Reciprocal effort. In this day in age, when we’re all texting, or on Whatsapp, or Facebook, basically reducing communication to anything apart from physically meeting up (I know, I completely exaggerate, people DO meet up, of course they do, I just do this sometimes when I get on my high horse), there is a very obvious audit trail of the amount of effort that each party makes in keeping up the conversation or relationship. This is quite scary, in my book, as it adds an extra layer of confusion to the whole question of how much effort is just enough, and how much is too much? Even scarier than making an idiot of yourself in front of one or two people, is the possibility of coming across as a complete weirdo in public, your perceived neediness committed to virtual space, your Facebook Wall, someone else’s Facebook Wall, an Inbox that can be made public, messages on a phone that can be shared. It’s very scary.
Now, as is probably abundantly clear from this blog, I am verbose. I genuinely struggle to say anything succinctly. It’s a skill I need to develop, but that is totally off the point and I will probably write a very long and rambly piece about that at some stage too. The relevance of this to this tangent is that in this age where a couple of words seem to be enough to connect with your network of friends, I get the distinct feeling that I, basically, talk too much. By that I mean, I write too much. In a text, on WhatsApp, on Facebook messenger, on a Facebook post, whatever, I write too much. I am starting to feel quite paranoid about it and am torn between changing my ways and standing my ground because I believe that it’s good to make an effort. I am also, however, neurotic, worried about what people think of me, (wish I was more evolved than this, by the way) and getting quite concerned that the effort that I habitually make with messages of any kind scares people into thinking I’m a bit of a needy weirdo.
Case in point: Facebook.
I see “status updates” on Facebook and I am often struck by the universal brevity of them. “Bugs Bunny is so in love”, “Bugs Bunny is hungry”, “Bugs Bunny loves his job!”, “Bugs Bunny has been to the shops and dropped his biscuits!” I’ve completely missed the point of the status update, I think, because I write one and it becomes a mini essay on my precise emotional state at that moment (I want everyone to understand me, dammit!) and is honest about whatever confusion I am feeling at the time. As an aside, I basically only ever go on Facebook and update my status if I secretly want some validation in the form of a few responses to my status and a handful of “Likes.” Yes, yes, I am quite selfish and have a loathsome capacity to be shallow. Fortunately I’m not guilty of writing daily status updates (things aren’t quite that bad yet), but when I do, they are, I’ve realised, entirely inappropriate in their length and emotional content. According to The Unwritten Rules of Facebook Status Updates they should be confined to bragging about how wonderful my life is and summarised in a single sentence because the point is not to share how you’re actually feeling, it’s to share how wonderful your life is compared to everyone else’s. And you only need one sentence to do that, don’t you? Anything longer would imply an exchange or communication of something truthful or meaningful. Apparently, that’s not the point. This surprises me.
Commenting on a post, whether it’s a response to a comment someone has made on one of your posts, or a response to someone else’s post is also an area in which I am woefully inadequate and completely lacking in conceptual understanding. I’m sure I have got it all completely wrong. Here’s why.
Invariably, my responses make it to the “…see more” category, where your comment is truncated and Facebook gives everyone viewing the trail an “opt in” because, I suppose, no one wants to read a response to something that is more than one line when they are so damn busy going about their lives. Deep down, I am proud of this, because it means that I am ready, willing and able to make a decent effort with responses and there is nothing wrong with that – but quite a lot of the time, I will see the 3 word response someone has posted back (if they actually post back), and I feel embarrassed. Because if I look at the general trend on Facebook, the majority of people go with the short, sharp, I’m really busy and have loads going on style of comment / response, making my “..see more” responses a bit silly really. Adding insult to injury, these “…see more” comments show the whole of my Facebook world just how little I have going on, and maybe even betray the desire that I have for meaningful interaction. It’s the same on Facebook messenger, by the way. I will write the equivalent of an e-mail on it sometimes, simply because it’s what I do. I’m chatting to you, hence I will say whatever I want to say and often I have lots to say to you about the things we are discussing because I’m enjoying connecting with you. I can’t really say it all in one sentence and I like to use punctuation. Is that really weird? Sometimes, I have lots to say and I am quite verbose anyway, so my messages can be quite long, but I am genuinely worried that my natural style of communication SCARES people because relative to the effort level we have generally become accustomed to receiving, it’s quite full on. Basically I worry, pathetically, that I come across as a bit needy and desperate because I naturally tend towards more, rather than less, effort in these interactions which I think have been designed to reduce conversation to a few words, misspelt and painfully perfunctory.
I suppose sometimes I feel silly because I make so many mistakes on Facebook; my posts are too long, I make too much effort, and I actually show my small Facebook world that I care and have / will spend the time (and by inference don’t have a life) to consider and pen responses that betray a genuine desire for some form of personal communication. Which I am starting to think comes across as a bit desperate. Maybe even a bit freaky. That’s the neurotic teenager in me talking, but my inner neurotic teenager is definitely alive and kicking and takes every lack of response, or empty reply to one of my considered, personalised, comments as a small rejection. And when you are rejected, even in the Facebook world, the inner neurotic teenager processes that rejection in a way that is no different to the time when the boy you liked stopped talking to you because, well, you don’t know why. You thought maybe he liked you too, and you made an effort to let him know that you thought he was cool without scaring him off, but he just stopped one day and you felt horrible and silly for ever putting yourself in a place where anyone COULD reject you. Even now, I find that I kick myself for being so openly bothered about anyone or anything, wanting to share and have some meaningful interaction, and worst of all, making it clear that I’ve made an effort and actually CARE, even in the shallow, almost unreal Facebook world. There’s hope and possibility everywhere, right?
Once I’ve kicked myself though, I realise that I wouldn’t want to be any other way. I would rather be open to some real interaction and be willing to make an effort and personalise communication, than be so terrified that hiding behind a wall of impersonal words is my default position. I LIKE being one of the people who is willing to lay it on the line and make an effort through something as silly as a comment on Facebook, even if the odds state a very high probability of “rejection”, as defined by my Inner Teenager. In some way it keeps my idealistic dream of connection alive, and I refuse to let myself stop believing in the possibility that the idealistic connections that I dream of and crave are real and it’s just a case of right place, right time. I can even believe that the right place could be Facebook. Maybe that’s letting An Idealistic Nature carry me too far, but I like to think that if you’re open to it, what you’re looking for can be found anywhere.