“Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity…This mismatch between sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings that are called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.” (source: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Introduction.aspx )
When you hear the phase “body dysphoria” it is usually in the context of the transgender experience. A man or woman is describing the way they feel towards the mismatch of their body parts and their gender, because for whatever reason, they want the traditional man=penis+testicles, woman=vagina+uterus+breasts equation (not all trans people feel this way, but for argument’s sake I’m focusing on the ones that do). But then there are people like me, whose gender is not so black and white, that aren’t accounted for in that equation.
People understand the transgender experience because it fits in the male/female binary; it boils down to being the opposite of what everyone perceives you to be. But there is no script for being genderqueer like there is for being a man or woman; there’s no set way a genderqueer person is supposed to look. So I guess you could say our relationships with our bodies are…complicated.
I’ve read things online about genderqueer body dysphoria before, and it seems everyone’s experience is different. Some people want a mix or male/female parts, some people want the entire male/female connotation removed from the description of their body, some people are happy with what they were born with and the male/female status of their body, some people want the “opposite” of what they were born with. In a way, it’s nice not to have pressure to get any surgeries or start hormone therapy, but on the other hand it leaves a gaping hole where there would normally be some sort of frame-of-reference. I can’t just do what everyone else is doing, or do what society sees as the “genderqueer body”; I must sort through my feelings about every part of my body…searching for what I see as “me”.
Though there has been a lot of relief with mostly coming out as genderqueer, there has also been a lot of frustration. Most people don’t use my they/them pronouns, and most still see me as a woman (or girl, if they are being infantile about it). And most of the time I hate it. It makes me feel so angry inside to constantly be put in a box where I don’t belong…”I’M NOT A GIRL!” I want to scream. But usually I don’t say anything because I either don’t want people to feel bad, don’t want to be judged, or have to explain myself. It gets sort of exhausting after a while to try to teach people over and over what you are, especially after living a life where everyone assumed things correctly. People mean well, but it feels sort of alienating to have to explain something so integral about yourself as your gender. No one asks men or women to explain what a man or woman is, or when they knew they were one, but they do with me.
I hate being different sometimes. I hate that people see my body, my face and use it against me—to label me as something I’m trying so hard not to be. No matter how flat my boobs seem to look, people still know I have them and talk about them in a feminine way. No matter how skinny I get, people see me as having hips and an ass that is different from men’s. I can’t see to get away from “woman”…but I don’t want to get rid of parts of my body in order to be seen as something else. I don’t want a penis so I can be “manly”; I want people to see the masculine parts of my personality and know that I can be “manly” as I already am. But looking past the boobs and smooth face requires more work than most people are willing to put in.
So I look in the mirror at my body and feel mixed up. Sometimes I love it as is, other times I wish my boobs weren’t there, or that the curves I was once so proud of would even out… My body now is everything I wanted as a teen: skinny, feminine, mature; but now it doesn’t match how I feel on the inside. Everyone calls it female, making me feel so disconnected and sometimes resentful of it. As someone who has struggled hard to love themselves as they are, this makes me feel even angrier. I want to love my body as it is, but it seems to be the source of almost all of the misgendering that happens to me.
I know in a lot of ways I have it easy. My breasts are easier to bind since they are now smaller, and my skinniness makes guy clothes fit easier (though I definitely do still have trouble finding the right fit). My race also helps, since masculinity is not as hyped up as it seems to be in other races and ethnicities. But even with all this privilege, it will never measure up to the privilege I had as a cisgendered woman.
There’s freedom in being something that society has yet to define, but there’s also loneliness in it. My experience as a genderqueer person is so hard to relate to because I am often the only genderqueer person people have met. I guess that means I can sort of set the tone for what “genderqueer” means in my area…but I don’t want the weight of that burden. I just want to be me…why can’t people see that? Why can’t they see how uncomfortable they are making me when they call me a girl? Why can’t they understand that my gender has nothing to do with theirs, and that my existence isn’t affecting their femininity or masculinity at all? Why can’t people just accept me? Why can’t people just accept me?
For the record: I love women, and I loved being a woman while I felt I was one, but I’m not a woman. I shouldn’t represent women any more, or be asked to speak for them and their current experiences. Yes, I did identify as one and had experiences in that cisgendered phase of my life, but that’s not who I am now. I don’t want to speak for women anymore; I want to speak for genderqueer people…people like me.
The best way to make a change in your life and how you feel about it is to start trying new things. Everybody knows this, but we all sort of get busy with our lives and push new ideas aside because it’s so much easier to stick with our old routine. Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to go ahead and put on your big girl panties, suck it up and put yourself out there.
As a person who has a lot of anxiety about interacting with people, this is no easy task for me. Sometimes hanging out with my own friends can be tiring and nerve-racking, so making new ones is not something I’m especially good at or used to. But after weeks of talking about it with my therapist, I’ve finally found some motivation to take the plunge and actually try.
So what am I trying? Well, it’s just baby steps for now, but I’ve been focusing on: a) Cutting back on people-pleasing so damn much and actually doing what’s right for me, b) Making more of an effort to socialize with my roommates and in general, and c) Trying things that I am interested in instead of just letting opportunities slip by. How I’ve been doing this is: a) I told my roommates I want to live somewhere else this fall. I just can’t live with pets anymore without some sort of allergic reaction, and even though that’s not my fault, I was really dreading the idea of telling them I want to move out. I didn’t want them to think I was being unreasonable or hurt their feelings, so I really considered just staying where I’m at, but in the long run I know moving out is the better choice for me. b) On Monday nights I set aside time to watch The Bachelor with my roommates. Honestly, I think the show is super sexist and ridiculous, but it’s something they enjoy, and I like watching it with them because we all add our own commentary. It’s a good bonding activity, especially when we break out the wine. c) I’ve been searching for a club to join this semester that fits in with my schedule and is something I maybe won’t get the opportunity to do after college. So next week I’m going to a Tango Club meeting, because I suck at dancing and I’d like to be better at it. I’m not setting up any high expectations—I’ll go, and if I like it I’ll keep going. If I don’t like it, I won’t go, and I’ll probably try to find some sort of craft club to join. My therapist used an interesting metaphor for this; she said that it was sort of like gardening, where right now is the time to just try to plant a bunch of seeds. Some of them won’t grow into anything, but others hopefully will, and after time they can turn into something great that I can pick and make into jam or some shit. So basically, I’ve got to try some new things, find what I like, stick to the ones I enjoy the most, and eventually it will bring me a sense of purpose or some friends or at least a fun way to spend a Wednesday night. (For all of you non-therapy goers, metaphors always turn up eventually, even though it’s so stereotypical, and they are almost always something strange that sound stupid in any other situation.) Anyway, I’m planting my seeds, readers. Hopefully something will grow.
In other news, I’ve also had some good changes with Jessie, my ex-partner living in Central America. Since allowing each other to see other people, we’ve become more honest with another and more realistic about our relationship. Now that I feel less pressure to tie my future to his*, I actually feel more inclined to. But I’m not making any sort of promises still, because there’s more work I need to do about figuring out how I want my life to be. In a strange way, I think we are sort of better than ever at this point.
Being honest means I’ve fessed up to seeing someone else in the past few weeks. Now, by “seeing someone” I just mean hanging out and intimacy—it is not a relationship with labels and I intend to keep it that way. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed spending time with this guy (who will be anonymous for now) and it has taught me a lot about the kind of person I am looking for. After looking back at some of my old relationships I now see them in a different light; where I once thought I had serious, adult love I recognize that it was young, foolish love that was based on a naïve dream. Now I know that while it is fun to spend time with people who are free spirits and idealists in your 20’s, the person I want to marry one day is someone I could count on, who is responsible and reliable. And that’s not to say that free spirits and idealists aren’t great people…I just know now that I’m going to need someone who I can both dream with, and conquer reality with.
I had a funny sort of inspiration for all of these realizations lately. Yesterday I was sitting in my car outside my therapist’s office, looking out the window, and thinking about what it would be like if I were pregnant. Mind you, I have no desire to be a mother any time soon, but since I’ve lost track of my periods I was a little concerned about this at the time. (Just for the record, though, I’m not pregnant.) Anyway, I sat there picturing myself with a little boy who was mine and I suddenly saw this attainable version of myself that I’d like to be someday. I was independent, and I trusted my instincts though I was sometimes scared, and I stuck to important values that I wanted to pass on to my kid. Values like being honest instead of proud, being kind and fair, especially when you don’t agree with someone, and learning about the things you don’t understand instead of dismissing them. I know it sounds sort of silly, but when you think of the life you’d like to give to someone you love with all of your heart, it becomes clear what you think people deserve. And I think if you can take that idea of life, and apply it to yourself instead, you realize that maybe you deserve that too.
So this is my journey in becoming someone I can admire and aspire to. It’s not going to be easy (in fact, it will most likely be pretty uncomfortable as I push myself to do new things), and it’s going to take time and work, but I’m trying because at the end of the day if I tried, at least I did something different.
*In the past, I’ve used she/her or they/them pronouns for Jessie (or tried just avoiding using pronouns altogether), however recently I learned that Jessie’s correct pronouns are he/him, so that’s what I’m going to start using!
Hey Readers. Things are happening. This week is the week before Halloween, which means in terms of college students that all of your professors will load you up with essays, exams, and homework. Nothing like Hell Week to celebrate Halloween. But right now I’m avoiding writing one of my papers so I can write on here, and rather than go into all of the ups and downs in my personal life, I’m going to talk about a different topic today: gender fluidity!
Now before you get really excited, let me explain a few things. I’m not one of those queer people who think they know everything about everything when it comes to gender identity or sexuality. Nah. I’m just some random asshole, who likes to write about their experiences online, so if you’re looking for an academic discussion you’re in the wrong place.
It’s been a good 8 months into being out as bisexual, and during this stage I’m starting to notice some other changes going with me. Since dating my ex-girlfriend, who could be described as “butch” or masculine, I’ve been more open about pushing the boundaries of gender expression in my fashion choices. (I use the term fashion choices loosely…I’m not stylish, but I do have a style, I guess). I got used to shopping with her in the men’s sections, and not being feminine anymore once I cut off all my hair, so I started experimenting with my style. I chose more loose pants over tight skinny jeans, baseball hats and beanies over “doing my hair”, I grew out my armpit hair, I didn’t bother with jewelry. I still looked like a girl/woman, just more of a tomboy, more stereotypically gay. And I didn’t mind at all…in fact, I felt confident. I finally got to take advantage of all of my clothing options instead of saying, “If I were a guy, I’d wear that.”
But it wasn’t all that simple. I received more ridicule from my family for “looking like a boy” and I noticed people acted a lot friendlier when I choose feminine outfits over masculine ones. Guys ignored me when I dressed “gay”, and women ignored me when I dressed “straight”—unless they were straight themselves and obviously uncomfortable around non-hetero people. I began to see the stark difference between myself and my roommates whenever we went out, and realized that our femininity had made us closer in ways that I hadn’t recognized before.
When I did dress “gay”, I wasn’t necessarily let into my college’s gay clique, either. There was more notice of me, but not necessarily in a welcoming way. It was more like, “Oh, you’re on our side. For now.” Though I was expressing my queerness externally, I still felt like an outsider for being “half straight”.
And so here I am readers, pondering what all of this means. Am I gender fluid? Does enjoying a more androgynous style automatically mean I don’t want to be perceived as a “girl”? I know I’m a cisgendered woman, and am comfortable with that. So what does it mean that I won’t conform to my feminine gender role? Does that just make me a rebel, or am I something else?
In case you aren’t in tune with the lingo going on here, I’ll explain to the best of my knowledge. Someone who is gender fluid typically uses “they/them” pronouns, and don’t identify as a man or a woman, but something between the two/a third option (gender neutral?). Their style can range from masculine, feminine, androgynous and can either stay in one of those categories, or change from time to time. There’s very little representation for them in the media, but I believe Miley Cyrus and Ruby Rose identify that way.
But do I? I’m not a lesbian, and I’m not straight, but from day-to-day I can fit my appearance into these stereotypical looks. Does that just mean that my style is “bi” as well as my orientation?
Part of me doesn’t want to mess with this stuff. “I dress the way I dress,” it says. “Who cares.” But another part is curious. Everyone at college is stuck on their labels, and so the pressure is on to define yourself. But I don’t need another bomb to drop on my family and friends. Or myself, for that matter.
What do you think, readers? Does any of this matter in the long run, or is it all an experiment? Am I just looking for the key into the gay club, or the key to another part of my identity?
Ugh, these labels are killing me. 😛
I wish I knew what to do. As of now, I’m just pretending. Maybe that’s what being an adult is…just pretending to be in control of your life while secretly scrambling to find the answer.
Other people know what I should do. “Go talk to someone” “Get more Prozac” “Let your friends know what’s going on”…I hear these things and rack up a list in my head it’s been maybe 4 or 5 times that I’ve been back to therapy. At least three times of being on antidepressants. And an embarrassing amount of times I’ve gone to people, crying and desperate for help. The list just keeps getting longer. Is this what my life will be—a constant back-and-forth between feeling okay and being depressed? I wish I could stop it. I wish it would be as simple as it was over the summer, when it was just a matter of getting out of my relationship with my girlfriend. But this time it’s the coping that’s not working, and the fact that as hard as I seem to try, nothing can distract me from my feelings. They’re always there in the background, waiting for a moment to get me alone and tear down all those walls I’ve built up.
I’m starting to worry people, and I hate it. I hate causing people uncertainty and distress, of tinging their happy lives with my depression. But it also feels good to hear how much they care about me. Really it’s the love of my friends and parents that keeps me going. That and the desperation to find a reason not to die. But other than that, I feel like my life’s worth isn’t enough to contribute to the world. My future career plans are a mess, I have no idea where I’m going to end up or who will be there with me, and honestly I can’t see anything in front of me. The future is just a giant abyss that makes the present seem pointless. What am I working toward? Why does it matter? These are questions I can’t answer anymore.
But I’m trying. I scheduled an appointment to get a new prescription for meds and an appointment that’s basically an assessment before I can go to therapy. I wish you could just give these people your suicide letter and just get in without all the hassle. But these appointments are better than nothing.
I hung out with my ex-girlfriend last night and the night before. She was concerned, and asked if I wanted to carve pumpkins, so I said yes. Even though our last encounter was more get-out-of-my-life than friendly, I thought it would be good for me to focus on something else than what had happened earlier that day. And it was good for me. I actually opened up about what was going on with me, and I made a cathartic pumpkin carving about Fred. I told about making out at the concert with Miranda, and she told me about the girl she’s been seeing. It was going really well…except for the fact that she was totally hot and all I wanted to do was kiss her. So, things ended up getting a little steamy. I felt like an asshole for not having more self-control and respecting her almost-relationship with the other girl, but I was short-sighted. I love her and care about her, and she’s attractive. I needed her, and for once didn’t try to hide it. So then last night we hung out again. We went thrifting and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas. And we hooked up.
I don’t know what’s going on between us, (as usual), but it doesn’t matter. I don’t care about labels as long as I get to spend time with her and hold her at night. She knows about my flirtationship with Miranda and I know about her almost-relationship with the other chick; I think we both don’t know what we’re doing, we just know how we feel.
As for Fred, he’s not doing so great either. We’re both battling our respective depressions, and it’s hard for me to not take care of him while he’s like this. I hate that despite everything he’s done, I still can’t stand to see him so unhappy. But I have to keep my distance. My self-respect, even as low as it already is, would completely diminish if I went back to him. I refuse to let someone treat me that way, even if I love them.
I feel my life is out of my control. All I do is keep screwing up and making shitty decisions. I can’t trust myself to do the right thing anymore.
Who am I if I don’t know myself?
Sometimes I sit here and think about my life back when I was eighteen. I started off my eighteenth year with some guy who I didn’t care about much, but slept with anyway (I once called him “Sir SmokesALot” on here). Then a month later I graduated to sleeping with some guy I cared about who didn’t care about me (Landon). Then a month later I went even further and slept with a guy who I fell in love with, who fell in love with me, and who completely stole my heart (Fred). And through all of this mess of feelings (not to mention surviving my last year of high school with zero motivation), I managed to be pretty bad-ass.
I knew exactly who I was. And if I didn’t, I’d figure it out tomorrow. I felt alive and full of hopes and dreams and wanting to get the hell out of my hometown. I didn’t let people push me around. I walked through the halls of my shitty high school, and for the first time, was able to wave to at least one person each time I was heading to class. I had friends, I had friends-of-friends. I was slightly reckless, slightly responsible, and completely excited about life. I felt like the possibilities were endless, and I was always looking forward to the next time I would get to see my man (Fred).
And here I am, years later. I never thought I’d miss those days, but man do I ever. I guess I like my life now—I have food and a place to live and my mom and my friends back home and my friends here in college town and my girlfriend, and yet it makes me miss being eighteen. I knew who I was and what I wanted. And now…now I don’t even know what I want myself to look like. I just know I want to be happy, and not near-happy-but-not-quite like I feel right now. I’m probably going to have to go back on Prozac, to be honest. I just feel like no matter what I do, I hurt people, and no matter what I want, I can’t have it—at least not the way I want to have it.
My eighteen year-old self would probably love some things about my life now. She would love that I live away from my parents in college town and in an apartment. She would love my henna tattoo and my super-short hair, the fact that I want another piercing and have plans for a couple legit tattoos. But there are other things she would frown at. She would hate that I’m so wishy-washy, that I just do the things other people want, and never take the night by the reins. She would hate how little I say about what I actually think and feel to other people. She would tell me to screw what other people might think about how I feel, and to go figure it out for myself. She would hate how my girlfriend doesn’t know this person I was, and just knows this people-pleasing lump of “Whatever you want”. “Fuck that!” she’d say, “Play your music, go out and explore if you want, watch your TV shows, dress however the fuck you want. Go get pierced! Go out with your friends again! Stop waiting around for life and go live it!”
I thought being with my girlfriend and trying out the things she likes was being adventurous, and I guess it was at first. But now I’ve put myself into this box of what I can and can’t do based on what she likes, and that’s some utter bullshit right there. I can’t change into someone else more like her, and live like a doormat. I’ve got to follow my heart (as cheesy as that sounds) and become someone I can love, not someone she can love. (And this all isn’t her fault, it’s entirely my own, just for the record.)
And I’m going to start it off with a list of things I want to do. And I’m not going to stop this crusade of change until I accomplish everything on it. And my eighteen year old self (and current self) will be proud…because life is too short to try to be selling yourself a version of who you are that you just aren’t happy being.
Do you ever feel like your mind is just a giant fucking land-mine? That every thought must be tiptoed around, carefully selected so you won’t stumble upon something dangerous? That has been my life for almost two months now. No…the past six months….no, how about the past seven years? Every thought must be analyzed, examined for traces of depression. Only now not only am I looking for depression, I’m looking for a decision about my personal life.
If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that I’m currently in a polyamourous relationship. That is, I have a girlfriend and a boyfriend who know about each other but are not interested in each other. Anyway, this was not a situation I was ever looking for or wanted, it just kind of happened. And while it’s been holding up so far, eventually I’ll have to make a choice between my boyfriend and girlfriend. So now you know why it’s like walking through a land-mine.
I’m just going to be straight-up with you guys: I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. Earlier this week I had the first inclination of who I might choose to be with when August comes around, and let me tell you, I wish I hadn’t. Because as much as the not-knowing before was driving me crazy, knowing is so so much worse. No one wants to be the asshole to choose between two wonderful, amazing, breath-taking people. No one wants to break someone else’s heart, especially if it’s someone they love. But I got myself into this situation, and eventually I’m going to have to get myself out.
I talked to one of my best friends from high school about this after breakfast this morning. It was taking a lot of energy not to cry or think about crying (why must I always cry?! Why must I be a crier?!), so I looked through the people I had been texting lately, found her name, and proceeded to word vomit all over her. If she hadn’t heard my rants for years, it probably would have totally freaked her out. Anyway, she gave me some great advice, reassured me that things would be okay with that joking, I’m-going-to-stick-with-you-even-though-you’re-an-asshole voice, and left me feeling much better before I went to go take a french quiz. Here’s the advice: wait it out, talk it out, think it out, feel it out. Sounds kinda weird and suspicious of bullshit, but it makes sense. I need to go through this summer before I can be sure of anything, and check to see where feelings and sparks are flying/fading. I need to talk about where things would go if I chose either person, with that person. I need to calm down and not fly off the handle with any brash decisions. Because I love both of them, and love mixes up your thoughts into an unnavigable brain stew that is almost impossible to sort through.
It’s not just how I feel about them, either. It’s how I feel about myself that’s also changing. I thought I knew what I wanted before I started dating my girlfriend. And now that has changed, and so has my perception of myself. I thought I was determined for that adult future, with my life laid out onto a list format: step one, finish my bachelor’s degree, step two, get into grad school, step three, get married, step four, finish grad school and travel, step four, find a job, etc. Now, I am an uncertain, twenty-something college student who only wants to travel, finish school and get a job eventually, and find someone to spend my time with and give me love to. I don’t know the order of those things, or which ones I want to accomplish first, or if they will change. All I know is that I don’t know, and I who I am is changing faster than I can comprehend. So far I think I am becoming bolder, more assertive and risky and willing to try what is uncertain, but I worry that I am also becoming more selfish, reckless, and unafraid to hurt the people I love in the name of my own happiness. That worry is what is pushing me to start running again. When I am out on the trail I block out all of the questions, and just pour the energy I could use to start hating myself into my footsteps. I don’t want to hate myself, or have the negative thoughts that I do, but when I feel like I am hurting others I hurt myself. I try to take their pain, use my energy for their happiness instead, and am left just an empty shell, inflicting all of the negative things I see and feel on myself. Is it healthy? No. Is it helping? No. So I’m trying to drain that anxiety and negativity into exercise.
Everything I spent so much time and energy to balance has become a haphazard pile of priorities. I spend less time with my friends, I feel more guilty. I spend less time texting and Skyping my boyfriend, I feel more guilty. I spend more time with my girlfriend, I feel better. I spend more time running, I feel stronger. “What am I doing?” I constantly ask myself. “How did I get here?” “Am I making a mistake?”
Am I making a mistake?
I’ve been needing to write this post for a while now. There is so much pent-up emotion that’s been buried deep down inside of me and all I’ve been hoping for is a moment to sit down and confront it. The sadness, the anger, the isolation, the shame…I’m afraid to tap into this reserve of emotions for fear of flooding, of utter chaos and loss of control, but pushing it away is almost worse. (Almost.) I’m not the person I was a few years ago, the confident young woman who had the amazing friends and the amazing boyfriend beside her as she embraced life. No, with this I stand alone. This is my battle, my burden to bear and no one can help me except me.
Let’s start with the isolation. I am not a scary person, and I doubt there’s much about me that would intimidate anyone. But try to talk to me and suddenly I’m cold, unreceptive…I freeze. I don’t communicate, and probably come off as rude or snobby. I am hopeless at trying to convey any type of peace-offering to others, I don’t know what to say, if I should smile, and I can hardly meet their eyes. This is not just with strangers, this is with classmates, friends of friends, even my own family. I isolate myself from almost everyone, and the worst part is that I can’t understand why. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to others, but what could I possibly have to say that could matter to someone else? I’m also super sensitive and never say anything very personal for fear of being ridiculed. And then there’s just the general feeling of uneasiness around people I don’t know well. I don’t enjoy big groups of people, I don’t like to “put myself out there”. For the longest time this year, my ideal weekend at school is spent in my room alone with pizza and Netflix. I just can’t bring myself to seek out others, even if it’s people I love like my family. (Although it gets more complicated with them because we are fundamentally different). I am alone in areas of life where others have warmth and comfort, and I blame no one but myself.
And let’s not forget this other problem I have hanging over my head. There is a part of me that I am hiding from almost everyone, a secret identity I can hardly bring myself to call mine. My family, my friends I’ve known for years, my coworkers, they would be uncomfortable with this part of me. Some of them would be mean. Some of them would change the way they look at me; they’d get quiet, uncertain. Then there would be the silent judgement. And so I can’t bring myself to own this part of myself, it feels as if it is more convenient to discard it all together (but I can’t, I’ve tried). So here I sit, watching it make me even quieter, even more disconnected from the world around me. Sometimes it’s like my life is a match and I am so close to striking it…so ready to just accept that my life could someday be up in flames.
Have you ever felt like if people knew the real you, the vulnerable one curled up on the floor crying hard, that they would just much rather walk away ?
I wish more than anything that I could be free to be myself with my family. But that’s just not the type of family I have. It’s a choice: I can either sit there mute or run away free. Either way I won’t have the family I want, but at least with the first I still have a family.
And my friends? Well, I guess I’m just afraid to rock the boat.
I guess I’m afraid of a lot of things.
Facebook is such a strange thing. I can go to a website made by someone I will never meet, and find a box with my picture and my name. I can type in almost anyone and find a box with their picture and name, and then presume to know something about them. It’s a single stupid screen, filled with utterly meaningless posts and shares and pictures, where I look at what people want me to think about their lives. Too often I also look at my own nonsense on Facebook and try to understand what I want people to think of my life. What do I want to show the world? (Or rather, what do I want to show the world by using the least possible effort that could be made by a person? Think about it: a post usually has less thought and emotion behind it compared to almost any other form of self-expression. You can express who you are through art, film, writing extensive prose/poetry/fiction/nonfiction, travel, activism, your career, faith, volunteering, etc. But do we choose to show people who we are through those means? No, because posting something on Facebook is easier than trying to show all your friends your passions and pursuits in real life. Even physically saying something to someone else requires much more courage than a post ever could. The smallest touch can express more than any “like”. We have become so lazy, even with our own self-expression.) The more I look at my page the more fake I feel.
I was against Facebook for such a long time. But alas, my senior year of high school I caved in, telling myself that it would be useful to keep in touch with all my friends after I graduated. And you know what happened the summer after I graduated from high school? I deleted half of my “friends” who went to school with me. I never talked to these people much in real life, and they didn’t talk to me, so why did either one of us think putting any effort in an online “friendship” would be worthwhile? I couldn’t sever all ties with the website, though. I had become sucked in and was constantly snooping on people I couldn’t get access to in real life (ex boyfriends, friends who moved away and had forgotten about me, girls who were popular in high school and got knocked up the second after graduation, people who had far more fabulous lives than I had, etc.). It was a terrible addiction and gave me an icky feeling about myself. But everyone does that stuff on Facebook at some point, so I decided to cut back, rather than cut out my addiction. When I got to college I started following organizations on Facebook, and now I probably spend more time reading recommended NPR articles on Facebook than I do reading anything any of my “friends” post. However, the icky feeling remains.
I hate how much I care about everything I reveal on Facebook… Not that it’s much; in fact, I probably worry more about everything I want to hide from Facebook than anything I reveal. No ugly pictures, no posts that are too radical or too personal, no information that could provoke some online creeper to come to my house late at night. I never post anything that alludes to alcohol, drugs, anything illegal obviously, health concerns, financial concerns, educational concerns, rarely any rants, nothing that conveys a low self-esteem, and never anything about my family. I also take precautions to not friend anyone I don’t know in real life, any aunts or uncles, parents of friends, or anyone from the past who didn’t give a crap about me when we were in each other’s presence in real life. I tiptoe through my virtual life in ways I dare not to in real life…so why do I cling to it? Why does it matter so much to hang on to pages of people who I no longer see in real life?
Maybe I’m just sentimental, maybe I’m too lazy to avoid what is simply convenient, maybe I have fallen prey to the cyber-obsession of my generation. Maybe because I write my heart out on an anonymous blog I am no better than the postings on Facebook, and am a complete hypocrite for writing all of this. But one thing I do know is that when I sit and think about a world without Facebook, I feel more free, light, and happier. Human connection and self-expression is a beautiful thing, and the cyber world cannot do it proper justice (in my opinion).
I guess Facebook is our attempt of a do-over for all those bad first impressions, those conversations when the words came out all wrong, those conversations that never took place, and for what impression we give the world in real life. On Facebook, we are the false version of ourselves that we always wanted.