Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Identity #2 – Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

happy birthday facebook!

This week sees eleven years since Facebook graced our screens (happy birthday Facebook!). I’ve found myself wondering how we portray ourselves on Facebook, and what it means when we call people our ‘friends’. I have 383 friends on Facebook. I couldn’t tell you much about most of them, and what I can tell you is only the good stuff. Facebook gives us a chance to show the best of ourselves and hide the worst of ourselves, putting out a completely false impression of who we really are.

Now, I don’t mind this. I don’t think it’s healthy to share every little struggle with 383 people. But it begs an answer to the question: Who are we really? And is it ok to edit what we share with people about who we really are? Do the selves we portray on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, or whatever the in thing is, actually help us build good relationships?

In our small Bible study group last night we were talking about relationships and struggles. One of the quotes interested me; it encouraged us to “create a safe place where others feel valued enough to remove their own masks …truly seeing each other and loving each other anyway.”

Now I’m not claiming that we should air every private thing we deal with on Facebook, but I’m aware that there are many people who are much younger than me, who don’t remember life without Facebook and online relationships. I worry that if this is the example we are setting, we risk having a whole generation of people who don’t know how to relate on a real level, have no place they feel valued enough to remove their masks, and therefore don’t learn to love and be loved, warts and all.

I am blessed to have people with whom I share my deep struggles, and trusted enough have relationships where others share their struggles with me. Some of these are the same people, some aren’t, but all these relationships are based on honesty and valuing the other. And none of these relationships are Facebook based.

So, through Facebook, are we just creating an atmosphere where people feel the need to be fake? And am I exacerbating that by never sharing any of the things I find hard in life? More importantly, does that online habit seep into my real life, taking from my friendships the authenticity of being who we are?

It worries me that we might be encouraging a cycle of only sharing the good stuff, thus making the other people on our news feeds feel they need to do the same. Our real identity becomes our secret identity as we pretend to be something other than we are.

So my question is, how real am I being in different places and with different people? And to what extent am I claiming that the information I choose to share with others is all there is to me?

Which is my secret identity?

Know any of the answers? Please share below. Click here to read Identity #1.

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News Of The Day

I got a text this morning. It was from a friend who had clicked on her Facebook icon before me, only to find that the legend, Robin Williams, had taken his own life. Like a true friend, she warned me that it might be a good idea to stay away from social media for a bit. She was right.

I’m someone who is consciously and decisively protective of my mental health – especially at the moment. I avoid any sites that might risk bringing me down, and despite following numerous bipolar, depression, and general mental health groups on Facebook, I am careful what I choose to click on and what I choose to avoid. I’ve given up Twitter altogether for the moment, because – as famously said by another of my favourite actors – “you never know what you’re going to get.” I am not willing to let my iPad dictate my emotions.

But today has got the better of me. I find myself clicking on every link and watching endless YouTube videos. I have heard again “O captain my captain,” “it’s not your fault” and “goooooood mooorniiiing Vietnaaaam!” I’ve even watched him singing with a gorilla. It’s hard to believe such a powerhouse is suddenly not there any more. It’s harder still to believe that someone who had such power over an audience, such an ability to draw out emotion, such humour as to draw people in, eventually lost the fight.

A poet who lived round the corner from where I grew up describes it perfectly: “I was much further out than you thought, and not waving but drowning.” Robin Williams always did a very good job of waving. He waved hard and fast, with innumerable affected voices, hilarious mannerisms, and what has now shown to be bittersweet slapstick. When life knocked him down he got back up again – and again and again and again it would now seem.

One of my best memories of seeing Robin Williams is probably different from everyone else’s. I saw him on a TV documentary, in a studio recording the Beatles song “Come Together.” Beatles producer George Martin, on retiring, chose his favourite songs, his favourite (not necessarily singing) celebrities, and gifted us with one of the best mash-up albums ever. Robin (I feel strangely comfortable referring to him by his first name now) was mesmerising, although I’m now unsure how universal a response that would have been. But I remember thinking, “how does he come up with so many voices, so many faces, so many ideas, so quickly? How does he keep up?” Of course, with my recently acquired, enforced knowledge of bipolar disorder, I can understand. I’ve felt that quickness of mind, rush of thought, challenge to get everything out. I don’t know whether his coherence in that slightly manic state was due to practise or plain giftedness. I’m fairly certain it was the latter, but thinking it was the former gives me at least a glimmer of hope that one day I might find an edge whereby I can harness what hypomania gives me rather than losing it all in a rush of words. (By the way, the documentary is here, and you can find Robin at 9.27)

I wonder how many more people will give up their fight to live today, after having had the news of Robin Williams’ suicide spread unexpectedly before their eyes as they opened their Twitter and Facebook apps this morning? I wonder just how many of us will have seen his face scrolling over and over and had the thought, “if he can’t carry on, how can I?”

I also wonder, how many people will make more effort to understand mental illness? How many people will take the step from believing that suicide is selfish and weak, toward finally seeing it as the final symptom of an invisible, life threatening disease?

I can only hope that the first number will shrink and the second will grow. That somewhere, from the fate of this funny, clever, troubled man will come a new understanding and a softness of heart towards those of us who struggle every day to keep going.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

(Stevie Smith, 1972)

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