Monday, June 13, 2011

Life After 'Like'

In elementary school, I needed constant encouragement just to function.  I required a gold star, a pat on the back, a good grade on my report card and a blue ribbon on field day.  I simply could not go on without a trophy for good attendance, a citizenship award for showing up (yes!) or an "Atta Girl" from my dad for doing a wobbly cartwheel in the backyard.

In high school, I started doing plays at the local community theater.   I discovered that seeing your name on a cast list is far better than a sticker of Kermit the Frog giving a thumbs up! Applause at curtain call totally kicks a tiny gold star's tiny gold ass!  Winning an acting or dance competition is light years away from stupid field day with stupid ribbons for tug of war and stupid stinky boys stepping on your new Keds!

College was much of the same.  I didn't worry about grades (no stars or applause there, folks) but I did worry about getting cast in shows and receiving good reviews from my fellow acting students.  With enough positive feedback, I could sufficiently drag my hungover self from my dorm room bed and go about my day without crying or blasting The Smiths too much.  I ran on encouragement.  Well, encouragement and Big Gulps.

But, a weird thing happens once you're out of school.  For some reason, bosses don't put red checks or smiley faces on your work.  People don't burst into applause when you deliver the correct drinks to their table or successfully type up a memo.  Learning how to work a horribly hard fax machine does not gain you a standing ovation from your coworkers.  Casting directors do not pat you on the back and say, "Good job, Sport!" after you finish your audition.  You have to learn to judge yourself instead of relying on others.  You have to go on day after day doing what you're doing and assuming that you're on the right path. You have to be a freaking adult.

Except online.

The only place that duplicates that 'ooey gooey/ I'm so special /warm and fuzzy' feeling from the school days is the internet.   And, even pathetic little old me with my need for love is a little freaked out by it.  I really thought I was using Facebook for it's intended use. (Keeping up with people I don't want to have to call regularly and judging photos of ex-boyfriends/crushes/girls who were mean to me.)  Then, along came the 'like' button.  It used to be that Facebook was your own platform.  Would you like everyone to to watch the same youtube video you just cry-laughed at? Post it!  Want to share the photos from so and so's party without having to email a bunch of people? Post them!  Need to invite folks to come see your band play a gig?  Post it!  Brilliant, right?  So convenient! How did we ever live without it?

But, now imagine no one 'likes' the video or the photos or the fact that you have a gig.  All of a sudden you've taken a happy thing in your life and turned it into a "Why does everyone hate me?" thing.  I've had to drag myself off the cliff of crazy before for something as stupid as this ridiculous thought:  No one 'liked' the photo of my dog hugging his new toy elephant.  This means everyone hates my dog.  Nice, right?  Reasonable.  Totally sane.   Yay me!  But, even with the occasional insane thought, I assumed I'd buried the desperate little gold star grubbing kid deep down inside myself.  I didn't think I cared what people thought.  I assumed I was above that shit.

Then came Twitter.  To me, Twitter was a wonderful invention.  I have loads of messed up snarky thoughts throughout the day.  Finally, somewhere I can share them, uncensored, with a bunch of anonymous equally jacked up strangers!  Yipee!  I happily tweeted anything I wanted whenever I wanted to.  Then someone told me about Favstar.  And, it all went to hell in my brain.  Gold star girl started doing flips.

Here's how it works:  people "star" your tweets.  Or, they don't.  When they do, you're an awesome specimen of humor and all that is cool and right in the universe.  When they don't, you suck, you're not funny, people hate you and you should just go ahead and jump off the Hollywood sign.  (Just kidding. They won't even let you up near the Hollywood sign so you can't jump off of it.)  I found myself deleting tweets I thought were funny just because they'd only received one star.  Like this one:  Hooray! It's horror movie weather outside! Need to remember to bring along a light jacket and a chainsaw, just in case.  I giggled when I thought of that even though it was dumb.  The fact that NO ONE else giggled made me feel bad about myself and my sense of humor so I deleted it.  If I've ever been crazier in my whole life, I cannot think of when it was.  This is worse than when I did my ex-boyfriend's laundry and put his boxer shorts in order by color or when I got white blond highlights in my dark brown hair.  Second guessing yourself because no one virtually coddled your ego by starring the 140-characters-or-less thought you just shared on a random networking site is, in my opinion, pretty rock bottom.

I had to step away from the little virtual gold stars.  I had to reclaim my brain from the clutches of pathetic desperation and LIES!  Arrrggghhhhh!

Okay, so maybe it's not that extreme.  I'll calm down.  I guess a little encouragement is nice sometimes and not everyone's going to get you all of the time.  But, in this world of faves and stars and likes and retweets and reposts and stumbles, how do you keep your sanity?  How do you judge your work, your life, your existence fairly if everyone else is busy doing it for you?!  How do you keep what you actually like separate from what everyone else does?

I don't know.  Hit me up if you figure that one out.  In the meantime, be sure to "like" this post on Facebook.

*photo by pewari.