I had a very frustrating morning that started too early but with a promise that soon fizzled. I made my coffee and sat in front of my computer listening to music and stewing for a little while, then decided I was still tired, so I went back to bed for a while. When I woke up I felt better and had a more positive attitude about the whole thing, so I’m pretty sure the situation will resolve itself, though I may have to wait until the end of the day for that.
Now I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I still wake up with the urge to check Facebook, and now Twitter, comments, of which there are usually none. I know I shouldn’t care about such things, but it still bothers me.
It’s important to understand the evolution of my online social life. I first got a social media account in November of 2001 when most of my friends were getting on the LiveJournal bandwagon. A lot of them had previously been on, and some still were, Silverchat, another online community that I was not a part of but had many friends that were, so there was a lot of overlap that introduced me to some really interesting people via LJ. I didn’t have a huge friend list like I do at Facebook, only about 80 or so people, but most of whom I actually knew, so it was like an extension of our in-real-life community, which at the time also encompassed a spiritual/religious group, so it was fairly tight-knit.
Until Facebook came around and got popular in around 2009, Livejournal was a real touchstone in my life and in the lives of a lot of my friends. I shared so many important moments on LJ, most notably my pregnancy and then the birth of my child, which came via a surprise C-section after 40 hours of fruitless, exhausting labor. A dear friend who was dealing with some potent shit of her own and didn’t even live in town took it upon herself to start a phone/email/LJ tree to feed us for two solid weeks. People we didn’t even know brought us delicious food. I’ve never been so touched.
I suffered from postpartum depression, and our baby was a high-needs baby that we called “the velcro baby” because we could not put him down. So I just lived with this baby attached to me for months, usually wearing him in a sling that had been given to me by a friend. And I was not handling parenthood well what with the depression and the severe conflict between what I had been told about having a baby and what I was actually experiencing. Another friend also had her baby a day before we did, and our experiences could not have contrasted more. She said things like “oh I can’t wait until she wakes up!”, while I on the other hand, couldn’t wait for the kid to go to sleep, which he did with difficulty and at odd times of day.
I’m afraid to go back and read those Livejournal entries that I made during the first years of my son’s life, because I can only imagine what I sounded like. I loved him dearly, of course, but almost nothing that I had been told or read about parenthood was true for me. All that crap about knowing what your baby wants just by how it cries? Yeah, whatever. All that stuff about the baby eventually self-regulating its sleep and not staying up all night after a couple of weeks? Utter bullshit. That kid was nocturnal until he was a year old. I could go on, but as I said, virtually everything I had been told or read about babies and parenthood was bullshit to me. I began to wonder what was wrong with me or if I lacked “maternal instinct” somehow. Early parenthood did horrible things to my self-image, and in turn my attitude towards my child seriously soured, and I hate to say it, but it stayed that way until he was much older, because quite frankly, he was a goddamned difficult child, and even he will say what a jerk he was at certain ages.
And all that time, I had Livejournal to dump my thoughts and emotions, many of which I’m sure made my friends go “uh, what?”, but they kept reading and commenting, especially the other parents and my oldest friends, whom I had known since 1994. And so despite my obvious mental illness, which I did try to get treated in various ways during that whole time, I had the support of friends who I now consider family, and whether they realize(d) it or not, they were helping me be a better parent, even if it didn’t seem so sometimes.
Then Facebook came along, and over the next year you could practically hear the sucking sound of LJ users abandoning their blogs one by one. I joined Facebook too, just like everyone else, but I had NOT abandoned my LJ, and I watched with great dismay as the engagement with other people fucking plummeted over the course of mere months. I kept my LJ for years, long after everyone else had either abandoned theirs or deleted their accounts, although after a while I stopped posting, because there was no point anymore. No one was reading. LJ had become a desert wasteland populated by Russian oases of weird pictures.
I did my best to move my online social life to Facebook, but it just wasn’t the same. There was a tendency to get bloated “friend” lists due to being able to see how many people you had in common with someone, which did lead to forging some new friendships, but most of the time they just became another person on the list who may or may not engage with my posts. At the time, FB had a severe limitation on the number of characters that could be in a post, so journaling like I had before was impossible, forcing me to crunch my thoughts down into FB-acceptable lengths that almost always failed to convey my true meaning. I had a lot of engagement with friends in the early FB days, before that fucking algorithm got installed that decided for you what you were going to see and how much of it (seriously, whoever invented that needs to be publicly flogged on national television).
But over the years, engagement slowed down, but not for everyone, because it was pretty plain that some people still got a lot of attention on their posts, while I felt like I was shouting in a crowded room and no one was listening. I didn’t feel like the content of my posts had changed all that much. If anything, now that my kid was more grown up, I was more positive than I had been in years. So I didn’t understand the lack of engagement, and it was painful to watch virtually everyone I knew react and comment to other friends’ posts, but not mine anymore. Timehop showed me this pretty clearly when I started using it and could see my posts from several years ago along with their comments. I don’t know what happened, but I slowly became invisible on Facebook.
I eventually archived my LJ, generating a FOUR THOUSAND PAGE pdf, that I will look forward to perusing when I’m old and want to share my past with my child, and then I deleted the account. It was sad to me, particularly because Facebook was such a poor substitute for what once was. Still, I had gotten used to getting up and checking for comments and such, making posts throughout the day, reading the newsfeed for what people were up to, which was becoming increasingly difficult due to the increase in political posts along with a lot of pseudoscientific crap, and doing my best to engage with my friends. Groups had also become a thing on Facebook, so I joined a few in an effort to get more engagement with people with common interests. Still, it was glaringly clear that an FB “friendship” was definitely nowhere near the same as an LJ “friendship”.
At the same time, actual in-person engagement with friends also plummeted. Some moved away, many to the Pacific Northwest to my jealous chagrin, and those that remained were too busy with their own lives to do stuff like go to coffeehouses or even have the occasional party, an occurrence that used to be fairly regular in our community. Sure, older people party less, but the falloff in social engagement was palpable, and after only TWO people came to mine and my husband’s anniversary party several years ago, I couldn’t help but feel that it was personal somehow. I just kind of stared at the people who asked me the next week, “So how was your party?”
Reading everything I just wrote, I feel even dumber for thinking I would get the kind of support I needed from my friends when I broke down last month, though I am not criticizing the handful of people who DID engage with me. I super-appreciate it and you. And no, I STILL can’t tell if it’s because of me, or because of how Facebook works, that led to the isolated feeling I got that led me to say “fuck Facebook”, with the exception of a few closed groups. However, I am mightily pissed off at a few people that have proclaimed to be my real friend or even family that I know for a fact knew exactly what was happening with me, and said NOTHING. And that could be for a lot of reasons, some of which are understandable, but fuck me THAT HURT Y’ALL!
So yeah, now I get up in the morning, make my coffee and smoke, and then get on the computer to see if anyone read yesterday’s blog posts, which does mean hitting Facebook, and now Twitter, although Christ on a crutch, if Facebook is a cesspool, Twitter is too, though I’m not invested in my list of friends there like I was at LJ and then FB so it doesn’t bother me as much that my posts don’t get any feedback. Most of my Twitter followers aren’t actual people, I noticed: they’re “friendbacks” from topical feeds I followed. And Twitter is awful now about showing posts chronologically, so I have no idea when or if my posts even appear in someone’s feed.
It’s all right. I’m compelled to write, and seemingly compelled to share that writing whether anyone notices or not, so I just keep doing what I’m doing while trying not to dwell on the fact that I seem to be invisible now no matter what I do. I don’t need other people’s approval to keep doing what I’m doing, but fuck it’s lonely sometimes, especially when I remember what I used to have as an online social community.
I guess I focused after all, into another core dump.
I have to re-evaluate my blog theme, because I’m not sure I like this one anymore, but I am NOT paying for a new WordPress theme, that’s stupid. I’m sure I’ll find something, and then I’ll get my categories implemented and it will be easier to navigate the site and find old posts with common topics. I also need to rewrite and separate my “about” pages because some things need clarifying and explaining separately from other things. This site is clearly still a work in progress. Time to take a break and get back to it.