Social Media is what we make of it. It is a reflection of our lives or can take the form of “Fake” book or Insta “Glam” – the life we want people to see. The best of times, the most beautiful shots, the exotic locations, our celebrations of life. There is nothing wrong with this, yet it can become a source of fantasy or narcissism. The words Fake and Glam are self-explanatory. Social Media has become a place to share the high points in our lives, the best, the beautiful, our vacations, and ‘vacations’ from reality.
The ‘comparison factor’ of comparing our life to someone else’s “peak moments” or their representation of a “glamorous life” can conjure the feelings of being inferior, disappointment in oneself, feeling unfulfilled, sad, jealousy, socially isolated or even depressed. Social Media can breed a form of connection and separation all at the same time. While we are ‘connected’ electronically, we are not truly experiencing or sharing our life with our friends. It can be lonely and isolating. There are many dangers of Social Media and perks to these methods of communication, however, I do not plan to cover them all here. My point is about sharing… What we share, how we share, what we edit or censor out… the Whole picture.
So when we ‘share’ on Social Media… What do you use it for? Facebook is what we make it. I have used it to share everything. Here’s a tale of my sharings about our Drunk Neighbor…
For the past 3-1/2 years, I have lived next door to a man who is a vile alcoholic and displays anger management issues and mental disorders. We were subject to late night tirades of profanity and outbursts of rage. The man was alone in his backyard. His loud banging, hollering and slamming his fists on the table and outbursts would last for hours, even days. His wife, likely medicated herself, would just go to bed and leave him in the backyard like a unruly dog.
To cope with this, I post his disturbing behaviors on my private Facebook page. I also post the actions we haven taken to achieve the quiet enjoyment of our home. I record his extreme, horrid diatribes and strange demeanor… I never used his name, only calling him ‘Drunk Neighbor’ and his wife ‘Bride.’ I write about this situation with the dry sarcasm of our genuine suffering.
Drunk Neighbor was and still is a persistent and committed alcoholic, drinking from morning into the early AM hours late into the night… just to start again the next day. I was at my wits end. I reached out by posting my ’Drunk Neighbor Reports’ on Facebook as an outlet for my frustrations and seeking support from my friends. I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I had no aims by sharing, I simply needed to share.
We involved the Police early on, after our attempts to directly speak with Drunk Neighbor failed with his numerous violent, verbal attacks. It became a constant police matter with over 170 calls to the police, 41 police reports, and 3-4 arrests, one resulting in the police using their taser gun several times as Drunk Neighbor decided to fight back and resist arrest. …Not wise.
My postings became regular and humorous. When times get really hard, my dark and sometimes caustic humor is my only relief and tears become my pressure valve. Because these events were regular, almost daily, my reports were posted almost daily. Sometimes we had to call the police 3-times a night, for his drunk and disorderly escapades. We were advised that this was a police matter and to not make contact. We obliged. The police got to know Drunk Neighbor well and my regular posts caught on like wildfire. Everyone wanted to know what Drunk Neighbor was up to today.
My sharing is and was raw and very real. It was full of our work to solve this matter, our frustration and torment. Something in my sharing really connected with my friends. Most were supportive and many entertained by reading the wild and bizarre world I was reporting. I took pictures and videos of the unbelievable stories happening right outside my living room windows. All of it struck a cord with my inadvertent audience. Soon I had a fan base. This was not my intention, nor did I particularly like when people would ask me for more Drunk Neighbor reports. Life is intense enough as it is and I didn’t need more to report on. Some people became enthralled with the macabre seen, like ‘rubber-necking’ when you drive by a traffic accident… you just can’t look away. They really couldn’t get enough! We would be out to dinner and run into friends and the first thing they’d ask about was Drunk Neighbor, not how we were doing. I understood their fascination and even the attraction to the dark comedy of my life, yet for me, it was painful. My primary reason for writing was for my sanity. It was not to entertain. I did not want to feel alone in my crisis. It was a therapy of sorts, to vent and to receive support. Support was what I needed.
As time progressed, Drunk Neighbors vile rants were directed towards us. It became outright harassment. He cursed us and constantly called us fowl names. His diatribes would consist of his suggestions for our sex life or how big my butt looked. I found much relief in support from my friends on social media. Most were really compassionate or responding with humor or empathy. Some had some very good ideas. I did receive a couple of negative comments from one Facebook ‘friend’ who thought I was just trying to get attention. There was some truth in this, as I stated, I needed to share what was happening, vent by sharing the insanity. I was seeking support, help and ideas for a solution to this ongoing, corrosive problem. It was so unreal! This one-man drunken show was making our home a living hell!
Another friend wrote to me privately on Messenger with the opposite of support, but criticism.
“To be honest, you’re really weirding me out with all these Drunk neighbor posts. I have friends that live in your neighborhood and if you were spying on them they way you are with this guy, I would be upset. If you really want to do something, go and talk to the guy. Show a little respect and stop posting this dramatic shit. Posting photos of people on Facebook without their OK is seriously effed up. I would be beyond angry if someone in my hood was doing this to me and my girlfriend. I’m seriously disappointed in you for letting this go on like this. I’ve considered just unfriending you, but [another friend] said you’d appreciate the feedback. Both of us are horrified, especially since she’s your neighbor! I don’t want to embarrass you publicly but what’s even more disturbing is that none of your “Friends” will help you put an end to this unhealthy pattern. I hope you can hear this and not be upset. I really wish you can find a way to bring some peace into this situation.”
“I am sorry, but we have a difference of opinion here. It’s not spying when it’s right outside your window and the vulgarities permeate your airspace day and night. It is called: Disturbing the Peace. And it is truly DISTURBING. He picks fights with the neighbors & a number of us are filing reports. As far as Facebook goes, my feed is my feed. It isn’t set up for public consumption. It is not here for me to people-please anyone, not even my friends and friends of friends. It is a reflection of me… This is me… love, light, dark, and everything in between. It is my expression of my life in the moment. And this is jacked up! My dark humor is my therapy. It is a choice to follow or unfollow anything or anyone on Facebook. As far as speaking with him, the police have advised us numerous times NOT to confront him. They say, these situations only escalate & advise us to keep calling & reporting it. It’s a police matter.
Thank you.. I do appreciate your honesty, and I respect your choice. You can judge my behavior as healthy or unhealthy, yet who is to say you are right? You are only right to judge what you want to read or follow. What is healthy for you? I wouldn’t blame you either way. What’s right for you is for you to choose. I love you all the same, your courage, your truth, your difference of opinion. All of it. I do apologize for it bringing a charge up for you. Please don’t follow this feed if it is not what you want to see. I am not going to always be love & light. It’s my commitment to be me. Thanks again, really. The expression of your honest opinion does matter to me and I hope you can respect my opinions and choices as well… Even if it is not what you agree with, or what you want… to read, watch or follow on Facebook. If it means you will truly ‘not’ be my friend and I do not mean ‘facebook friend’… Well, that is a whole other discussion. If you want to express this publicly, do so. I would reply with this same message on my feed. It is honest.”
The above exchange lead me to post something different. Here is what I shared with 1000 of my Facebook Friends, about sharing itself:
“Regarding my Drunk Neighbor Updates:
Everyone, thanks for the support, the laughs (the best medicine), the ideas for legal action, ordinances, injuctions, nuisance lawsuits, thank you for your concern over our safety, thank you for sharing your stories as well.
On a side note: I was recently chastised for my honest and raw Drunk Neighbor Reports and it got me thinking… so this is my side note to my side note… 😉
One of my issues with Facebook feeds is many people post only the highlights of their life: the fabulous vacations, swimming in waterfalls, skydiving, the birth of their children, buying a new house, the graduations, the weddings, the academic or professional accomplishments and the like… BUT can we not share the lows without being shamed? Shall we celebrate the highs and HIDE away the lows, as if they do not exist? Isn’t that dangerous to appear as if everything is perfect, when nothing really is. I do not personally like this unhealthy practice. So, if you’re having a bad day, week, month or year… is it not okay to say so?
Isn’t life more full than just the highs? Aren’t the lows what make it so rich? Are we ashamed to share that we had a bad day?… or that we are dealing with a problem… and reach out for support? Some of the fullest posts I see, are when my friends choose to share, not only their joys, but the dark times, their inner struggles, the really crappy times, the times when life is seemingly unfair…. the times when we are sick, lonely, depressed, oppressed and hurting. Can we be there for each other? Isn’t it more real? More human?
Some of the most beautiful moments I have experienced with Facebook, is from sharing what is alive or raw for me. It is the HONESTY when things go wrong… a loss of a loved one, a heavy diagnosis, feeling lost and others respond with compassion and I know I am not alone on this journey.
When you read this from someone else’s feed, how do you feel? None of us are really alone in our suffering. Only sharing the joys can sure make it feel this way and that is what I feel is dangerous. Sharing my vulnerabilities is a key factor when I’m struggling and I personally find it very healing. It does take guts to be revealing and not everyone wants to ‘share’ – that I can also respect. It’s just where I’m coming from…
I had a friend commit suicide a couple of years ago. As others also shared their raw feelings of shock and sadness on Facebook, I was able to BE with others who also loved him and more deeply be with myself. Facebook is such a strange medium and it can be many things. In that case, it was a meeting place and it became a celebration of life and a healing place for our loss. I did not have to traverse my grief, anger, love and confusion by myself. The sharing was a gift and it was very healing.
My point is, thank you for loving me through this. I invite you all to share your joys and struggles. You have a safe place with me.
This has been the second most difficult time of my life, this year. Second only to losing my dad to Alzheimer’s, while trying to unsuccessfully heal a failing marriage, while being severely physically ill, ALL in the same year. That was harder….
Again, I only write this to share. Not solicit sympathy. Drunk Neighbor is the lightest of the load and I realize, for me… it’s just a ‘Year of Storms.’
They are the best teachers for transformation, there is joy to be found in the pain… I also know the storms will pass, as storms do… and BOY, am I ready for some clear skies.
But for now… I’ve got my raincoat and galoshes on and the lifeboats are on the ready! So keep the laughs and support coming in all it’s forms!!!
You are such a gift. I love it all! “
That was what came of my introspection after feeling criminalized and shamed for my true, maybe caustic expression regarding my experience with Drunk Neighbor. I really didn’t blame my friend for what was triggered in her, or what she feels is right or wrong. To me it wasn’t about that. It was about my need to express what was happening in my life. It was about my needs. I could do nothing about my neighbor, but call the police and make police reports.
As time progressed, Drunk Neighbor hurled abusive insults towards us. He made his problem our fault, somehow in his mind. We recorded and kept reporting. We amassed a substantial amounts of evidence, video, audio and police reports. It was enough to take him to Court and request an Injunction Against Harassment or Temporary Restraining Order. He was also in Court for the Criminal Disorderly conduct charge for one of the previous arrests. We had the same judge on both Court dates and were rewarded a Restraining Order for 3-years and Criminal Probation with additional restrictions for the Disorderly Charge.
Drunk Neighbor still drinks morning, noon and night, (a violation of his Probation and Restraining Order which stipulate no alcohol use). He sequestered himself indoors and for the most part keeps it down. We do have to occasionally call the police when he gets loud and file additional reports. Most recently he was convicted of a DUI, driving under the influence, as he further endangered the public. His actions and behaviors have him in court on a weekly basis. Our saga has not come to an end, but we have peace in our home most of the time now.
My friend who attempted to ‘shame’ me for my posts, did unfollow me. We are still Facebook friends, but for the most part do not interact on Social Media or in the real world. That is her choice and I support it and harbor no hard feelings after all. We must all choose what is best for us and I honor that, for myself and for others.
58 Friends ‘Liked’ or commented. Some friends shared stories of their own, of life trials such as my own with harassing neighbors, or other circumstances beyond their control, such as severe illness, vulnerability, and shared hearts. Other’s encouraged me to keep writing and sharing… So, ‘Share on!’ I did. Here are some of the exchanges:
Garrin: “Your FB page is yours. It’s your bulletin board for anything you want to say or post. People choose to actively interact with your world. Who are they to then tell you what they want or don’t want to see or read? It’s their choice! They can remove you from their news feed and only come around your world when they want to. Keep ’em coming, I love the humor. Although I realize it’s no longer humorous for you…”
Melinda: “Garrin, I still find the Humor in it… laughter keeps me going, with short intervals of crying (I call them pressure releases) and then…. I’m back to laughing again. Regarding FB – that is exactly how I feel. It’s my feed!”
Lauren: “You are a really good writer”
Devorah: “I love you!!!”
Lyndia: “Keep sharing watevah you like! It’s YOUR page… Like I said in my Disclaimer, “if you don’t like it, den don’t look!!!” Carry on!”
Tami: “This is a very heartfelt post, Melinda. I send you both lots of love…”
David: “What a waste of time for someone to chastise you on this. As you said, posting this in a humorous way helps you to deal with this rrr gentleman 😁 so keep posting and lean on your Facebook friends as needed. As you know, I can relate. We support you.”
Catherine: “You post whatever you want! I understand losing your dad to Alzheimer’s! I chastised by a family for posting about missing my mother-in-law. Facebook isn’t just a place for people to post happy stuff it’s a place for you to post what you want.
Ralph: “I enjoy reading your well written, sometimes humorous, sometimes outrageous escapades and sympathize with you and Kurt’s loss of sleep and disturbance of the peace of your home!”
Kate: As my Grandparents would always say “There’s nowt as queer as folks!”. Always blows my mind how some people feel they have a right to try and dictate someone else’s life – bizarre! Share away, better out than in 🙂
Leigh: This was a wonderful post to start my day with Melinda. Yes, I believe we ought to be able to share anything we feel like on Facebook. I also think that hiding things in the dark is an unhealthy practice… But apparently it upsets and/or embarrasses some people, so I have curbed my negative posts to a large degree, but it’s nice to see someone voicing their TRUE feelings here.
Melinda: David, yes you do understand. While writing this post specifically about revealing our struggles, you, dear soul were on my mind. Thank you for sharing your courageous journey. You inspire me! Thank you sincerely for being part of my network of supporters. We all need each other. All we need to do is reach out & say so. Thanks for your living example. How can you appreciate the positive in your life if you don’t have the opposite to compare with? Just keep doing what your doing! You are showing the world that there needs to be a balance in everything.Christine: Thank you for sharing your joy, sorrow and every day life. It is wonderful to be REAL and not just promote when great things happen.
Leigh: I love your view Melinda!
Melissa: you have the most healthy attitude I have seen in a long time! You are so right in the fact that there is good and bad, ups and downs, rights and wrongs in everyone’s life. And that is okay. That is how life is intended.
Erica: There are some things that should not be posted on Facebook especially if you do not understand and actively use privacy controls. Things that can come back and haunt you when applying for a job or put your identity or your children at risk of predators. Your posts have been the reverse. They are well written documents that can be used in a court of law and a valid mental health stress reliever. If someone is offended by them or any other post in their newsfeed, Facebook has an easy option. You don’t have to defriend or block the person, just go to the top right hand corner of the post, there is a down arrow, when you click it you can say I don’t want to see this and it goes away!!!! so emotionally satisfying. You also have options to quit following or report. On a comment, a little black x pops up that says hide. When you click it the comment disappears and you have the choice to unhide, report or give feedback to the poster. Facebook has a lot of wonderful features to customize so you receive the experience you want. Most people just aren’t aware of them. That said, it is a free speech area and if someone posts that they don’t like your post, you can have the same emotional satisfaction of hiding them, effectively shutting them up. 🙂 Have a lovely day!!!Tara: Each of us has people and situations that we did not choose to invite into our lives, that disrupt our ability to live peacefully.
David: I totally agree with Gary and everyone else saying it’s YOU’RE FB page! If they don’t like it they don’t have to read it.
Tara: Each of us has people and situations that we did not choose to invite into our lives, that disrupt our ability to live peacefully. I know the heartache and injustice of there being no resolution to reinstate the peace no one has the right to take from you. It’s not something I post about for my own reasons, but something I do seek to improve is my own resilience and response to this situation as it continues to regularly rear its ugly head irrespective of my behavior. Your posts about your neighbor to me are an across-the-miles squeeze of the hand that remind me I’m not alone, and both your posts and your friends’ comments give me insight into possible ways I can view and handle my own challenges differently. I love you dear sister and wish I could magically whisk your neighbors somewhere far, far away, but in lieu of that do know I am standing by you each time you encounter these people who violate your basic human right to a peaceful existence. It inspires me to see you maintaining your integrity and wit in the face of all this unwelcome drama xxx
While we are instantly ‘connected’ and ‘sharing’ we are not sharing life experiences directly with friends. We also are not looking up, going out, getting some exercise or spending time in nature if we are staring at these screens for hours a day. We are born social creatures, born of nature, and technology should only support our REAL, in-person connection with both. If it does not, it is detrimental to our minds, bodies, emotions and Spirit.
I have ‘shared’ this with you in hopes that we can leave the Fakebook behind and Get Real. What we share is our choice. I choose to share both the highs and the lows… It is my hope we all share more authentically with each other. Obviously, you do not need to publish everything, but dare as the image above, to take a leap of faith and share with those you love. Dare to share your Whole World and your Whole Being, life’s joys and sorrows. …even better (for your sanity and for your health), close down the social media platforms, put down the machines, phone, iPad and close your laptop and walk awaaaaayyyyy.
May I invite you to have a SHARED LIFE EXPERIENCE in your real, flesh and blood, fully-embodied life today! Call up a friend, go for a walk in the woods, or have a face-to-face chat in a coffee shop! Let’s see what happens… and Let’s Get Real! And if you’d like… share a comment below. Thank you.
By: Melinda D. Alexander