Monday, March 21, 2011

Saying the Unsayable

Let me plot for you the trajectory of my Facebook life over the last month or so:

1. Urgent request for health information when dizzy stomach flu hit my house.
2. Missives from the front.
3. Brief psychotic break* with short postcards from my Walter Mitty-esque adventures.
4. lower case phrases exhibiting inability to raise my energy level to the height of a capital or a full sentence
5. Small observations about the good things in life.
6. General silence.

Facebook and I have long had a complicated relationship, as you no doubt know. This winter, I came to terms with Facebook largely - and recognized that it was not entirely benign but the larger issues were mine. Dealing with that, rather than quitting the site, was how I decided to proceed.

So this isn't a rant against social media. Just an observation.

My life has been a series of unfortunate events for the last month or so, and I have lost the ability to discuss this on Facebook. In spare moments - or stolen ones like this one - I'm trying to understand why this is.

I'm not someone who posts my prettiest self on Facebook, so it isn't that I think "if you can't say anything nice..."

It kind of relates to my theory that as troubles increase, self-pity must decrease. There simply isn't room for it. And how do you blithely announce to all and sundry the latest trouble?

I do fear I will come across as Debbie Downer - I know I do when I list all the Stuff.

But it's also that what is happening is too real to toss off lightly to the masses. People half-read things - whether it's here or on Facebook or anywhere. People who read my earlier posts on Facebook (when I was in Stage II as listed above) meet me on the street and say, "So, you've been sick, eh?" For the record, I am the last one standing - or as my corrected friend said, "You're the Immunity Idol."

That's the other thing. Sometimes it's all so bad, it's funny. And sometimes something beautiful and tender and true happens - and it would cheapen it all to say it on the social network.

A man from our church died recently and I found out about it on Facebook. Let me say clearly how deeply wrong I believe it was for the information to be passed along in that public way.

Weirdly though, the very best thing that has happened in the midst of all this has a Facebook connection too. A friend of a Facebook friend helped me to ease the burden of the person in my life who is struggling the most. There was miracle and persistence and coincidence and serendipity and providence and gift and relief - but there was also Facebook as the vehicle.

So, far be it from me to condemn the thing just now. It's just that I have no words.

* Disclaimer: Not a real psychotic break.


  1. Susan, I found out about the death of a colleague's SO through FB. It was the only way I would have found out about the funeral, and my presence was an encouragement to my colleague.

    It's a tool, and there's a generational thing to how it's received. As we grow older and perhaps less carefree, the role of FB changes. I wonder if I should start thinking of it as a huge party or as a postcard to the world--no deep conversation, but near-spontaneous blurts of information and emotion that surface in the moment, and that can prompt an invitation for a more intentional contact.

    FB is a relational and sociological phenomenon. We won't understand the effects until we reflect on them, as you are doing.

  2. This reads a bit like a chronicling of my mental processes over the last month. I said, "No posting about Mike on fb." But people started posting on my wall (and HIS wall): "Thinking of you--hope you're okay." "We're praying for you guys." And then, inevitably, the crammed inboxes: "What the hell is going on?!" When he was able, Mike sent out a missive: "Update from the guy with the bleeding brain." My mom-in-law used fb to keep family and friends updated during their two-week stay (very convenient for them). And then, the horrifying moment: someone posted "Actor Michael Peng Hospitalized due to...." Like a news story. Oi.

    I gave up.

    Still love your blog, Susan. :) x, Kate

  3. I just wrote a lengthy response and it disappeared. Thanks to you both for commenting -- there may be prizes for commenters here soon! I wouldn't exactly go broke, would I?

    I like what you say about FB, Jim, and that's kind of why I came back to it. It interests me though the things I don't want to say there, but I wouldn't have heard Kate and Mike's news otherwise and also there is a situation in my life where I wish I was getting more frequent updates (they are otherwise engaged with health issues) and possibly FB updates would do the trick.

  4. At the same time, I had a number of FB friends with serious life stuff going on last fall and the combination of loads of empathy + little opportunity for action meant a heavy useless emotional load for me. I did pray, but I do sometimes wonder if the largeness of the virtual world is sometimes too big for our actual relational selves.

  5. I think the virtual world is just making evident how mind-numbingly big the real world is, and the value of having relationships of varying depths. As much as one may want to care about everything, we just don't have the capacity to do so. It's not in us. But it is a reflection of the care the greatest One has for each member of humanity, and another point that leaves me in awe of our God.