Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Great Truth of Social Media

Ah, Social Media.  It is quite the fickle friend, isn't it?  Some days, it's really exciting to have all of these ways of keeping in touch with people, of meeting people we wouldn't have met otherwise. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.--All of these sites allow people to engage with each other in ways we probably otherwise wouldn't. 

Recently, there has been a stigma concerning social media--those who abstain from social media (yes, these people do exist) lament that just because you have 650 friends on Facebook doesn't mean you have any friends in real life--or that you're well-liked.  All it means, they say, is that you have a large social network on Facebook. You probably don't even know some of these people, they insist.  While these people almost invariably come off as bitter, sure, that is sometimes the case.  For me, I can tell you exactly how I know every single one of my 'friends' on social media, and I can probably tell you an anecdote or two about each of them.  And, yes. I do spend the majority of my Friday nights alone, but even before social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even MySpace were invented, that was the case. I like alone time. #aintnothinwrongwiththat.  So, maybe they're right, I don't know.  But, maybe they're not.

I've even heard people categorize social media.  You know, the old 'Facebook is for people I know in real life, but don't like, and Twitter is for people I like, but don't know in real life.' And, maybe for some, this is true.  But, no matter how we use social media, most of us are trying to put our best foot forward.  This has been criticized in various places, I'm sure we have all read/heard this before-- 'you only post selfies of you that look good!' To that I say, 'so what?!' Long before social media existed, we wanted to hide pictures of us that weren't so great. The invention of the digital camera was great for that. 'I don't like this photo of myself!' Delete, and retake. Even before the invention of the digital camera, people would hide the photos of them that weren't so great in a photo box, but put the better pictures in an album under the coffee table.  'You only post selfies of you that look good!' is the equivalent of walking into someone's house, looking at the pictures on the wall/on display, and exclaiming with disdain 'you only display the pictures of you that look good!'

Of course people only post pictures of themselves that look good. Why is this a negative thing?  Should we all post pictures of us that look terrible?  That I just don't get.  It was very hard for me to post the picture I posted on my previous entry--no one likes putting pictures of themselves out in the world where they feel they don't look their best.

Beyond just looking our best on social media, many of us choose to try to put our best foot forward in other aspects, too. We only post the positive things that happen to us--positive thoughts, feelings, expressions--#100DaysOfHappiness.  In fact, I began taking part in 100 Days of Happiness on Instagram, but eventually quit because I realized it didn't make me happy.  Most days, I was searching for something that wasn't lame that made me happy.  Most days, cuddling with my dog and drinking an icy cool fountain drink of diet coke makes me happy.  But, I thought, these were too lame for Instagram.  Too lame for my friends posting group pictures of their friends/cool things they did in their day, trips they took.  I wake up, get a diet coke, go to work, come home, watch Netflix, with little variation. Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I don't go to work. Participating in the 100 Days of Happiness challenge made me less happy, and more stressed. So, I stopped, and continued posting pictures of my dog or other random things-- basically, the same stuff I post on Facebook.

But, what I don't often post are my sad thoughts--my problems, my fears, my boredom.  Except in this blog-- I kind of think of this blog as a no-holds-barred kind of thing. I talk about whatever I want in here, I talk about unhappiness, depression, things that have happened.  No one wants to read about these things in their news feeds on a day to day basis.  In fact, I have seen more than one person threaten to delete people as friends if they see more than one or two negative things in a relatively small time period.  I understand the sentiment--seeing someone whining constantly isn't fun, it isn't what we are all on social media for, is it? 

But, then, why are we on social media?  To keep in contact? To see how everyone's life is going?  To tell everyone how our own lives are going? To put all the good things that happen to us out for the world to see, while covering up the bad?  Who knows. I guess the reasons are different for everyone.

There was recently a short film depicting this interesting paradox--how some of us lie on social media, paint over the ugly parts in our lives, and how when we stop doing that, if we are honest about things, no one wants to talk to us, see what is going on with us. (You can watch it here).  There's also a short film that implores us to put down our phones, and walk away from social media, because we are missing the human connection part of life. (You can watch that one here).

But, the thing of it is: I don't think we are.  I think that people, whether it's over social media, or in real life/person, don't want to hear about your problems, unless they truly care about you.  I remember this one Mock Trial trip in college--we were in a small hotel room, hashing out some team issues.  One girl, who I always thought of as a friend, looked at me and said "No one cares, Natalie." About the fact that I didn't sleep at all the night before, and had gotten pretty repetitious about that fact (which happens to me when I'm exhausted).  And, that, right there, is the truth

No one cares.  That is why we don't want to see negative things on Facebook. That is why we threaten to delete people if they break our 'no negativity rule.'  If it's our mother, our sister, our brother, our actual friend, we care more.  But, if it's an acquaintance we haven't seen in years, we just don't care.

And, that's kind of sad.  There are studies now saying that social media fuels depression--some posit it's because everyone else's life seems so great in comparison to our own.  Some posit that it's because we post statuses and pictures and don't get enough 'likes.' Maybe it's some combination of both, maybe it's one instead of the other--or maybe it's because we know that people don't care.

For me, I don't try to put my best foot forward--at least, not on this blog.  And, truthfully, it doesn't bother me when people slip and have a negative moment-- life isn't always rainbows and butterflies and donuts--sometimes, life isn't fun.  And there are people I know who live through depression, and post about it, and I don't scroll by and roll my eyes-- I respond.  Because maybe that's what they need. Maybe it isn't... But, maybe it is.

And more than I want to see positivity on my news feed on Facebook, I want to see real life--stress, happiness, sadness, joy, life, with its many ups and downs--you don't need to be afraid of sharing your 'downs' with me, though I sincerely hope that all of my friends have more ups than downs.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Week Without Makeup

I started wearing makeup in 7th grade.  I didn't wear much, but I started wearing "just a little powder" and the occasional lipstick/gloss. This was the same year that I started shaving my legs, despite my mom's protests, and despite having virtually no hair on them. I was grown up--or, at least, I felt that way, in a way I hadn't felt since I used to clop around in those little plastic heels you can find in the toy aisle, always marching on tile, pretending I was my mom, and going to an important meeting.  Now, I don't really wear heels (and I actually don't think I've been to an important meeting, either), but the makeup stuck.

I still don't wear very much--I don't cake it on, and much to the chagrin of every Sephora employee I've encountered, I don't want makeup that "gives me a little color."  Usually, I stick with the old 7th grade standby: "a little powder." Nowadays, I pair that with a bit of blush, maybe some mascara if I'm wearing my contacts (a rarity these days, since I've been having ocular problems when I wear them).  It is an even rarer occasion that I will put eyeshadow/liner on, though I do have various shades tucked under my sink.

But, despite the fact that I really do wear very little makeup, it's come to my attention recently that I feel like I need it.  If I am not wearing makeup, I feel self-conscious about it.  So, after that realization, I decided to go a week without makeup, and post the results on my blog. 

More or less, this was me for the week:
Me, sans makeup, X-Large for all the world/readers of this blog to see.

Sunday: Day One.  This was a lazy day, filled with light cleaning, Netflix marathons, and trimming up Cash to look like a pretty boy. Tom and I went out to dinner, and then we went to a movie.  This wasn't that much of a stretch for me--there are days when I do go without makeup (or use just what is leftover on my brush from the last application), and Sundays are typically pretty good candidates for this.  So, I didn't really experience any problems with this on my lazy Sunday.

Monday: Day Two. I was actually really nervous to go into work for the first time EVER (save the occasional Sunday, when I don't put any on and have to come in to work) without makeup on. Since I wasn't telling anyone what I was doing, I kept waiting for someone to mention it to me--to tell me how tired I looked, or that I looked different, or something like that.  Alas, no one did.  I kept going into the bathroom, however, to gaze at myself--I was really self conscious, and kept trying to stay out of the fluorescent lighting as much as possible.  I also became suddenly obsessed with my oil levels, and kept checking those in the bathroom mirror as well.

Tuesday: Day Three.  I didn't have quite as much anxiety about it as I did on Monday, but I was still super self-conscious, and I was certain people were looking at me and thinking I looked terrible. Several trips to the bathroom were made, and I had to keep myself from putting on a little concealer (unfortunately, even though I am 28 damn years old, I still suffer from breakouts). I held back, though, and made it through.

Wednesday: Day Four. Better known as The Day From Hell. This was one of the worst days I've had in a long time-- Murphy's Law was in full effect.  I still stuck to my word and didn't put a stitch of makeup on my face. Overall, it was relatively easier, although I still found myself thinking irrational thoughts--that things wouldn't have happened to me the way they did on The Day From Hell if I had been wearing makeup, or if I would have been "prettier." I also had a meeting at work and felt really self-conscious, and really thankful that the lighting was dim.

Thursday: Day Five.  I hardly noticed it this day, truly. Occasionally I would notice when washing my hands and looking in the mirror and thinking 'I don't look that bad.'

Friday: Day Six. Again, I hardly noticed-- and Thursday & Friday I really appreciated how little time it took me to get ready in the morning. It doesn't take me too long to put on my makeup, but it was nice to not have to spend the extra few minutes.  Then, it was time to take the picture--and I got freaked out and annoyed all over again, ashamed of the way I look.  Truth be told, I even thought of taking a picture with a little bit of makeup on and lying about it. But, then I just thought 'screw it,' I've come this far--so, there's the picture up there. Me, completely and totally without a stitch of makeup on. That's my 'screw it, I've come this far' face. Enjoy.

Saturday: Day Seven.  I didn't end up doing it on Saturday. I went to look at wedding dresses, and I'm already rather annoyed at my girth lately, so I decided to go ahead and wear makeup. So, not quite a week. Oh well, close enough. (And I went without makeup Sunday to make up for it).

What I learned: I learned a lot, actually.  I learned that I'm pretty dependent on makeup-- I learned that I can be okay without this odd little barrier between my face and the world, even if I have to work at it.  I've learned that I'm braver than I knew--and more self-conscious than I knew (didn't even know that was possible). I learned that people don't really notice, or if they do, they don't say anything, if you're not wearing makeup.  I've learned that everyone is not walking around thinking about how ugly I am and wondering why I don't do something to improve it.

And I learned something totally unexpected: It's okay to wear makeup--it's okay to use makeup to boost your self-confidence every once in awhile.  If a little bit of makeup is what you need to make you feel okay being in the world: go for it! Do I think I want to rely on makeup to feel that way? No.  I want to work on being comfortable in my own, unadulterated skin--I think this week, painful and scary as it was, was a big step toward that goal. Do I want to abandon makeup completely? Absolutely not.  I think I'll stick to makeup free Sundays, with the occasional Saturday thrown in--and I'll try to not be so scared of being seen without makeup by passersby on the street, coworkers, friends, etc.

Letting my face speak for itself (even if I felt it was yelling 'look at me!!!' all the time), was a great exercise for me, and one I think I should practice every now and again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sidewalk Etiquette

Today, I want to take a moment to talk about sidewalks. Yes, sidewalks. Most of (dare I say all of) us are are familiar with those lovely little [most often] concrete pathways we traverse with our feet that separate us from the danger of moving vehicles and large piles of dog crap often piled in the grass that often lines the space between curb and sidewalk.  

Most communities have some sort of sidewalk in place, and it's what most of us learned to ride a bike on, lest we fall over directly into oncoming traffic--save a few communities (like the one I grew up in, the lack of sidewalks always baffled me; still does to this day).

A bit of history about the sidewalk: it existed in ancient times! In fact, Romans were essentially sidewalk connoisseurs.  During the middle ages, they disappeared for awhile, but by the 18th century they made a comeback, and by the 19th century, they were in widespread use again, and have remained that way ever since. 

So, how is it that we are here in the 21st century, and there are some people that still don't know how to use sidewalks?  It's not just sidewalks in the suburbs that people have issues with--it's walkways in general.

The other day, I was walking my dog on the small sidewalk outside of our apartment, when I happened upon two people who were making their way down to the Chipotle at the end of the block (yes, we live down the street from Chipotle, and yes, it is as amazing as it sounds). Anyway, I watched these two people approaching, walking directly next to each other, as people are apt to do when they're going anywhere together.  

A bit about the sidewalk in front of our place: It is, indeed, small. In fact, it is comprised of two large-ish squares of concrete next to each other and that's pretty much it.  On either side, there is grass. Grass between the curb and the sidewalk, and grass that is classified as someone's lawn.

So, as I am walking along the sidewalk, I see these people approaching and I think 'they'll move out of the way.' After all, Cash and I were taking up one square as we were walking, and they were taking up two squares.  They had to move, right? It's common courtesy to use sidewalks in the same way you use a street when you're driving--one side of the sidewalk is for people going one way, the other side is for people going the other way.  Apparently, that was not what these two individuals--a male and a female--were taught about sidewalks.  They were taught that you can basically take up the entire thing and it's totally fine as long as you have an inflated sense of self or something.  Because they did not move.

No, instead, Cash and I were essentially forced on to the small grassy knoll in between the curb and the sidewalk. Cash was fine with it, he enjoys that spot, particularly the smells.  I, however, was not fine with it--and I sat there for a moment in disbelief, silently fuming, until I called over my shoulder "The sidewalk's a two-way street, you know." I didn't look to see if they heard me.  They probably didn't.

And, I know, the sidewalk is not technically a two-way street, but it is a two-way...sidewalk.  Just because you want to walk next to your partner, that doesn't mean that someone else should be thoroughly inconvenienced.  At least, it shouldn't mean that.

And it's not just sidewalks--people have this crazy notion that they can basically walk next to each other no matter what the circumstance, and you should be the one to get out of their way. I was at Disneyland, walking around Downtown Disney, when this happened to me.  There were a group of about four teenagers (17-ish? I'm bad at that game) walking side by side, coming at me, and the only way for me to get past them was to essentially throw myself into a small planter.  Which I guess is what they expected, or at least the girl on the end did--because she wasn't about to move.  Finally, at the last minute, she slightly moved, causing our shoulders to brush up against one another.

In the past, I have always been the one to get out of the way--the one to step up on to the grass, or completely stop walking to let others pass.  But, you know, it gets kind of tiresome--it gets kind of annoying realizing that most everyone else is less courteous than you are.  So. I've decided.

I'm not going do it anymore.  I think this connects to my last post--my moving out of the way of any and every person is the body language equivalent of saying 'I'm sorry' for my presence.  I'm not sorry for my presence. I exist, and I am just as worthy of a space on the sidewalk as you are, O Rude One.

Of course, there will be times I will move--for Children with parents, for the elderly, when I am the one in the large group taking up space.  But, for the most part, I will stand my ground.  I will be courteous to others, but I will assert my right to take up the [very little, actually] space that I occupy on this planet.

Prepare yourself, ye who don't know how to use sidewalks and walkways, for many shoulder checks from this little part of the planet.