Who doesn’t love a little magic? Today, I’ll share some with you — a magic word to make your life infinitely more pleasant, particularly on Facebook. That word is: Whatever.
“Whatever” gives you permission to not react. It teaches you that you don’t have to treat any and every comment or post — online and off — like an attack on your soul. “Whatever” allows you to just shrug and walk away, rather than reacting first and thinking later.
Reacting first and thinking later seems to have become the norm, be it verbal or physical. In the gang world, it’s the “hard look” phenomenon. In certain neighborhoods, aiming a “hard look” at someone can get you killed, even if that “hard look” was actually a grimace because you were trying not to fart.
A “hard look” is permission to shoot someone. React first, think later. Or not at all. Just shoot, because nothing says “I’m a big man” like killing someone because you were threatened by a facial expression. Seriously, dude… what’s he gonna do? Scowl you to death? Why not just stick your tongue out at him?
The “hard look” mentality has sadly filtered down to Facebook. Verbal annihilation is justifiable for any post or comment with which one disagrees. Lifelong relationships can fracture over an acidic exchange about how to bring peace to the Middle East.
Is there anything more preposterous than fervently opining on Hamas-Israel relations, wedged between Grumpy Cat memes and your latest “I’m a Unicorn/Ninja/Madonna” quiz results?
The answer to that is no.
Anyone notice that while we’re solving the world’s ills on Facebook, meanwhile, the wacky world continues to do what it will? If the world could post on Facebook, it would be that sneering Willy Wonka meme: “So, tell me again how a Facebook post ended world hunger!”
Here’s the deal: No social problem was ever solved on Facebook. Yes, more people may become aware of something via Facebook, but actual solutions happen in the real world, not because 37 people shared your Very Important Post. If you discover something on Facebook that you want to become involved in, fine. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that Facebook posts, in and of themselves, let alone the arguments that erupt over them, have any actual value or impact. Except for destroying friendships.
“Facebook: Where friendships go to die.” ~ Debra DeAngelo.
Having learned this the hard way, I don’t post much more than cat videos and random whining on my private wall anymore. When I’m feeling saucy, the controversial stuff goes onto my public wall. I’ll argue with you there, but only to a point. If it’s a competition to see who can out-belittle who, I’m out. Besides, I always win, and it’s not fun anymore. Moreover, I’m not going to solve any social problem with a Facebook post, or with this column either, for that matter.
You get older, you figure it out. You learn to say “Whatever.”
“Whatever’s” message is this: You don’t need to attend every fight you’re invited to. I have Facebook friends at both ends of the political spectrum, and everything in between, posting all sorts of skewed, misinformed, unresearched, ignorant crap. I don’t need to react to it. No Facebook thread on earth is worth a friendship.
So, now you know how to prevent Sudden Facebook Friendship Death Syndrome: “Whatever.” It’s a complete sentence. Say it. Roll it around over your tongue. Get accustomed to it. Use it.
Somebody posts that Liberals are destroying America? Whatever. Hamburgers are murder? Whatever. Corporations are people too? Whatever. Sarah Palin is a pathetic self-serving attention whore with the IQ of celery and Wayne LaPierre is a talking douchebag”?
Wha.. whaa… whaaattt… whaaaaatevvv…
OK, no fair. I can’t “whatever” those! That’s waving the catnip mouse in front of the cat. I can’t not pounce. I’m going to “like” those, and share them, and pile right on. (Sarah Palin … gaahhh … the stupid … it burns … “Mommy, why do they let the bad lady keep talking?”) But if someone wants to get into a Facebook fight about my quips, I might respond, “Whatever.” Or maybe just think it and post nothing at all. See, that’s the genius of “Whatever”: You don’t even have to say it out loud for it to work.
Having realized the futility of Facebook fights and learned to just click away from threads that downspiral into volleys of pointless ire and upset, online life is so much simpler. Judging from the posts on my private Facebook wall these days, you might assume that I’m a harmless, eccentric Cat Lady who whines a lot.
And that’s OK.
Judging by my public wall (or my column) you might assume that I’m a snarky, know-it-all brat.
And that’s okay too.
Because it doesn’t really matter. Other people’s opinions don’t define me, or you either. People can draw whatever conclusions they like, but the fact of the matter is, very few will see the whole picture. On my private Facebook wall, I’ll show you my left hand. On my public wall, I’ll show you my right. That still leaves a whole lot of me that you can’t see. If you decide I’m a flat thing with five digits — “Whatever.”
Here’s the other deal: You’re not obligated to reveal every aspect of yourself on Facebook. Facebook is nothing more than an online party. Treat it as such. Put on your best duds, powder your nose, and go have a good time. Laugh a little. Meet new folks. Have interesting conversations. If they become unpleasant arguments, excuse yourself to go get more crab cakes. Someone points and says your dress is ugly?
Oh, so sorry — I didn’t mean to spill my drink on your blouse!
Hey — just because I won’t argue with people doesn’t mean I won’t mess with them. You can’t take all the fun out of it.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com