Facebook and Chronic Town

October 23, 2014 at 8:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

When you live in Chronic Town, Facebook can be a dangerous site to visit. I’m not talking about Facebook’s experiments on emotions, or its pernicious data tracking. What I mean is that trolling through all your friends’ posts about their busy and beautiful lives can feel gut-wrenching when you live with a chronic or serious illness.

In the past week, I’ve watched as friends and acquaintances on Facebook post photos or updates about long family hikes and century bike rides. There are pictures of gourmet meals prepared for family dinner night, dogs on long walks, and houses all spiffed up for parties. There are announcements about books being published, professional accomplishments, trips being taken, and photos of adorable children engaged in complicated-looking baking or arts and crafts projects.

These are lovely things to hear, and I am truly happy for my friends—and proud of them for the all the activities they are able to undertake and bring their children along on. I am also, dare I say it, more than a teensy bit jealous. Living with a chronic and sometimes debilitating illness means that I’m often not able to do everything I’d like—as a writer, mother, wife, and human being. And it’s painful sometimes to see others being able to live as I would like.

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult, perhaps because I’ve been feeling exhausted, sick, and extra broken for no discernable reason. I’ve been tempted at times to be brutally honest with my Facebook posts, and update everyone on what daily life in Chronic Town consists of some days—barely surviving. Here are some samples:

I made it to the dinner table three nights in a row this week! And I was able to cook a meal once in 14 days. (Attach photo of mediocre-looking meatloaf).

I slept thirteen hours last night, and still had to take a three hour nap. But I was able to drag myself out of bed when Andrew got home from school! (Attach photo of my extraordinary bedhead).

I’m down to getting two chemotherapy treatments a month! It sure is better than getting three, but it still really sucks. (Attach photo of IV bag).

I’m pretty sure my friend Martha will say that I’m comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, that everyone has rotten days (and even spates of them) but not everyone chooses to focus on this when they’re writing little snippets for wide public consumption. And she would be right.

But I think what is unique for those of us in Chronic Town is that we often lose the ability to be able to curate our lives for external consumption. Our daily lives can become so stripped down that we don’t have the option to select rosy, busy scenes for others to see, whilst holding within us and not sharing the sicker, darker moments. I may sound glum, but sometimes all I have are the sicker, darker moments. And at times like these, it can be jarring indeed to scroll through other people’s happy outsides.

I suppose an easy solution would be to give up Facebook. But I’m not going to do that. (In fact, as always, I’ll post a link to this blog entry from my Facebook account.) I like to know what’s going on with friends, family, and acquaintances. I like seeing them thrive. I’m not going to give into the impulses of my inner grinch, that childish piece of myself who feels a sting on bad days when reading about another’s accomplishments. I am, however, going to push myself to be as honest as I can be in my own Facebook posts. Rather than writing nothing on bad days—or only glossing a bad day with a positive spin—I want to try to share where I’m really at with my Facebook friends. For me, it’s a way to connect with a wide array of people from different facets of my life. Why not truly connect with them? Why not bring some of life in Chronic Town to the empire of Facebook?

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