Saturday, October 22, 2011

Staying "Connected"

Facebook is TOTALLY underrated. People will readily pay hundreds--even thousands of dollars on therapy and not think anything of it--I know, because I've been there--yet the therapists I've encountered haven't really done much for me. ONE nice comment or word of inspiration from a great friend (or sometimes a friend-of-a-friend--or even an acquaintance!) can do what hours of therapy can not--give me a feeling of worth. A feeling like I'm not alone in the world--like I'm "connected" in some way with another human being. My "daily words of affirmation" come when I see the little red box light up in the top left corner of my computer screen. I anxiously click on it in hopes that SOMEONE has commented on SOMETHING. Maybe I shouldn't discount therapy just yet...

 I've noticed several things since my relationship with facebook began. 1. I DO have an addictive personality. 2. I have HILARIOUS friends (who also have HILARIOUS friends). 3. I know some pretty amazing and inspirational people. 4. My husband hates facebook.

Now the "addiction" to facebook is being shared with my "addiction" to blogging and I think that the "addiction" is not really to those things at all. I'm addicted to being validated. I'm addicted to "hearing" nice things about myself and funny things about the world. I'm married to a man and have three small children, hence there isn't a lot of communicating or validating going on around here. I turn to my facebook "friends" to provide me with what I need emotionally in life. That sounds so sad, doesn't it? P-R-E-T-T-Y pathetic. But how needy would I be if I expected the people around me to constantly comment, compliment and validate me? It's what we as humans truly want, but it's exhausting to do--at least in person (Can you imagine walking around saying, "I like that" and coming up with something inspirational to say to a person ALL day?!). I know--I've tried.

I'm a "validator" and a "complimenter." I'm not bragging--there are many things I'm not (a housekeeper or organizer for instance...a mathemetician or accountant...a super model or get it), but I began working with children when I was a teenager and from that I learned that people feel good when they are complimented and validated and I like to make other people feel good about themselves. For eleven years, I would begin my relationship with, "You are so great at..."cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, playing with the kids..." and I really appreciate you, but..." Unfortunately, in the eleven years, my husband only hears the"...BUT..." which really makes me into kind of a jerk. Facebook lets me not be the jerk and I REALLY like that. really became an issue in my relationship (which I WILL NOT get into again. I PROMISE!).

We moved to Kalispell Montana before I was ever on facebook.  I don't know if you know this or not, but Montana is on the OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET!  I even called it MonFREAKINtana before we got there (and even when we WERE there at first--until my four-year-old son told my mother how much he loved "MonFREAKIN'tana." Then I stopped.).  For several months it was me, my children (who were 4,3, and 2 at the time) and my [cranky and exhausted] husband.  No one else. I am a talker (SURPRISE!) and although I had the phone (you KNOW how great small children are when you are on the phone...), I had no other adult contact...EVER, because my husband was quietly enduring whatever it is that men endure and was not letting me in on ANY of his secrets.

I finally joined TWO mom's groups (I tried to join a third, but it was thirty minutes away and I felt guilty for joining three!), which helped IMMENSELY ( I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS!), but at the beginning I still only had superficial relationships. On February 14, I decided to join facebook. My friend, Chrissy talked me through it (and she and her husband were my first "friends") and I couldn't stop! It felt weird only having two friends--like sitting in thehigh school cafeteria alone--and I couldn't help but get the feeling I had when I moved to Lockport in the second grade or Williamsville in the tenth--what if I ask them to be my friend and they say..."NO!"?! Chrissy assured me that this feeling would go away soon and that I would be surprised at how many people would say "yes" and then, would even ask ME to be THEIR friend! (I'm SUCH a geek--I know!) I spent all day thinking about facebook and how many "friends" I would have. We went out to eat for Valentine's Day--our first date in months (I dropped my kids off at a "drop-in" child care facility--a few moms snubbed their noses at that, yet weren't offering to watch my kids...don't get me started on WHY we need to SUPPORT each other in ALL that we do. That's a topic for another day!) and my husband looked over at me and said, "You're thinking about facebook right now, aren't you?" For the first time, I was the one who was somewhere else, and I couldn't stop! We watched a video when we got home and my thoughts were on facebook, which I immediately logged onto when the credits were rolling. I was on until the wee hours of the morning and it was FANTASTIC! Chrissy and her husband "commented" that I had more friends in one day then they had in four months. Chrissy wrote, "Wow--you've been busy!" and she wasn't kidding. I finally felt "connected" with other human beings and I was LOVING it! I even made a secret deal with myself (I do's not weird...) to write a funny status each day. I would "write" them in bed at night. I would "write" them in the shower (on the off chance I was ABLE to shower!) and I would "write" them while driving. I cracked myself up, though I'm not sure if I was "cracking up" anyone else! All I cared about was getting it out there and (hopefully) seeing the little red box light up in the corner!

The thing is, I have made a lot of amazing friends through the years, but I am HORRIBLE at keeping in touch. I sit up at night and think, "Oh my goodness--I really need to call her--it has been so long!" or "Wow--I forgot about him--I wonder what he is up to these days..." and "I really wonder what my students will end up doing with their lives..." and would feel sad about the people I would probably never talk to again. Enter facebook. I still remember people and try to "find" them and "friend" them, but it was amazing to see how many people "found" me. Now I have "chats" with people I haven't seen since middle school. I reunite with distant cousins and make friends with my friends' friends. I am able to see former students and their babies (not the best perk--I can't believe I'm THAT old!)--NOT because they were having them in high school, but because they found me (or I found them!) on facebook after they were grown and married. I often think that I want to have a facebook reunion (or would it just be...union?!) and get all of my fb "friends" together to meet. I have maybe 500 friends and I would say at least 450 are people I genuinely would love to hang out with on a regular basis. These are good (and funny!) (and brilliant!) people who have so much to offer the world--not just facebook--and I often think about "fixing them up" with each other because I know how well  their personalities would mesh. I feel great after I've "chatted" with all of them. Of course, then there is the guilt over not staying in touch on facebook...that's what happens when your raised in an Italian Catholic family...guilt just becomes part of who you are.

These days I try not to be on facebook for too long--I don't look at ALL the updates (though some days I try to), however I want to stay connected. I feel sad if someone posted something funny or news about their family and I didn't see it. I'm not so much concerned about what they ate for dinner (unless it's something I MUST make!) or if they just got back from the store (unless it's a store I MUST go to), but my friends use those posts sparingly. They, like me, are in it to inspire or humor. And what could be wrong with wanting to stay connected to THAT?!

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