It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo. 
I do believe it. 
I do believe it's true. 
Paul Simon's "At the Zoo"

Today, I had to jump out of bed to avoid my mind’s desperate attempt to convince me that I have no worth in this world. Yeah. Read that again.

Beth was asleep and I didn’t want to get up, so I made a silly mistake – I started scrolling through Facebook. What was I looking for? Love in all the wrong places, apparently.

After what was probably 45 minutes of swiping, I put down the phone in utter self-disgust. It’s no one’s fault but my own. If I have a reaction to the posts I’m seeing, then I own it. That said, allow me to vent and navel-gaze a bit.

There are a few people on my feed who post what I would call “meaningful content.” To me, these are heart-sharings, original humor or stuff I find interesting or worth learning about. The rest of the junk is advertisements, real and unconscious.

A “real” advertisement is a paid commercial for a product or a post trying to attract attention to a class or something (like my posts about Beth’s yoga classes). There are way too many of them, of course, but I get that FB is a business and we’re the consumers. Caveat Emptor.

The “unconscious” advertisements are the types of posts that tend to bother me the most. These are the poseurs, the show-offs and others seeking attention. Honestly, I’m guilty of being one myself from time to time. I get off on posting something that might make someone “oooh” or “wow” when they see/read it. Honestly? I want you/them to think I’m special in some way.

When we post with the intention to gain attention, we are regressing to a very normal part of our lives -childhood or adolescence – when receiving praise or, in some twisted fashion, blame, was our way of being noticed. On that level, we’re all performing all the time for a little pat on the head or a smack on the behind, right?

Truth is, most of this is part of our unconscious, shadowy self. When I post a photo of a sunset, I think I’m sharing a beautiful moment and I actually am doing just that. However, what I’m also doing is looking for a dopamine hit. How do I know this? Because I look at my photo and admire my post. Then, I check back frequently to see how many people have viewed it or liked it. I am NOT proud of this behavior, but I think we need to look at this stuff and ask, “why”?

At this point, many of you might be shaking your heads and wondering, “does this guy have to take apart everything we do and over-analyze it?” You may be right. And I may even be “showing off” by analyzing myself in front of you. Oy. But what I think I am really trying to be is an amateur sociologist. I find it very interesting to watch all of us in life’s zoo.

As I said above, I think that we are all performers on some level. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re social creatures and social media shows us in all our glory and dysfunction.

Someone once told me that he goes to his family events with the idea that they are like a circus. IHMO, this guy detaches himself from hurt by making it into a show. I get that. Sometimes, I watch with bemusement the way we humans behave on social media or elsewhere. That’s the zoo thing. The danger here is that when I/we use a metaphor like a zoo or a circus, we might be saying to ourselves that we are better than the animals or the circus performers and that we are above them. That’s a dangerous trap, but a very understandable way to protect our fragile egos.

So, when I return to Facebook, I will go there now with a renewed sense of equality. “We’re all bozos on the bus,” said Wavy Gravy. Yup. Put another way – we’re all brilliant people fighting our own particular battles based on our upbringing, mental stability, etc. In other words, we’re trying our best in a difficult mess. And I love that we keep trying.

If I’m conscious, I can post (or scroll) with the intention of sharing or connecting instead of solely looking for validation. Validation ought to originate from me and, perhaps, those in my inner circle. If I look for that on social media, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Lesson learned.


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