Remember that time when most of us were curating logins that would attach us to platforms that we’re currently chained to, and how the expectations of staying connected in real-time and with the freedom of unrestricted access filled us with a level of power that none of us dreamed possible?
For me it was back in 2009, and yes there was the euphoric daze that hovered over the keyboard and screen, each time new connections from the past and present congregated into the map that statistically rated my approval rating.
There was also a growing phenomenon that comprised of “self-help gurus,” who were more than generous with their time and energy when it came to getting paid the big bucks to spew out life-altering skills, that were meant to defeat the stagnancy and hopelessness of unhappy souls, who will pay anything to be gifted never-ending happiness.
The craze kicked off in high gear around 2008 and by 2011, media outlets were already unleashing the mandatory lists of rising and established superstars in the arena of big name influencers, who were utilizing their engagement skills in ways that would be hauntingly revised almost a decade later.
It wasn’t that long ago when uttering anything related to period blood in a public space that consisted of both sexes would’ve been considered risqué, and truth be told, I still shutter at the sight of panties with splattered old blood, appearing on my timeline without warning, but with the accompaniment of the clause that ridicules anyone who is inherently revolted.
There was also an episode a little over a month ago when the wife of a well-known actor with a bad temper and a penchant for Trump impersonations, decided that the best way to document her real-time miscarriage was to pose in pricey negligee with one hand commanding the selfie, and the other cradling the disappearing bump.
When the expected avalanche of disapproval hit her Instagram feed, the user’s response was rooted in the crux of the dysfunctional methods of engagement that are paraded as the engager’s personalized brand of bonding with followers, who are supposed to allow the mental assault based on how they can relate to the ultra-sensitive topic that’s being grossly mishandled.
The boundaries have disappeared, and the replacement is a sinister mode of communication that dictates how we’re supposed to tolerate the questionable antics of verified folks, who shouldn’t be criticized for being human enough to put their needs before our own.
The dutiful wife of a movie star who already has four young children, and was apparently expecting a fifth until the worst happened was unapologetic about her insensitive plea for empathy. According to her mantra, it didn’t matter how she delivered the news of her impending loss because she had every right to graphically illustrate her sorrow.
In a nutshell, it wasn’t about connecting with others who have experienced similar losses. It was just a staged selfie capturing a day in the life of a privileged mother, who has the luxury of going through a miscarriage and expertly balancing her iPhone at the same time.
Pregnancy, infertility, and basically anything to do with the zone of reproduction were topics that were discussed in hushed voices in my early adulthood. I vividly remember discussing period issues with my female co-workers in the late nineties during a social outing at a private home, and complaining about how my heavy flow in the first three days of my cycle was a major buzzkill. The brief awkwardness was quickly dismissed once the topic switched.
So of course it’s refreshingly profound to be a part of this revolutionary era, where absolutely nothing is off limits.
But as with everything in life, there has to be a healthy balance as well as the acute recognition of how and why certain topics need to be delivered with utmost care and respect.
It’s fascinating to garner that special invite into the lives of renowned influencers, who are bequeathed the blue check mark, as the badge of ownership over any vocation that fits evolving agendas.
A socialite who gets paid to travel to exotic locales, decked out in brand names that send her free shit, can also take time out to dramatize the human aspect of her existence in posted videos that showcase how she and her hubby excitedly awaited the positive sign of a pregnancy test, before being sadly greeted with the negative symbol.
It was a touching demonstration of how even the rich and famous aren’t immune to the hardships of life, but there was also the uncomfortable feeling of participating in something that felt way too personal for comfort.
Sharing the very highs and tumultous lows has ventured into the dangerous territory of voyeurism that feels like watching stolen home movies that are all the more poignant because of the assumed privacy.
It’s virtually impossible for over-exposure to translate into the selfless role of sharing while caring because it really plays out as the attempt to garner the empathy that’s been earned from the accumulation of impressive followers, who will be there to care — even when you don’t deserve it — or at their own expense.
The worst of these instances has to be the genesis of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, and how the trend of shared stories of abuse became an abusive instrument of engagement, as media outlets recklessly capitalized on the wave of first-person essays, that explicitly detailed what many of us could relate to, but didn’t want to be reminded of with damning frequency.
There was zero consideration for how the overly-saturated landscape of trigger-worthy content could potentially mind-fuck sexual abuse survivors, who weren’t mentally ready to publicly divulge their resurfaced testimonies.
It was alarming to observe the unhealthy climate that emerged from the faux-activism of protecting the abused when in reality there was destructive chaos eroding the efforts of newly-minted initiatives, that never recovered from the disorderly conduct of the platforms that birthed them.
Everybody wants to share everything with gusto, and thanks to the book deals that are awarded to those who really don’t want to be writers until agents convince them otherwise, we get the play-by-play of the process with declarations of what it means to be a bestselling author when you can afford that title.
We can only conclude that we are inhabiting a period of time when the “self-help” phase has expanded to include those who weaponize their pain and gains to enhance their exposure with click-worthy material that gets the right amount of attention, but also depletes the gravity of what is unquestionably a very heavy situation.
It’s the reason why viral videos of police brutality that results in the deaths of Black people no longer have the sobering effect they are meant to inspire.
Over-exposure has created the culture of nonchalance and immunity to the illustrated tragedies that used to force us to stop everything with solemn reverence, but it all went to shit once we started clicking those heart buttons.
So now we need to get our hearts to beat again.