Recently during a fund raising campaign I found out some interesting things about people I’m friends with, and also about myself. It is one of the most eye opening experiences of my life, so far, and the personal observations I have been able to make are truly priceless.
Have you ever read about the habit of some folks, well actually, many folks, that see a person on the sidewalk begging for change and they walk right by them, without even looking? It’s like the person begging doesn’t exist. They’re invisible to almost everyone walking by. Even if the person rattles their tin cup full of change and addresses the person walking by, they are ignored. If the beggar steps in front of the person passing by, or in some way draws their attention to him, the passerby gives a look of annoyance, like “Why are you bothering me?! Can’t you see I’m busy!” Then there are the ones that feel a twinge of guilt and say, “Oh! I didn’t see you there! I’m in a hurry, but maybe tomorrow!” And tomorrow probably never comes.
Few are the people that will take the time to stop and say hello, maybe share a few of their coins, or buy him a sandwich. Few will ask his name, or where he’s from. Some might dig deeper and ask how he got there and what his plan was.
Few are the folks that will take the time to make him feel like a human being.
When did we become this cold?
Now take this same scene and you play the role of beggar on the sidewalk rattling your tin cup, and the people walking by are your friends.
I approached my campaigning very lightly. I didn’t jump right in with both feet and start bombarding people with notifications and messages. I took my time and contacted individuals personally. I wasn’t interested in shaming my own friends into donating. I wanted them to take their time and read the campaign and make an informed decision. Even if they couldn’t or didn’t want to donate, perhaps they would consider sharing a link to the campaign so that others might see it and donate. All I asked was to be heard and to have them respond. I even put it out there that it was okay to say no, or to tell me that it wasn’t something they could do at the moment, just respond to me. I wasn’t interested in being invisible.
And guess what. About 70% of them still managed to make me invisible.
I was flummoxed! Personal and heartfelt messages I took the time to send were opened, read and then ignored. I could not decide how to handle this development. I have to confess that the gamut of emotions and feelings I processed was extraordinary! It went from “Wtf?!” to “What did I do wrong?” to “Man, I need new friends.”
But I couldn’t truly slog through all of those horrible and gut wrenching feelings when there were the most lovely human beings out there that were holding me up and carrying me forward. I do have some fantastic people in my life that paid attention, without me ever having to tell them how much I needed this attention at the moment. They believed in me. They were listening to me and responding.
So how do you contend with the ones that dismiss you, when you have so many that don’t?
I was a little disappointed, but no more disappointed in them, as I was in myself. What could I have done to at least get a response? So I started feeling my way around with just asking a few folks why they decided that not responding at all was much better than just telling me no. The beggar on the sidewalk was rattling her cup and stepping in their way. What kind of reaction was I going to get?
I started out by reminding them we were friends. In the beginning, I only personally contacted people I knew. These were folks that had actually seen the whites of my eyes at some time during our connection. It wasn’t until later that I broadened my outreach. I told them it was okay to tell me no, or not right now, or even perhaps if they disagreed with what I was campaigning for, but to respond to me was kind of important to me.
One of my friends was so incredibly sweet to me when I told her how foolish I felt for even starting this. Who did I think I was? Her kindness and warmth went a long way with me and because of her, I left the campaign up, rather than just deleting the whole thing and giving up. I owe her a deep debt of gratitude.
One guy took one of my reasons and simply copied it back and sent the response to me with an “Um” in front of it. I sat staring at the screen in amazement. That was kind of gutsy. It was also kind of heartless and not very friendly. It wasn’t a multiple choice question. It was a plea from a friend. When it doesn’t feel like friendship I’m not going to remain connected, so I deleted this person with no regret.
The majority of folks responded with their news. I was truly happy for one of them that wrote that she had taken a look at my message during a very busy time at work and made a mental note to write me back, but time got away from her. She thanked me for the reminder. I wrote her back letting her know that I was thrilled that her dreams at work were finally coming true and how elated I was that she was so busy and booked up! That’s great news and should be celebrated! Besides the fact she rocks anyway!
The ones that hurt the most were the deflections. Those are pretty painful even on a good day, but under these circumstances, they hurt even worse.
Don’t ever tell me to not take something like this personally! When you start throwing that kind of shade in my direction, you’ve just thrown down the gauntlet. How could I take this any other way, except personally? I personally wrote to you and you personally ignored it. Let’s face facts. It’s personal. Take your dismissive response and shove it right up your ass.
One friend responded back saying she was sick and I shouldn’t take it so personally, because she hadn’t even been on Facebook anyway. This was after I had sent her three messages over the course of five days. I sent the link, an explanation and a followup message asking if she had seen them, all of which she had opened, read and ignored, while she continued to post on Facebook. I replied that how would I know she was sick when we weren’t communicating and that I could see she was reading the messages. I told her to get well soon. She wrote back telling me she was really busy and there were lots of people she hadn’t responded to and stuff was piling up. And so, here it was. I know a deflection when I read one and I’m not sorry for asking a friend to answer my message. So I told her that I too was very busy. The world is busy. But I am never too busy to respond to my friends.
You see, that’s the real issue here. When you are too busy to respond to a friend, then it’s time to reconsider that friendship.
While I’m at it, let me just address the whole myth people like to share about “not being on Facebook”. You aren’t fooling anyone anymore with the stance that you’re over Facebook and don’t check in to see what everyone is doing anymore. The Facebook Ticker that everyone was up in arms about surely busts 99% of the people that claim they don’t check Facebook daily, if at all. When you finally take the time to respond to me, telling me how you’re never on Facebook and don’t see these messages, make damn sure you’re not responding to me using the Facebook app, Messenger, that posts messages right to your cellphone, because I AM NOT STUPID.
I’m not sure when it became cool to deny logging into your Facebook account and surfing the Newsfeed, or posting pictures and maybe doing a status update. I don’t know when it became okay to shame someone that still does all those things. I’m not someone that can toss out those kinds of aspersions because I do check Facebook everyday and it’s not because I don’t have a life. I actually do have a life and many of my friends that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to see or hang out with because they live on the opposite coast, are now a part of it because of Facebook.
When someone tells me they aren’t on Facebook these days, I simply decide in my own head that they just aren’t paying attention to me and this is their way of subtly letting me know they either think I’m boring, overbearing, don’t want to be seen partaking in my Facebook feed, or maybe they just don’t like me and don’t know how to tell me that. It happens. If you have a Facebook account, you are on Facebook. The folks that aren’t on Facebook, don’t have an account, or they just opened their account and are learning how to use it. It’s just that simple, so let’s stop the bullshit. You are on Facebook. You just aren’t on there looking at me. You have no intention of ever participating in anything I do on there. So why try to make me feel better about the fact that you’re ignoring me? It’s not like we’re friends, right? fucking irony. and sarcasm.
As I started to broaden my campaign beyond my own personal circle of friends, I picked folks that I just knew would want to participate and see this as a worthy cause they wanted to help me promote. I picked people that were big voices of Facebook and other social media and wasn’t as interested in their monetary donation, as I was in their online support. Boy, was I wrong!
This brought me my first round of gaslighting.
Gaslighting can be accomplished several different ways, but it is simply bending another person’s perspective of the truth of what happened, so you can either manipulate them, or shame them into submission.
I sent out the link and asked that my friend take a look and consider sharing it with his thousands of friends. I told him I respected his background and knew his support would lend a lot of street cred to my campaign. I was honored to be able to share this with him. Then I waited. And waited and waited. He read my message within an hour of me sending it to him and had continued posting on Facebook every hour of the day since, but couldn’t respond to my message. This is a person that is on Facebook 24/7 and that’s no exaggeration.
Finally after six days I sent him another message. I told him that I had seen his own campaign for fund raising that was kind of a parody , but it still raised about $400, and was so sure he would be interested in supporting mine. Then I told him that it was okay that he didn’t respond and thanked him for the “blow off”. It was something I said in jest because I knew he would get that kind of humor. I was also disgusted that here was someone that took fund raising on his own as a joke, but couldn’t even respond to me, someone that was serious about it. It’s nice to be funny, but take your friend’s request for help seriously. Well, he definitely got it! Not even fifteen minutes later he wrote back, “What on earth are you talking about?” Oh, so this was how he was going to handle the fact that I confronted him? He was going to pretend he didn’t know what I was referring to. He was going to attempt making me sound crazy for saying this to him. How dare I?! Like my friend Paula would tell you, Gaslighting 101.
And isn’t it a wild coinkydink that he could respond to this message in fifteen minutes, but it took him six whole days to even “see” the first one? Really?
He knew what I was talking about. This is someone that is on Facebook way too often for a message to be something he’s not paying attention to. He read my message, saw that there was absolutely nothing there that would ever benefit him personally and then he blew it off. That much was clear. He thought I’d go quietly into the night like most everyone else would. When I didn’t follow the pattern, he decided to shame me for continuing to engage him. I don’t shame so easily. When I replied back to him, reminding him of his sense of humor, he scolded me for calling him out on his behavior, “Here’s a little tip for ya, lady!”. I finally just gave up and played to his ego, disentangled myself from yet another malignant narcissist and restricted his access to my Facebook feed. I will eventually delete him too. Wow! Talk about a brush with evil!
The one friend that I kept writing to that read each message, continued to post political memes on Facebook everyday, but never took one moment to respond to me, his friend in real life, got the ax too. But not before I told him how his behavior looked. When you can be this dismissive about personal messages from a friend, but continue to think being connected to them on social media is okay, then you are one arrogant bastard. You aren’t too busy to write to me. You just don’t feel like it. And you’re dismissal of me means I’m just not interested in being connected to you anymore.
Has social media turned us into monsters?
Or were we already monsters, and social media has just amplified it and made it more apparent to everyone else?
Now allow me to tell you about the ones that did respond to me. I’m not just referring to the people that donated, though they are the angels among us. I’m talking about each and every one that wrote me back when I sent out the initial message or the followup message with words of kindness and understanding and support. These are the folks that truly see others. They are listening and they are reacting. There is no hidden agenda and they aren’t there because there is something in it for them. They are there because they are human beings that want to lift up another human being.
Those are the people I want to be when I grow up!
I don’t want to be the person that makes an excuse about why I was shitty to my friend.
There are no excuses that will ever be good enough to share when you’re shitty to your friends.
I don’t want to be the person that ignores my friend when they come to me and ask for my help.
If you ask for my help, I’ll be there and if I can’t be there right at that moment, I’ll rearrange my life to be there soon!
I don’t want to be the friend that resents my friend because they might be inconvenient sometimes.
We are all inconvenient at times. That’s called being alive! I refuse to be the person that shoves you away simply because you can’t be the person I want you to be. You be you, baby! I’ll be the friend that adapts, just like you’ll adapt on those days when I just can’t get it together.
I don’t want to be the person that tries to shame my friend when they tell me I’m being bad.
If they’re a real friend, they are just trying to help you. There is no shame in that game.
I don’t want to be the friend that ignores you.
And I’m not. That’s why when you don’t respond to me the first time, I will try again and I will keep trying until you tell me you’re okay. Don’t shame me for continuing to try.
This is what I have learned about myself. I have learned about the kind of friend I am to people I consider to be my friends and I have learned how I don’t want to treat my friends. I want to embrace them with the same perseverance and tenacity of spirit that I have for myself. I want them to feel the privilege of unconditional love. I want them to know I am seeing them, they exist for me, they are real to me, they matter. So in this way the fund raising has also raised a keen and valuable sense of who I am and how I treat the people that I hold close to my heart.
It has also taught me that it is okay to say no, just as it is okay to sever ties with friends that don’t treat me with the same respect. Like I said, when it stops feeling friendly, it’s probably time to stop being friends.
Good luck out there with all of your campaigns, whether they be to raise awareness about current events, or to teach us about ourselves and improve. Love to you all!!