Most of us have a passing knowledge of the accepted Five Stages of Death, a model by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. While I in no way wish to make light of the powerful force that is death, or to mock the work of Dr. Kubler-Ross, it hit me like a brick the other day that this model is applicable to so many other phenomena we encounter every day. For this effort, I wish to focus on The Five Stages of Social Media. It shouldn’t escape you they bear a striking resemblance to the Kubler-Ross model. Coincidence? I don’t know. Conspiracy? I’m sure someone will get back to me on that.
Stage 1 – Denial. You are new to…let’s say Facebook. You are so excited to have nearly instant access to friends across the country, the world. You’ve heard friends complain but their experience is not yours at all. You are right there to see their children, their animals, see photos of their vacations. Everyone, and I mean everyone sends you a friend request. You can’t believe you have that many great friends. You have the ability to discuss important topics of the day and contribute to great causes all with the click of a mouse. No, your friends are wrong, this is amazing!
Stage 2 – Anger. You bring your cup of coffee to the computer, log in to your account and, oh great, the first fifteen posts are from, wait, who is that again? Do you even know her? Maybe she was one of the requests you accepted when you were trying to get more friends than that bitch, Sunny, who has 1600 Facebook friends but you know she doesn’t have any actual friends. Today’s poster has shared countless political memes that aren’t even spell-checked, photos of obscene vegetables, and some with her boyfriend at a concert, both flipping off the camera. A left-wing, tree hugging friend has shared so many shots of injured animals, starving children, and polluted oceans you are on the guilt-trip from hell and you can actually hear ‘Kumbaya” playing in your head. A right-wing, ‘give-me-liberty-or-give-me-death’ friend is throwing up so much partisan garbage you can almost hear their fingers as they pound the keyboard and see the foamy spittle forming at the corner of their mouth.
Stage 3 – Bargaining. Several days later you are faced with everything from your last Facebook visit and more. In addition to lectures on politics and human relations you are bombarded with photos of missing children or animals that with one click you can determine are no longer missing. Look! A 103 year old Civil War vet (yes, I did say Civil War) that has no further wish on this, the occasion of his 103rd anniversary of entrance to a long and fulfilling life, than to receive 10000 likes, and of course, the information gathering bots masquerading as ‘tests’ to determine what your astrological sign says about your preference in men. You are nominated by 25 of your nearest and dearest to post photos of who knows what. What do all these have in common? They are striking a deal, of course. There are even some that actually promise you bad luck if you don’t pass them along.
Stage 4 – Depression. You leave the computer every day in despair. Everything in the world is in ruin; you know it because you saw it on Facebook. You can’t believe your friends are so f@%&ing stupid. You’ve been chided by someone you don’t even know who told you that the 6 million plus people in the world that have contracted Covid-19 did so because they couldn’t “self-manage their exposure” to the virus. You have been sanctimoniously scolded that “unemployment is up due to loss of jobs”. That one ellicits a mouth wide open, hands on cheeks dumbfounded reaction a la Macauley Culkin in Home Alone. But mostly you are disgusted with yourself that you rise to the ridiculous bait some people throw out there yet you are thoughtful enough not to correct their spelling.
Stage 5 – Acceptance (or in this case, Hilarity). Suddenly, one day the complete absence of hope and sense of distress washes away and you begin to laugh. Most of this crap is actually hilarious. The fact that people think they are demonstrating on a daily basis how ‘woke’ they really are and that anyone else cares, the fact that 90% of them have not figured out what tools Photoshop and creative writing actually are. It is side-splittingly funny the offense that is taken over nothing, and it’s really fun to count how many women are photographed in the exact same pose. You see the lecture from the person several generations younger than you are about what they learned in their Political Science class for what it is…hysterical. But overall, you are through it. You become quite liberal with unfriending and unfollowing and you keep the people that you started this for; those with shared experiences and memories that have shown you who they are, really are, time and again rather than what they wear, what they eat, and just how cool they are. You’ve made the choice to retain the social part of the experience and renounce the media part. You have finally seen the experience for the narcissistic rubbish that it is while accepting the little bit of narcissism in us all. There’s a smile on your face and a big sigh of relief…you made it!