One night, I was sitting in my bed, doing some reading for a class of mine and a notification popped up on my computer. Someone had messaged me on Facebook. When I clicked on the message I didn’t recognize the face and didn’t recognize the name. However, I noticed I had multiple mutual friends and connections with this person. I normally delete conversations with men that don’t have anything appropriate or kind to say. Simply because I don’t have the energy to entertain men in that way nor do I have the time… I mean, does anyone? But this time I was in a good mood and feeling humorous. I thought to myself if I could actually engage in this conversation with a man that clearly wanted to offend me, then maybe, just maybe, I would get something from it.
So, I responded to this guy. His opening line was offending my boyfriend. This guy really had to search on my profile for him, since there isn’t much information on my profile about my boyfriend. It's interesting to me that this guy I'd never met, or even had a connection with felt that it was appropriate or necessary to randomly offend my boyfriend.
Usually when notifications like these come up on my phone or my friends’ phones we ignore them or we respond with annoyance and/or anger. This time, I wanted to see how bringing humor into this situation would go. I thought if I could be as ridiculous as this guy, then maybe he could see how dumb this interaction was.
So, I entertained him. He kept getting mad, and I kept giggling to myself because he was so incredibly invested in something so ridiculous. The things that he thought would make me angry, I took as compliments. At one point he offended my gender-neutral name. This is when I decided that I would post about this interaction on Facebook and Instagram. I don’t usually post about these types of interactions, but I thought this one was actually kind of funny. I thought, “maybe there's some other woman out there who got a rude notification from a man and this can show her that it doesn’t need to steal your happiness or take energy from you. It can be as simple as answering with humor or even as simple as not answering." I meant it to be a funny post.
However, I got a much different reaction than I expected. People responded more than anyone has responded to a post of mine before. You’ll see pictures of some different responses. Names are blacked out, not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed of peoples’ responses but because the point isn’t who said what, but how everyone reacted and how different those reactions were from personal expectation.
When I posted the conversation between this guy and me, I felt confident I had handled the situation in the way I wanted to. To me, it was over and done with. But, people on social media got angry and annoyed. Some people were shocked. Some people showed sympathy, and others seemed like they wanted to give me a high five. Some people even went as far as to message the guy. People were pissed…for me. But the thing was, I didn’t ask for help, or support, or protection, or back up, or for people to harass him back. But then again, I didn’t NOT ask.
So there I was: sitting in my room while Facebook went crazy. I was stuck. I didn’t know what to think, or what to do. I didn’t write in my original post how I wanted people to react- I didn’t tell them I didn’t want help. I couldn’t blame anyone for genuinely wanting to support me. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel guilty and responsible for how people were reacting.
Frankly, I didn’t want the protection or for anyone to think I needed it. But as people responded, I didn’t call them out. How could I do that? It was I who made the conversation public, so how could I now be upset with how people chose to react? I didn’t know if I should be appreciative of the comments, or to let people know that I was uncomfortable with people making fun of the guy.
It seemed like a lose-lose situation and all I wanted was for someone to read it and laugh. I didn’t want anyone to call his work place, or harass him on messenger, or tell me I’m strong, or make fun of the way he looked. I also didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or shame them for expressing their opinions or for doing what they thought was right in the moment.
My goal was to show that there are ways to react to harassment that doesn't suck energy from you and doesn't make you reach into your anger. I wanted to show that there is another option in these situations besides ignoring or answering with anger. There's humor and with that humor you can keep your strength, dignity, energy and happiness. What I learned is that I didn’t need to post about that. Maybe this was a lesson just for myself. To laugh about it with myself. I learned that I don’t need to share everything with someone else. But that’s the social media generation, right?
My intention was lost in the frenzy that is Facebook. In the end I deleted the post because it got so far away from being what I had intended. I learned a lot about the power of social media in just 24 hours. I didn’t want to perpetuate harassment. I wanted to perpetuate strength and humor and resilience. But maybe Facebook wasn’t the place to do that.
In the end, I thanked everyone that showed quick support and humor in their own way. It wasn’t what I expected. I’m still not decided on where I stand about the whole issue but am appreciative of what it showed me about social media and our use of it, especially during times where people are talking about oppression, harassment, and abuse. It’s hard to deny that social media is so heavily involved in our society.
What are your thoughts about social media? Comments, questions, and suggestions always encouraged!