Something happened recently that made me rethink social media and the relationships they foster. When I first started using Facebook, it was fun to post, and it quickly became addicting. I had to see who was doing what and what dirty laundry was being aired. Soon I, too, was putting my life on display. There was an incessant need to have others know when I was happy or sad, who I was mad at, and to share general descriptions of my life.
Things changed as I got older and became the topic of the statuses of others or their vague posts. Social media was no longer fun and games. It became a battlefield of mental warfare. I began to see more and more family drama, relationship issues, and other goings on that really should remain private. And as often happens in war, I didn’t see the devastating attack coming.
It was an ordinary day. I woke up, made my coffee, and scrolled through my news feed on Facebook. A post caught my eye. My husband had used his status as a platform to showcase his feelings. As I read, horror and embarrassment gripped me. Hot tears stung my eyes. It was there for the world to see: his dismay at his current situation and his marriage to me. My name was never mentioned, but his Facebook friends and family knew exactly who he was talking about. Now, I knew what Hester Prynne felt like as she stood before her entire town, awaiting the adornment of the scarlet letter.
Instead of telling me directly, he chose to tell the entire Facebook-dom that he felt his life was spinning out of control. He wasn’t sure if marriage was right for him. As the sympathetic comments began to roll in, I couldn’t stand to read any further. I did what any self-respecting Facebook user would do. I “unfriended” him. Did he notice? No. Did his family members try to contact me? Yes. Did my husband even bother to discuss this with me? No. I was left alone with my humiliation and shame.
Fast forward to the present day. Again, the lines are being drawn in the Facebook sand. Except this time, it’s a war between cousins. In Latino culture, cousins are the equivalent of siblings. We grow up together and experience life together. And no matter the distance, we’ve always had each other’s back. So, it came as a shock to see the passive-aggressive posts from my cousin, Melody. It started out as cryptic posts about someone being absent from family events and then escalated into a full on onslaught against those she disliked…including her own sister. UFC matches paled in comparison to the cyber-blows that were being dealt. The Hatfield and McCoy feud not only involved them, but the rest of us were being sucked in. That was the last thing I wanted.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I couldn’t understand hiding behind the veil of Facebook. What happened to speaking in person? What happened to keeping family conflicts private? It wasn’t only adults who were seeing this; the younger generation of cousins were reading these posts. They certainly did not deserve to witness the display.
I wondered what had become of social media. Wasn’t it supposed to be a place that kept friends and family connected? To share funny animal videos? To share things that might inspire others? It appears to have become a playground for the slighted, vindictive, and the bullying. They hide behind memes and status updates. It’s “Mean Girls,” cyber-style.
Social media, in general, has lost its luster for me. I always think before I post, and I’ve learned to keep most of my life to myself. Those who need to know can hear it from me, personally.
Janine Muniz is a writer for SNHU Odyssey, a student-run writer’s platform which shares anecdotal stories and opinion pieces. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and is in the beginning stages of her first novel. When not reading the latest historical fiction novel, she works on completing the current video game in the Assassin’s Creed series and is a planner enthusiast. She lives in a full house with her husband, three boys, two cats, and two dogs in Ronkonkoma, NY. You can find her work at SNHU Odyssey here and at her blog. She is also on Instagram and can be contacted at email@example.com.
This article previously appeared in the SNHU Odyssey here and has been republished with permission.