Facebook has had a traumatic effect on me. Chicken gizzards have too.
I held off as long as possible to become a member of Facebook because I felt in my gut that it was a bad idea for adult society. It seemed counterintuitive to the way we’re meant to function as social human beings. I was able to see the value in young people being able to connect in that way to some extent. My college had a primitive spiral bound paper version of social media called a “roster” that allowed people to look up and wish a happy birthday to students and profs via phone call or school post office box—and to stalk them year round with the provided campus and summer home address. I was fine with my high school kids connecting with their friends occasionally through Facebook, but I had no desire to be a part of that social world where people posted about what they were interested in on a daily basis. I thought that’s what face-to-face conversations with people I actually cared about were for. I was surprised that so many of my family and friends my age and older did want to be part of that kind of social world. When asked why I wasn’t on Facebook, I said that I was too old to be socializing in that way, and that I prefer face-to-face and phone conversations over cyber ones. The response was always laughter and the comment that I wasn’t too old. I refrained from telling them that they were too old, too, and I just let peer pressure take its course.
I held off on joining Facebook until 2012, when my son went to college on the west coast, and my daughter went overseas for college study abroad. Because of their new social media-influenced communication habits, it seemed that it was the only way for me to know if they were alive. I received lots of Facebook friend requests that I accepted and was quickly initiated into the new cyber society. I began learning information about family and friends that I didn’t want to know and started seeing images I could never unsee. People were presenting a different version of themselves than I had gotten to know in person, during phone calls, and through email exchanges. My level of respect, trust, and confidence in humanity plummeted after I joined Facebook. Maybe that’s because I’m old-fashioned, or an idealist when it comes to societal expectations, or was raised to value different things than those who embrace the information exchanged in today’s cyber society.
I grew up near my grandparents’ farm where I was often expected to help out. My first memory of helping with cleaning chickens (killing, plucking, and gutting them for eating) is from when I was three years old. My grandma handed me a bowl of gizzards and asked me to clean them. As I looked at the shiny flesh blobs, I knew in my gut that it was the wrong thing to ask of me, but the pressure of pleasing my grandma was so great that I obediently stood at the old table placed next to the stove in her basement and let her show me how to pop open the gizzards and turn them inside out to empty the contents into a dish. Then the gizzards could be cleaned, cooked, and eaten by my grandpa. The stuff that came out of the gizzards looked like crap. Born ridiculously sensitive to shocking images, with a ridiculously weak stomach, I wanted to throw up next to Grandma’s chicken table. I knew that would be the wrong thing to do, so I turned around, and marched up the green wooden basement steps. I sat down when I got half way up the stairs, and I buried my head in my lap so I wouldn’t have to look at the contents of the gizzards. Grandma was always compassionate toward me and dismissed me from my chicken cleaning duties. She told me I could go to the edge of the farm to collect eggs in the hen house instead of staying in the basement cleaning gizzards.
Even though I choose to stay on the perimeter of social media and do the bare minimum that’s expected of me, I continue to be on Facebook. I feel like it’s the only connection I now have to many of my family and “friends.” I really don’t think I’ll hear from/about most of them again once I quit Facebook. But, after seven years of being a Facebook member, I can’t say that there has been anything positive that has come from the experience or that my life has been enhanced by social media in any way. All I can do is tuck away my Facebook experience in the “Why do people do that?” corner of my brain—along with eating chicken gizzards—knowing full well that I’ll never receive an answer that I’ll understand. There was also nothing positive that came from my chicken cleaning experience as a child. I did not need to know what was on the inside of a gizzard—or a chicken, for that matter. Forty-eight years later, I still can’t scrub the image from my mind. Some crap is just meant to stay hidden.
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© 2019 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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