1. I sign onto Facebook at something like 8 p.m. and there at the top of my feed is a picture of a friend with two other people I have decided it’s best to pretend not to pay attention to. I would probably like the picture if these two others weren’t in it, because my friend looks happy and great, but I’m concerned what liking it with them in it will convey – that I tolerate their presence in the world? that their slights against me are forgotten or, maybe worse, remembered but now set aside? I sign off before I have too much more time to think about it.
2. A few hours later I post something cranky but possibly funny – the humor in it making fun of my own crankiness, which becomes in my head a sort of impenetrable wall of sound at times and requires leavening – and people start liking it. I worry they might be liking it for the wrong reasons. I consider clarifying in some way but realize this could go on forever, counteracting the intended levity.
3. Eventually, an old friend comments on this post, in a way that seems to be calling me out for my crankiness. Can’t I just let people who say stupid things be, he seems to be saying, stupidly. I want to scream at him that he is clearly not getting the subtleties. Why am I so hard on people, he seems to be saying. Is that what he’s saying? I can’t decide. Why must people post this kind of shit right before I go to bed, giving me a first things first item for the following day? I feel very persecuted and misunderstood and stare at my dog like she couldn’t possibly understand.
4. I sign off then sign on again. I close my laptop. I open it back up again. I can’t let the whole thing go. If I respond too emphatically to his comment I’m revealing that I think about these things more than I’d like people to know I do. It’s important to me that people don’t get the idea I harbor things. I’m pretty obsessive about this. I decide again not to respond, and secretly vow to despise the old friend in my sleep.
5. The following day, just as I’ve gotten over the slight, the old friend posts a comment on his own page about a stranger who judged him in the course of a casual conversation, offering unsolicited commentary on a subject which had nothing to do with him. I am concerned that the old friend doesn’t see his hypocrisy.
6. Six people who never liked any of my pages have sent me invitations to please like their own. I feel, as I often do, that the world is very unfair, not because they didn’t like my page, and not because they ask that I like theirs, but because I want to point this out to them and realize I can’t, unless I want to develop a reputation as a malcontent. As I think about this an invitation arrives. Would I like to attend this event where I will see at least three people I have committed myself to never running into? I gaze fixedly at a tree outside the window, wishing to be that tree.
7. I post a photo on my page and my mother comments on it in a way which seems to me to be exacting revenge in a passive aggressive way for an old slight dating back to the time I was 25 years-old. I remember the time before my mother knew about Facebook, when I could visit her house and take a photo and post it on my page with text along the lines of “get a load of this”. I spend about five minutes missing that time like a friend who has died.
8. My mother tags me in a photo I would prefer people not see. I call my mother and ask her, in so many words, why she insists on acting like my mother in public. She responds by bringing up old slights dating back to the time I was 25 years-old. I picture in my head a place somewhere outside the range of Facebook where we could sustain the illusion that it’s possible for us to get along without picturing our younger selves fighting the good fight over old slights. I try to combat the urge to unfriend my own mother, which strikes me as very Shakespearean. I google Shakespearean to make sure I know what it actually means.
9. I do not like as many pictures as I should, I am told by a friend. She likes more of my pictures than I do hers. This at first seems very petty to me and I tell her so. I’m what seems to me sufficiently indignant. Later I post a picture that virtually everyone else we know likes and she doesn’t, and I see her point. It’s like going to a party where someone you know very well can see you but persists in pretending you haven’t entered the room. I want to apologize, but that would pave the way for possibly endless conversations about conduct on social media and the role it plays in our friendship. Instead I go to her page and like the first thing I see. I google Bette Davis’ history because it occurs to me this is kind of like how she was robbed of an Oscar several times then awarded one practically posthumously for a much lesser film, and learn that I’m thinking of some other actress.
10. I sign onto Instagram to get a break from Facebook, hoping to dwell in the almost purely visual where the slight of words won’t touch me, and every picture I see in my feed fills me with a hatred for humanity that shocks me a little, though not as much as I think I would expect. I have no words for this feeling, which builds as I move down the screen. How dare they, I realize I’m thinking. I decide I better sign off altogether before the hate builds into some kind of decision, followed by some action which will keep me up at night. Later I’m in bed staring up into the dark and think, over and over, “How dare they–what?” I fall asleep scrolling through the memory of my feed the way some count sheep.
(Photo of Barbara Herman by Brian Pera; this post in no way illustrates Barbara’s social media practices or thought processes)