Slacktivist Reposting

This was originally written as a facebook note in 2012, but it seems the internet still needs a reminder of these things…

There is far too much passive agression and too many poor attempts at mental manipulation on facebook at the moment.

The worst offenders are all those good cause photos and statuses.

You know the ones. Post this on your status if you lost someone to cancer, illness, whatever. Let the world know that special needs kids are special in a good way. Let’s remind the world of every sickness that exists.

Those are bad enough. What good does it do other than giving you an insight into the suffering of your friends list and a second hand method of proclaiming your personal issues to the world? Reposting these pictures doesn’t raise awareness or money or actually do anything useful. Often they’re not even connected to charities. They’re just constant reminders of the fact that there is suffering in the world and a form of slacktivism.

Then there’s the ‘repost if you agree’ ones. Now admittedly, I do this sometimes if something strikes a particular chord or if I’m feeling all melancholy and I happen across a post which sums up how I feel when I can’t find words. But if I reposted every single one (repost if you hate animal cruelty, hate children cruelty, want a pay rise, think the lib dems should tell the tories to stuff it, etc…) I would do nothing but repost these statuses and pictures. My timeline would be full of them, with no original thought or input at all. And indeed I know some people’s timelines that are exactly like that. Underneath all those posts, I don’t actually have a clue who they are any more, because all I see from them are second hand platitudes.

However, the ones that *really* bug me, to the point of making me do the opposite, are the ones that have a line like this in them:

“90% of people won’t repost this. Will you be one of the few who does?”

These, in the most shameless and guilt tripping way, latch onto people’s sense of inadequacy and playing on people’s egos. They imply that those who do not repost the image do not have a heart or are in some way deficient as human beings. They imply that by reposting the image/status, you are marking yourself out as different. Better. An individual. A worthy human being. “Go on, show the world how awesome you are.”

Really.

Go on, show the world how awesome you are for falling victim to mental programming and doing exactly what a facebook picture tells you to do, because you feel so inadequate that you need to prove to the world that you are a good person every opportunity that you get.

There are several of those pictures that I do like. I do find some of them touching, or funny. Some are connected to causes that I do think should be publicised. But every time I see that sort of statement, I bristle.

Reposting a facebook picture does not make you a better person.

And choosing not to does not make you a lesser one.

I don’t like these sorts of guilt trips on any level. They’re no better than playground crap.

“X would do this for me, they’re an awesome friend, why won’t you do the same thing?”

Sound familiar? I bet it does. And that’s exactly the sentiment that is being played on whenever you see one of those pictures or statuses. It was the same sentiment which was played upon by some of those ‘Cancer Selfie’ posts.

“I’m doing this. Look at me. I’m such a great person. Now you have to do it. And if you don’t, you’re not a good person at all. What’s the matter, do you want Cancer to win or something?” 

If a cause is important to me, I do practical things for it. I worked for Cancer Research for several years as a volunteer. I donate unwanted stuff to Scope, because I want them to keep Beaumont College running. That’s just the tip of the iceberg and there’s tonnes more that people can do to actually help causes such as the fight against Cancer besides plastering Facebook with inane slacktivist cutsie posters.

Whether or not I repost a facebook picture says nothing about me as a person.

And it says nothing about your own value either.

Either positive or negative.

The only thing that increases or decreases your value on social media is your input of original thought and expression.

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#ThrowbackThursday – #itstimetotalk

I posted about this on my FB profile, but I’ve decided it’s worth sharing with a wider audience and in greater detail. There’s a meme going around where people share their first ever profile pictures.

Here’s mine:

On the surface it’s a happy picture. This was taken around May 2007. I was at the Lorien Trust larp event in Locko Park, playing an elf.

This photo comes from one of the most unhappy and unhealthy times of my life, when I was deep in the clutches of undiagnosed depression, suffering major stress and anxiety and heading towards a mental breakdown within weeks of this photograph being taken.

See that top? That’s a size 8. My healthy frame is naturally a size 14. I shouldn’t have been able to fasten that around me. My arms and torso were so thin it makes me shudder. You can see my collar bones jutting out. This was the one and only time in my life that I have been skinny, and it was a time of abject misery. Go read this before anyone DARES to try and compliment me on looking ‘thin’ or expressing envy for my shape in this picture. It was an unwanted side effect with horrific costs.

At this time I had completely lost myself. I was trying my hardest to enjoy hobbies because they would bring me closer to the people I was dependent upon for my sense of self esteem. Given that these people turned out to be about as much use as chocolate teapots in terms of supporting me through these problems, this was a spectacularly bad idea. Because by the time I came out of all this, I had spent so much time and effort investing in these people and was so dependent upon their approval for any shred of self worth, that I had driven away many of my other friends and dropped all of the interests and hobbies that made me who I was.

I am a quietly creative person. I am not ostentatious, or loud, or fond of large crowds of exuberant people. So I still struggle at times to understand how on earth I dropped my interests in writing, stitching, knitting, reading, research, blogging and my quiet and simple investigations into the solitary practice of Wicca in favour of dressing up in a corset and waving a sword around in the middle of a field of thousands of people who were dressed up like a Middle Earth army.

(Before anyone jumps on me for slating LARP – I LOVE LARP. Or rather I love the idea of it. The creative freedom, the expression, the creativity, the social aspects, the sense of community. But I wish I could watch it all like a TV show, because it’s so not me. I would wander around that field pretending to have fun and feeling like a sham up against all of the genuine enthusiasm and interest which was so apparent in everyone else there. LARP is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination – but it was so not me at all.)

I know deep down why I gave up those other interests. It was because I was put down, ridiculed and quietly dismissed in my efforts to share them that I stopped doing them. When you are faced with a blanket response of disinterest and cruel humour, you begin to doubt yourself and your abilities. When it continues and you gain absolutely no respite or external counter view, you believe it. And if, when you’re like me, you suffer from mental health problems which reinforce your negative views of yourself and your place in the world around you, that can be enough to start unravelling you at the core.

What I was trying to do was say:

Hey! Look at me! I’m having fun! I’m with the people I believe I love and doing what they want to do and I’m having fun! Honest! I’m one of you! I’m doing the things that they think are worthwhile and joining in and trying my hardest to be happy! Look I’m smiling! It doesn’t matter that it hurts, I’m smiling! Everything’s OK now! Honest!

Underneath there was a little voice saying ‘what they fuck are you doing?’. I was absolutely terrified of that little voice, because I had no answer for it and I knew I should be listening to it. But I couldn’t. There is still, in this society, a massive stigma surrounding mental health problems. An overwhelming urge for those who suffer with them to pretend that everything is fine and that they are OK. That’s exactly what I was doing when this picture was taken. I might look like I was having fun. But I wasn’t.

However, as they say on Top Gear – that was then. This is now:

 

 

This is what happiness looks like. This is me as I am now – this photo was taken last summer.

It’s taken the best part of seven years, but I have found myself again. Things are not perfect, not by any means. I am still battling against anxiety and depression. I’ve been through job changes, ups and downs, difficulties with family and friends and all the roller-coaster things that life brings. I have had a rough ride, but the difference is that I believe in myself.

It would be very easy to say that I believe in myself because I have a husband who loves me and friends who appreciate me, but there’s more to it than that. If I had simply rebuilt my self esteem upon the approval of a different set of people, I would be potentially headed for the same mess as I was in years ago – liable to shatter at a moment’s notice if I ever lost it or felt in danger of losing it. And when you suffer depression and anxiety, you ALWAYS feel in danger of losing people’s good opinions of you. You always feel like you have to pretend that things are fine in case people leave.

The biggest lesson I learned, and the one I want to share with people today, is that things won’t necessarily be fine just because you keep pretending that they are. And sometimes, putting the brave face on things for longer than you are capable of sustaining can land you in a much bigger mess than saying ‘No, actually, I’m not ok, this sucks mightily and I am suffering’.

But it’s hard to say that without tackling the taboo surrounding these issues. And this is why it is important for the people who are managing their depression and anxiety – and other mental health problems – to speak out.

It’s easy to pretend that the old issues have gone away when you are feeling ‘better’. I found myself agreeing heartily with Tom Pollock when I read his article on living with Bullimia. When celebrities speak out about mental health problems, it’s always couched as something temporary which they have overcome. Like the big bad monster which got chased away, and don’t worry, it’s never coming back. Surely we learned in the last few years that the big bad monster never goes away. And it has horrific sets of teeth. Regardless of how positive and bright your life and existence might seem to other people, that monster is always there and always a threat.

It is so important that we create an environment where people are allowed to say ‘I am not OK right now’. Yes it’s time to talk, and part of that is providing reassurance that things aren’t that bad, or that things will get better. But it’s time to listen too, and to know that we need to listen more than once, because these big bad monsters lurk outside the door all the time. At best they are sleeping. Rarely can they be killed.

I shared this photo on FB with the promise to people who are suffering that things can get better. And they can. I am a positive example of this. My life now barely resembles the shambling wreck of an existence I was going through when that photo was taken. But part of the success has been the acceptance that this big bad monster is part of my life and while it might sleep sometimes, it never truly goes away and that even in times of joy, I will have to occasionally stop and say to the people around me ‘You know what? I’m not OK’.

What makes these people amazing in my life is not that they see me in a positive way, but that I can say this to them and it will not make them permanently think less of me. They accept that I am struggling and rejoice when I am stronger and provide understanding and patience in the gaps between those things. That more than anything  is what reduces the fear of losing people’s good opinions and which makes the monster non-lethal. Scary, yes, but not lethal.

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Vaguebooking

Vaguebooking.

The act of posting a status online which implies an emotional state without giving reasons.

Vaguebooking has its place when you want to tell your world you’re upset but don’t necessarily want to give the whole world your reasons.

In the real world, you can tell someone’s upset from visual clues. The things that are absent on facebook. So sometimes, you want to say that you’re upset, so that people have alternative clues to not make jokes or make comments which would normally be fine, but today would upset you.

It’s the equivalent of walking around with a frown on your face or holding back tears in public, but not wanting to hold forth about why to anyone who asks.

In fact, it would be taken as the height of rudeness for someone to approach a visually upset person in a public place and say ‘HEY THERE! ARE YOU OK? YOU LOOK LIKE YOU’RE ABOUT TO CRY! IS EVERYTHING OK? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T WANT TO TELL ME, I’M YOUR FRIEND AND I WANT TO KNOW’

Asking ‘what’s wrong’ blatantly ignores the fact that the information was withheld and might not be suitable for public consumption. And also ignores the fact that the poster might not want to tell you. Yes, you, specifically. Because if they wanted to tell you – they would.

I use vaguebooking a fair bit, because sometimes I want people to know that I’m not ‘OK’ and frowning at my computer doesn’t exactly have the same effect.

I react pretty badly to people who ask me what’s wrong in public on the internet. Same as I would react badly to Mr/Ms Well Meaning But Tactless who approaches me in front of a crowd and demands to know the meaning for my distress.

Oddly enough, those people are the very people who inspire me to vaguebook in the first place. The people who need to be told that you’re not ok, because otherwise all the subtle hints in the world won’t make them fuck off and stop wittering at you. And yet they’re always the people who ask, in the most public way possible, what’s wrong. They’re also the people who *do* approach you in the pub if you don’t look ok, and will not take the hint that you want them to go the fuck away and that you do not want to talk to them about it.

Vaguebooking. The people who complain about it are often the reason why it happens in the first place.

Definition of fucking irony right there.

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