In the movie Jerry Maguire, Jerry is a sports agent who has a breakdown at the age of 35 from stress and guilt within the industry he works in. But he likens it less to a breakdown and more like a breakthrough, writing up a 25-page mission statement entitled “The Things We Think And Do Not Say” and sending it to everyone working within the company. He is honest to a fault and inspires others with his words, but still gets canned from his job.
Flash forward 17 years since this 1996 film was made to 2013.
A 25-page mission statement isn’t something anyone would have time to read through. We get easily annoyed if a coworker emails us a video to watch that is longer than seven minutes. We’re taught to do everything in 140 characters or less and preferably do less writing and more GIF-ing. It’s a world where my Facebook status is akin to myself. Or increasingly, as it continues to be seen, a status that is still “me” but the most carefully crafted version of me that I can possibly create.
Nobody writes just anything for a status update anymore. You think before you tweet and you play around with filters on pictures first and everything gets a hashtag included. In a way, I see it as a distraction to the bigger picture. Think about what you want to say and how to say it in the most retweetable fashion possible but wind up losing the moment.
I know I cannot possibly be alone in thinking this, but I do know I don’t write about it as often as I should.
Pics or it didn’t happen. Check-in or you weren’t actually there. Post a status about every single thing going on underneath the surface or you aren’t actually hurting inside. Last Saturday, my grandmother had a stroke. I found out when I was on the plane to go to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in Las Vegas. I got the call right when they told us to turn off our phones. The plane ride was a blur and I was a perpetual ball of motion when we arrived and I could use my phone again. I was moving, but I had also stepped outside of myself and was walking around distantly observing myself in the present running around the airport. It took a bit of time before I was able to call her in the hospital to talk and find out that with time and proper therapy, she’ll be okay. Before I was able to reach out to my brother in the Navy and tell him what was going on. Before I could speak to my father and my intermediate family. Before I could let anything register inside. Before I could write any of this down.
When a family member of mine is hurt, I don’t know how to cope. I have zero coping mechanisms in place because I have lived 26 years without any deaths in my family. But somehow, I feel like advertising my pain on Facebook isn’t high on my to-do list of how I would react. And that is what happened when I found out about the stroke. I didn’t write a single status about the whole ordeal because it cut way too deep and was just too personal. Instead, I kept the feeling buried underneath a stack of statuses about food. I wrote about it on my personal Tumblr blog but that was the coping side in action – the only thing I know how to do when I’m happy, sad, mad, bored, thoughtful, is to write. My personal blog is where I can be at my most raw but even so, I still have a handful of drafted posts that will never see the light of published day kept there.
There’s so much I think but never say or post on Facebook because I know people have me painted in a certain light and expect to see what they’ve always come to see from me since I first got an account there in 2006. And it’s stupid. It’s all so stupid. We’re human beings! We have to grow and change and now more than ever our changes are all documented and displayed in front of everyone. But the older I get, the more I notice some changes go over better than others online.
Weddings? Beautiful. Babies? I’d be okay with less spit-up photos but still it’s a miracle of life.
Quitting your job? Mixed bag of reactions. Revealing that you’re in love with your best friend’s significant other? Can’t be done.
Talking about how the future really and truly scares you and that every moment since getting that news you’ve been mentally asking yourself what it is, exactly, you’re doing with your life again? Back away from the status, people. Move on to the easy thing to like instead.
Should I write down every little feeling I have about myself so people know to deal with me? No. I’m not gonna sign up for that. I’m not your open book. There are some things that just can’t be expressed on Facebook or Twitter. And I know that I couldn’t have written about my grandmother on those sites because the words, put into a condensed, edited, static, status format, would have eaten me alive on the inside.
I raise my glass to everyone dealing with the real sh*t that they can’t make a status or tweet out of. I raise it for you. All of you. You don’t need to be constantly editing yourself to fit the expectations of what people want to see out of you online. You don’t owe anyone any explanations.
You’ve just gotta be good to you and share what you can when you feel ready with the people who matter the most.
Image courtesy of ShutterStock