There are many ways to characterize a year. Some may characterize it through life’s fleeting moments that made them appreciate unique sight, smell, taste, sound, and texture. Others may define it with their life-turning experiences; their successes or major missteps that made them better or probably worst. While it is true that these experiences characterize a year, I would like to take a different course and define mine with technological advancements that have shaped me.
To start with, I am not really into technology or any digital utilities like phone, laptop, web or net. But because I have seen the need to be present in these platforms, I created an account and tried to cope up with the never-ending updates. My usual routine is; I’ll open these platforms in my phone browser, scroll a bit, get what I need (if there is any), ignore the rest and close it.
I usually open my Facebook and Twitter accounts for the sake of remembering my passwords. Since I worked as a PR, my accounts on these social network platforms have been collecting dust. I got very busy working around my tight schedule and beating deadlines that I barely had the chance to tweet, write my status or post some pictures.My only reason for joining twitter, Facebook and other social networks is to see what I was missing.
As I opened my laptop last night, I started sifting through my last tweets and statuses, beginning January 2013. Scanning the archives is like reliving the moment; flipping through the pages of your diary, falling into nostalgia and mapping out on how things began.
I find Twitter a sort of useful in microblogging your thoughts and whatever that you think makes sense in the stream. Routine is simple; you sign up and send short messages limited of 140 characters to a group of friends . I found my last tweets about my plans of studying abroad and the emotional wreckage I went through while waiting in vain. Then there was this summer romance that started right and ended for all kinds of reasons. Interesting enough, my re-tweets from people whom I really don’t know conjured my motivations to be strong and inspiration to move on. Other than not-so obligatory liking, opinions in tweeter are short, direct to the point and relevant. Perhaps twitter was an extension of myself. Simple yet complicated.
I have to admit that I am one of those FB friends or readers who roll her eyes at things like the sharing of too much filtered-enhanced-selfies to updates of humble self-righteousness to self-centeredness; I am literally pruning my friends by clicking “unfollow post” when my news feed is filled with too much information and unsubscribing from people whose updates are filled with misspellings or bragging.
My being selectively social has a good excuse though- peace of mind.
Late August last year, a long-time friend of mine invited me for a cup of coffee. Wanting a meaningful conversation, I immediately agreed though I should be hitting the sack that evening. I saw her from a far; lighting a cigarette (which is odd because she doesn’t smoke) and in deep thinking. Nonchalantly, I said hi and she bursted in tears. My thinking was probably she got up at the wrong side of the bed that morning or I have this certain effect on people. As soon as she stopped sobbing, she blurted out ‘My husband cheated on me with the girl whom he met at FB’. My first reaction was how could that be possible? I always liked their statuses and pictures. They seemed to be a happy couple. Not just happy but Perfect Couple.
On my way home, I kept on replaying on my mind our conversation; of how she found out of the affair, how pretentious and fake her statuses were and how carefully crafted her persona was. She has even given birth to a virtual self and experimented on how to best present their being a couple.
That left questions in my mind.
How many users in FACEBOOK are real?
Is Facebook a community for self-curated users?
Is Facebook making us narcissists?
As I have known myself, I like to vent out my feelings just for the sake of getting thoughts off my head. I’d like to be transparent and to stay true to myself; to let my FB account be a reflection of my social as well as personal life. Posting my deepest thoughts was sort of liberating. However, this mind-set has gotten me into trouble.
Fast track on my bold online postings, I tried to stripped off the mask for a moment, highlighted a negative aspect and licked off the sugar-coating. I wanted to present myself different; to mention of the mundane life experiences and not conform to the one-dimensional FB updates that speak of unsullied, fascinating, intriguing and exciting self.
No comment: likes or whatsoever. Everyone enjoys that aesthetically pleasing profiles and perfect self.
Another one. I said to myself.
YES. A friend of mine commented. She knows what I am talking about.
My updates received a lot of misconceptions. It was so well received that I got online woes or probably real woes. Of course at the back of my mind, I have this thinking that if you were that hypersensitive, then probably, you should not have read my update or status. That was it. They must have read my thoughts. Sayonara. Bridge burned.
There must have been truth about the culture that Facebook is presenting. Perhaps it is a portal of gossip, of endless bragging and ranting, of being shallow and of presenting people’s unblemished selves.
After that instance, I stepped back to do a reflection and grew distant from the population of social network. Perhaps the culture of Facebook has force us to be narcissists. I thought. We always wanted to share our positive milestones and forgot to express our true selves. Because we see others’ unbelievable milestones, we tend to compare ourselves, compete and try to show that we are also at parallel with them or better than anyone else. People develop a strong bias for these narcissistic news feeds and forgot what really makes sense.
I lost interest in these social networks.
Being distant from social networks allowed me to finish the things that I am writing. Because I was too busy reading and scanning some else’s writings- I forgot mine. There are at least 60 drafts of article that sit suspended like words caught in a winter throat: stifled, muffled utterances barely able to escape in a form of writing or words, forgotten. The stories of people I met, the places that took my breath away and culture that challenges my beliefs just dissipate into thin air like a smoke in an open space. I began writing it and found a new way of sharing my experiences. I began writing this blog.
Of my goal to read more books, I was able to cope up in reading 10 books for six months. Among the books I read, four of them fascinated me; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I also read the trilogy of Hunger Games over and over that I could recite the dialogue of Katniss Everdeen. More than the unconventional love story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, (If Peeta Mellark is for real, he had won me) the twist in the story is just clever. I kept on thinking of the subliminal messages that the story is trying to impress.
“Isn’t it strange that I know you’d risk your life to save mine…but I don’t know what your favorite color is?”- Peeta Mellark on Katniss Everdeen
I lived a thousand lives by reading these books and found myself challenged to read more in the next years to come.
My long hiatus from social networks was meant to build stronger off-line relationships.
My siblings and I plotted a surprise birthday celebration for my mom on her 65th year. We worked on it for months; secretly gave invitations, called suppliers and did all the set-up from where my mom grew up. My mom was so surprised at that day that she can’t utter a single word. I guess the tears did all the talking. She was surprised after all.
Rest days were well spent with family, meeting friends and playing with my 3-year old playmate, who recently turned 4.
JB is very smart for his age. He can read and spell four letter words. Though I am not really fond of kids, JB is an exemption to the rule. I love smart kids. Last Christmas, he received bird pets. They were beautiful. While we were hanging the cage at our front door, we saw JB staring up in the sky.
Me: what are you staring at?
JB: Birds.. many burds…What do birds do?
Me: (startled) fly? Chirp? Eat worms?
Does some role in seed dispersion? Why?
JB: I want them free
Me: Okey? why?
JB: Because, they got wings.. and it is Christmas, their mothers are worried… looking for them.
I did not expect that reasoning. His compassion touched my heart.
My latter year was devoted to different events and fashion shows, I got so much work to do that I forgot my virtual self.
Returning from my long hiatus was a bit off. Yolanda hit the Philippines.
I expressed my disappointment to the government’s unorganized strategies and lack of sense of urgency in my FB account. It was not a good come back but I guess I am not the only one who saw it in a different way.
I think of my updates, tweets and postings; those fallen relationships, those incidents that I wish I could have handled better, those statuses that I should have said but filtered anyway, those moments that I regret posting but molded me to be stronger and of how my interests evolve into maturity. These are my own narratives that have been curated publicly and permanently.
As I hate to admit it, these social networks, as lousy, worthless and annoying, are one way of documenting our lives and of remembering what we have forgotten.
And because Twitter, Facebook or other social network are, by default, outlets connecting us to our friends or our world today, we are pathologically wired to use them.
While we are given all these medium, platforms and tools to tell our stories, to do moment of proclamation, and present ourselves in the way we want to. Let’s not forget our lives offline.
As one author says, life happens between status updates.