Facebook is a crazy thing, isn’t it? I’m not sure you could convince me that it alone hasn’t utterly transformed our society. It seems that even the folks who used to say, “You’ll never find me on Facebook!” are toting several hundred “friends” and posting weekly statuses about their job, family, favorite sports teams, political ideals, etc. Books have been written dissecting the impact the social media giant has had on us, politicians have started to use it as a primary communications tool, and families have turned to it as the best way to stay in touch with distant relatives. It’s hard to remember exactly what life was like before selfies and hashtags.
I am not convinced of the good or evil of Facebook, though I have plenty of friends who argue passionately for both views. I am, however, extremely interested to see how the way we connect with each other has changed partly due to Facebook’s existence. I just started reading a book about vulnerability–an underrated and highly avoided thing in my own life. The author of the book I am reading makes it clear that without vulnerability we can’t have authentic human connection. That scares me.
Hide & Seek
The truth is that I am hiding. I am hiding pieces of myself that don’t support the “Ben” I want you to see. All it takes is one look at my Facebook page to see that I only let you see what I want you to see. In some ways that’s probably a good thing. You don’t need to see all my garbage. I’m not so sure that is what it means to be vulnerable. I do think, however, that being vulnerable means showing up in a way that doesn’t hide who I really am. Of course my hiding didn’t start with Facebook. It has been going on since I was a kid.
As early as Elementary School I can remember being ashamed of my stutter. It probably didn’t help that other kids ruthlessly pointed it out as something hilarious. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t fun to be made fun of. So, I started trying to “control” my stutter. Anyone reading this who has a stutter can probably relate to this shame inducing practice. Even as an adult I often rate my public speaking on how much or little I stuttered. If I say a sermon went great, it probably means I managed to hide all stuttering as ‘deep thinking’ or simply didn’t stutter at all. It often has little to do with the content of my message.
I share this with a lot of discomfort. It’s uncomfortable because as much as I hated getting made fun of in school, I equally hate the pitty that often comes with the attempt to comfort me by saying “I didn’t even notice your stutter.” and “It really isn’t that bad. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Honestly it’s like nails on a chalk board, because it forces me to be vulnerable enough to admit that my stuttering bothers me. It feels uncomfortable because I put down my guard of being “wise”, “smart”, “Put Together” and I risk being made to feel quite small and deeply inferior to all the non-stuttering Good Samaritans trying to comfort me. This is just the tip of the iceberg which is why the previously mentioned need for vulnerability scares the hell out of me.
Perfectly assembling the “Ben” I want you to see often means that you are not seeing the real Ben. I assume this is why human connection is impossible without being willing to risk enough to be seen. Being seen means that you are opening yourself up to criticism, which is hard enough when it is applied to the “masks” we wear, but it is truly terrifying when we risk it happening within the depths of our being. It doesn’t really hurt that much (though it might hurt my feelings a little) to hear someone say that my blogs suck. But it still feels like a needle in the eye to have someone (even a kid) make fun of my stutter. It’s risky business allowing others to see all of you.
Of course, allowing all of ourselves to be seen is something we have pretty much sucked at since the Garden of Eden. Which brings me back to Facebook. I don’t think it’s evil, but I do recognize that it makes it easier than ever to hide.
I am feeling a strong push to stop hiding–to stop hiding in my job, my family, my friends, and even quite so much in my writing and “online personality”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but in some ways it feels like it starts with this blog.