Here’s one for those of you who use social media as a tool for interaction when you are in that stage of life that you can’t leave the house during naps or while the kids are asleep and the husband is still at work. Or for those of you whose friends and family are, for the most part, in other states. For those of you who like to check up and chat with someone from another country while you’re eating lunch. Or for those of you who are trying to connect with people near you, but who haven’t found any kindred spirits who don’t end up moving away a month after you finally do connect. You might just be on there to find a sitter or buy and sell used children's clothing.
I’m in all of these categories- and some days, I’m on longer than others. Today was one of them. And it was educational.
Today on my kids’ school Facebook page a number of parents commented on long lines and crowded situations at the Meet and Greet. Some people used it as a heads up and showed up later when it wasn’t so crowded. Another mom posted her feelings that the uniform prices seemed too high and wondered if she was alone. Some people agreed and had ideas for less expensive alternatives. Another mother with a special needs son had trouble getting the wheelchair up the stairs after someone rudely told her the elevator wasn’t available because they needed a key. In the comments after each post, some people were alarmed by the fact that the people posting weren’t blissfully grateful for their situation, and made sure they as commenters made their own complacency perfectly clear so as to hopefully enlighten the traitors.
And then there came the last post of the evening: “I am sorry, but has this page turned into the COMPLAIN ABOUT (the school) PAGE! There is so much negativity on here its crazy. Did we not all know where we were applying our kids and that it was new? Maybe we should start a positive page.”
Is the irony lost on a couple of you? Here- I’ll help. This was the first actual complaint on the page.
A number of women jumped on board. “I totally agree!” “I thought it went just fine.” “I didn’t have any problems.” “Of course not ideal but people shouldn't expect it all to go perfectly. Patience is a virtue.”
I just watched the latest popular video about ALS posted by a young man who was recently diagnosed with it, following in both his mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps. He was in tears as he described not only the terrible disease itself, but people’s reactions when they found out about his very real problem. He said either they were confused and didn’t know about it, or they knew exactly how serious a problem it was and then usually cut the conversation short. He said no one wants to talk about it because it ruins their day.
No wonder Robin Williams killed himself.
He was famous for his extremely happy, bubbly sense of humor. He was loved for his ups. It makes you wonder how people reacted to his other extreme. I wonder if he took any personal stock in his movie character quote, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”
It sounds like he wasn’t receiving the same amount of attention for his very real downs. And then he found out he had Parkinson’s.
I felt the need to interject on our school page: I'm not afraid of problems if they're real. Of course patience is important, but complacency and ignoring problems doesn't help anyone either. I think people have been bringing up legitimate concerns, and although I know it isn't "fun" to hear, I think we need to be mindful that other people need support even if we don't. I know it isn't popular in our culture, but negativity is part of real life. Sometimes addressing the negative is the only way for it to ever be positive. Sometimes the wheel squeaks when it needs grease-- you add grease and keep on rollin'.
And then another of the anti-negative people retorted, “Those that are so negative and not happy should have stayed at (the public school district) what did they expect with a new school opening if you don't have patience then your at the wrong school being a part of (this school) for the last 3 years I have no regrets.”
Now I don’t want to say what the difference between these people is-- those who can handle hearing about other’s problems and those who can’t. I have a few theories.
What I DO want to say, though, is that problems actually exist. And it seems in our culture, the only way to feel justified about talking about them is to have a cancer diagnosis. And even then- you’re only allowed to talk about how you’re kicking its butt. You can maybe slip in a joke about how it’s kicking your butt, but we really don’t want to hear those more than maybe once a year. If you make it that long.
I did an experiment. I’ve had an ongoing problem for over a year. It is so much more trivial than cancer. At first people were all ears because it was kind of amazing the lengths I’d gone to to resolve the problem, and the complete inefficacy of every attempt. People could commiserate- they’d gone through the same thing, and somehow it had gotten resolved one way or another. But a YEAR? Unheard of.
I’ve been quiet about it for a while. Even though it actually affects my life every single day, I don’t want to be negative. So unattractive. So, today, as an experiment, I posted about it again. I honestly expected it to go un”liked” and ignored. But one person responded. An old, very sweet friend from high school. After she suggested a solution and actually listened to my thoughts on it, she said “Feel for you.” And “Just sucks. You’re such troopers. Talk about enduring.”
Do you think she expended an inimitable amount of effort? Her reply was a fraction the length of some of the people’s posts preaching against negativity. Who do you think made the world a better place today?
Social media is a communication tool. It is being wielded as a sledgehammer, or applied as a balm every single day. I know I've pounded a few of my own dents, and I've smoothed over some roughed up spots. I've vehemently disagreed with people. But I can't say I've ever told someone with a problem that they should shut up about their problem. If I ever have, I hope you'll tell me.
Can I just say- that people who still dare to talk about problems are very likely the ones who will listen to yours. There are still some of us out there. And we’re not even getting paid to answer a 1-800 hotline number.