that shit was hilarious and I hope Survivor sues her ass off for abusing its "Eye of the Tiger" — which is clearly only a song for winners. Now, where's the hilarious meme of Kim Davis in her super-bigot costume?
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies