January 7, 2013

All I ever needed to know I learned from Blogging and Facebook (AKA How not to be an asshole)

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. Ever. All a new year means to me is that I just survived 2 weeks of having my family all up in my grill, and that it’s time to buy another calendar. Yes, I still buy real, live, old timey, paper calendars. When it come to using the electronic versions, I am kinda like the Clint Eastwood character in every movie from the past 5 years. I don’t understand them, they make me grumpy, I call them bad names, they don’t work right, I don’t trust them, and if they get on my lawn I will threaten to beat them up.

That last part didn’t really make much sense, but I think you get my point.

We all know that 99.9% of the people that make these resolutions never follow through with them. I am no different. I am the 99.9% and that knowledge keeps me from wasting my time and going around bragging to everyone about all the amazing things I’m gonna do every year, that never actually come to fruition. I’m not even gonna promise myself that I am gonna accomplish a shower on any particular day, let alone quit eating sugar, run a marathon, or build my own space ship out of tin cans, an old fridge, and lawn mower motors or something. I know this about myself and I am totally okay with it.

I think that the only people who do well with resolutions are competitive people. And me? I’m not really a competitive person. Ask The Hub. That man refuses to play a board game with me and my family members due to the fact that if you land on Park Place and I own it and you have fallen on rough times, I won’t make you pay. And if I had to mortgage my railroad, you can bet your sweet ass that my mom or my sister will loan me money so that I can get it back, with a little extra left over for cushion. And if you win the game I’ll be all “You did a really great job and should totally be proud!” which does nothing if not annoy the crap out of a competitive person.

The only reason I have ever been competitive in my life is if I hate your guts. But I’m 41 years old now, and at this point in my life there isn’t really anyone whose guts I hate. Don’t get me wrong, there are people that I don’t like. There are people that I don’t like a lot. But not many. And even if I don’t like someone a lot, I try my best not to waste any extra energy hating them. I just try to pretend they don’t exist. When I was a kid I was different. I hated a neighbor girl, and I was competitive as all get out. That girl was an unholy, a-holey, terror, whose bitchy attitude culminated in the Pac Man-athon of 1982 in which I showed her who the Atari Queen of the neighborhood REALLY was. And in high school I went to extraordinary, calculatingly genius lengths to get back at a few people who had done me wrong. But nowadays I’m more of a “Good luck getting through life being such an a-hole” kinda person who can walk away from almost anything, knowing that karma will take care of things and it’s not my place to interfere. Most of the time I can even find a positive lesson to take from it, too.

I sound really grown up right now don’t I? I think I do. Don’t be frightened. It’s probably just a phase.

Since I know that me and resolutions don’t mix, instead of making all these promises to myself about what I’m going to accomplish this year, I’ve decided to focus on what I learned last year that might come in handy in the year ahead. Yes. It’s positivity time, people. Deal with it.

So last year I learned that I don’t wanna be an asshole.

Let me elaborate.

When I first starting Facebooking, I was a little more sassy with a bigger dash of smart-assey. And not always in the tongue-in-cheek, silly way that I am now.  I wrote more rants. I complained more. I thought that being more bitchy was funny. And maybe it was for awhile. I didn’t really know where I belonged in the great wide world of the interwebs. I was all alone writing my little blog for about 2 years before I found Facebook, and I really had no idea how to translate what I did on my blog to the whole Facebook situation. I felt like the new kid at school. I didn’t know any other bloggers before then, and for the first time ever I was “meeting” other people who had blogs and pages.

It’s easy to get sucked in to a false sense of community in that kind of situation. You want to be liked and to fit in. You trust people. You think they are your friends. You want to be a part of it. It turns out to be a lot like high school, except it’s much easier to misjudge people when they can hide behind a computer and an internet persona. There are people who plot against each other, get jealous, and act like total jackwagons. People lie. People pretend to be people they aren’t. People try to manipulate you. People use you to benefit their own blogs or pages. People get angry if you don’t “share” their page or promote them or whatever. Some people think that because they have X amount of “fans” they are famous.

It’s easy to get a bit wrapped up in the whole world of Facebook Fame and forget one tiny thing: It doesn’t matter. Just because people “like” what you post on Facebook doesn’t mean ANYTHING in your real life. It’s great to have people like a photo or some meme you shared that 1,000 other people have shared too, but that really has nothing at all to do with you. Anyone can share a meme. Anyone can get likes for regurgitating something a thousand other people have already posted. So holy ballsack, people. It’s ridiculous for anyone to let it all go to their head and think they are special and amazing.

Blogging and Facebooking can become an addiction. I had times where I would sit around with my nose in my computer or my iPhone, with such a hard-on for getting virtual attention, that I would forget what was going on around me. I had real life people around me who wanted to spend time with me but I was sucked into some BS internet world. That was me being an asshole. I’ve learned that my life as an internet goofball, while fun and entertaining, doesn’t define me. If everyone unliked my page tomorrow, it would have absolutely zero effect on who I am as a person. Likewise, if a million people were to suddenly like me overnight, it would in no way change who I am inside. I’d be exactly the same person that I am now. Either way, the people who know me and who love me for real, would still be there if I had no page or blog. Those are the people who deserve my attention. In the very beginning of Facebookarama, I may have briefly lost sight of that. I have it back now, and it won’t happen again.

Although I’ve met plenty of internet “friends” who turned out to be assholes, I’ve also met some who have turned out to be real life friends that I can trust and who I hope to know for a long time. You just have to learn to choose wisely and weed out the wankers. It can totally be done. You just have to be careful.

I have found that lots of the people I have gotten to know, and trust, and admire, are often people who also have blogs. I started as a blogger who got a Facebook page because a reader set it up for me and said “Here…now you have to write on it.” I like to write little stories about my life, and luckily I discovered that I can also do that on Facebook. I like to think of my page as an opportunity to write mini-blogs. Or long-ass statuses. However you wanna look at it. But either way I am a storyteller, and my stories are about my real life stuff. Do I tell everything? No. I tell the funny stuff, because that’s the stuff I choose to focus on and that’s the tone of my page and blog. Does it mean that every day of my life is amazing? No way. But that’s not what I choose to write about on a day to day basis, and it’s not what I choose to share with thousands of people.

But the pages that I love are the ones who tell the funny and the sad, and tell it well. Those are the ones that inspire me and have become my friends and are the ones that I trust. Pages like I Want a Dumpster Baby, The Klonopin Chronicles, Slice of Humble, It’s Cool to be OCD, The Crumb Diaries, among others, as well as a few that are newer to me, like Mary Tyler Mom. These are the people that I find to be inspiring and truthful and doing it all for the right reasons. Not for money or internet fame. They write because they have to write. It’s just who they are. People reading it and enjoying it is just icing on the cake. Because of them I’ve learned that finding “real” people in Facebooklandia is possible, and I like to think that I’ve also learned how to be a better person because of finding good people.

I sort of had an epiphany last year when I realized that the ridiculousness of what I do actually mattered to some people. I started getting more and more email from readers who were going through some really bad times. Job loss, illness, and the deaths of spouses, parents, and children. These people told me their stories and said that I made them laugh in the midst of whatever horrors they were going through. One woman thanked me for making her mother laugh while she was dying in hospice, and giving her the memory of her mom’s laughter instead of her pain. Another woman told me that her young daughter had cancer, and they enjoyed reading my stories during hospital stays. She wrote me again yesterday and let me know that her daughter had passed away.

Although I don’t know these people in real life, I cried for them. Like, snot all over my shirt kinda cried. It humbles me to realize that my stupid little stories about The Cat and walking around Target with underwear stuck to my back -stories of absolutely no depth or purpose- can affect people deeply. Here I was, writing all this nonsense, only to find out that I was somehow a part of someone’s last moments with their mother. Or part of a few final giggles with their daughter. This realization has not only changed the way that I think about everything that I do, but it’s also literally changed me as a person. It’s made me thankful that I am lucky enough to have not only my health, but my family’s as well. It’s made me hug a little tighter and kiss a little longer. I don’t care how many people like my page or read my blogs. I would take the 2 stories I just shared with you over a million more readers, or any amount of money or fame, all day, every day.

Last year I started a Zazzle store to sell Mom-Brain stuff. People had been asking me to do this for awhile, but I didn’t want to because it made me feel like an asshole. I didn’t want to slap my name on something and ask people to give me money for it. Not that there’s anything wrong with other people doing that, there’s just something inside of me that could not do it. I didn’t want to feel like I was making money off of the people who are kind enough to read what I write. So what I decided to do was to start a store and give the money to charity. I choose a different one each month, and when people buy my stuff, that’s where the money goes. It’s not an avalanche of cash or anything, but it’s a decent amount, and it makes me feel okay with asking people to buy things if it’s for a good cause. I also think it helps people feel good about themselves to know that they helped someone too. My hope is that in addition to raising a little bit of money and awareness for these causes, I can inspire people like so many have inspired me.

Hearing stories like the two I told above, and promoting charities, helps me feel like I have a purpose for what I do. I have more readers than I could have ever imagined, so why not use that exposure to do something good. It’s not about me. It’s about what positive things can I do to deserve having the attention of so many people. That’s what I needed to justify taking time out of my real life to do what I was doing. A purpose. I have no desire to make money for myself, or become famous, or pump up my ego.

There were points last year when I was disgusted with the whole catty and often mean-spirited Facebook thing, and even thought about shutting my page down. It’s the amazing bloggers who inspire me, and the people who write to me and comment on my posts, and the discovery that I can do what I do and help people while doing it, that have kept me around, and even inspired me to attempt to write a book. It’s discovering that telling my silly stories can bring positivity to someone else’s life, or change the entire course of their day. It definitely goes both ways. Finding out that I made a stranger laugh can make my whole week better. I have realized that there are some really amazing people out there that I would like to know, and who feel like they already know me. People who let me into their lives every day, by taking the time to read about mine.

Each of you, whether it was good or bad, have taught me something in the last year. You are all, in your own ways, keeping me from becoming an asshole. And for that, I thank you. Even the assholes.


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23 Responses to “All I ever needed to know I learned from Blogging and Facebook (AKA How not to be an asshole)”

  1. The Madwoman Said:

    I’m so glad that you wrote this. Because it’s helping me to put the whole blogging thing into perspective too. I wonder every day why I do this? Why do I tell people so much about myself? It’s kind of weird. I don’t want to be some weirdo oversharer. But I get tons of those emails too…from people who are suicide survivors, and it’s those emails that make me keep sharing. Because I can’t believe the things they say to me and the positive effect my little words can have on people suffering immensely. People have questioned the ads on my blog, inferring that I’m some asshole trying to make a buck off the blog. I allowed it to make me feel bad about myself. But I’m not going to anymore. I’m an unexpected single mom of 3 kids with no job. My blog puts gas in my car. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. See, oversharing again. Thanks for writing this and please Write the book.

  2. Patti Ford Said:

    Thank you for the comment! It IS an odd thing, really. People assume we are all attention whores too, and that’s often the case but not always. Even when nobody paid attention to what i wrote, I still wrote. And if you need the money there’s nothing wrong with making money from it. You better believe that I’d do the same! I promise to work on the book! xoxo

  3. Dawn Said:

    Ah, this was very heart-touching! I even teared up. <3 you!

  4. Patti Ford Said:

    Thank you! xoxo

  5. Anonymous Said:

    this blog is why people love you – you don’t try to be something you are not – i know i live vicariously thru you – things i would find hysterical but do not have the guts to do or say.
    Thank you for being my voice 🙂

  6. CinDeeLuhu Said:

    I’m hugging you in my mind. Good stuff, Sis. A lot of people will identify with it and say quietly to themselves, “Aha! I knew I was right about her!” =)

  7. What I Really Meant To Say Said:

    How many times I have read your blog and said “oh god….this iis my favorite” and it was……until this. This….this is my favorite. I don’t comment much, but I needed to here. My favorite…..until the next one.

  8. Patti Ford Said:

    What a nice comment! Thank you much!

  9. A Moms Life Said:

    Perfect. I am fairy new to the blogging world and this was just what I needed to read. I especially love that you donate from your Zazzle store for charity. I also have a Zazzle shop for the same reason. I plan to donate all profit to SIDS research. Where can I find a link to your Zazzle store?

  10. Patti Ford Said:

    It’s on my blog. Home page. Just look from your computer and not phone!
    Thank you!

  11. M Wong Said:

    This has inspired me to get the fuck off FB and make some art. You’re wonderful.

  12. Patti Ford Said:

    Thank you! xoxo

  13. Weightloss Nutjob Said:

    It’s great that you have found a way to separate home and work. So many people get so sucked into the virtual world that they are oblivious to those around them. That’s why I stopped my blog for a while. I need to focus on my hub and daughters and not the computer.

  14. Amanda Said:

    Patti, ur fricken awesome! You make me laugh with every status update! I’m not really a comment-er, but I just had to say, this blog really touched me,,,,,it makes me happy to hear about people doing good things, and not letting a little bit of attention go to their heads. We are all in this together, and more people need to be like you!

  15. Anonymous Said:

    you know, you made me realize that I don’t hate anyone either, yeah, some ppl I don’t care much for, and some ppl ARE assholes, they just can’t seem to help it, but there isn’t anyone I truly hate………….write that book, lady………….you give me a giggle every now and then and we can ALL use a giggle 🙂

  16. neleh Said:

    Patti you have outdone yourself by being yourself! Never change sweet lady!!!! We adore you!!

  17. Anonymous Said:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. Shawna Said:

    I recently deleted my facebook page and I totally miss your statuses! But at least I still have your blog. I really appreciate your blog, you change a bad day into a good one just by making me laugh and you have also made life not so serious, I now have added a little bit of goofiness to my life which gets me and my kids through the day with a smile on our faces, and I just plain feel better about myself because I have started to look on the bright side instead of focusing on the negative! Please NEVER stop blogging! You are amazing and I thank you for your silliness! 🙂

  19. Anonymous Said:

    I think your blog is so successful because you do a good job of making your life and even little mundane things like taking kids to school sound interesting and funny. And I probably have lots of moments like that too, if I were brave enough to go over the top and talk about my poops and stuff on the internets. That’s not a criticism—I wish I could be more out there, but I am still the kind of girl that only shares poop stories with family and close friends. I’m not ready for the entire cyberworld to know my business. Although there is this really funny blog about poop (http://www.poopreport.com/Intellectual/Content/Dye/dye.html)– ps this is not my blog and I’m not promoting it but thought you might want to see it, it’s pretty funny– and also one about peeing on a stick (http://www.peeonastick.com/), that I sometimes look on. The pee on a stick one is this lady who is obsessed with pregnancy tests, and she like, pees on them a lot and plays around with them and takes them apart and puts different stuff on them, like breast milk and Kool-aid and stuff, just to see what will happen. It’s kind of scientific and kind of just totally nutso. And the poop one—one time I had this poop that was so bright green I couldn’t even look at it. I thought for sure I’d been irradiated by gamma rays and would be turning into Bruce Banner aka the Hulk any minute. I was good and scared, let me tell you. So I went online with my super hypochondriac research skills and found this blog. And it turns out if you eat a lot of candy with blue dye in it, or black licorice, as was the case with me, your poop will turn a brilliant shade of chartreuse. It’s quite lovely when you realize there’s no reason to be alarmed. But wow, would I write that on my blog? I don’t think I could. Your post made me reevaluate my entire belief in the blog concept and why the heck I’m doing this… wow. Major impact: landed. 🙂 Okay now I have to decide if I’m posting this anonymously or not…bravery? Hmm.

  20. Leslie @ The Bearded Iris Said:

    This was so refreshing! I can see why you have such loyal fans and readers – you are really delightful and authentic…the perfect combo of big balls, funny bone, and heart. So nice to meet you!

  21. RachRiot Said:

    I feel exactly the same about getting caught up in the intenets. It’s not real. Sometimes I feel like an attention whore and sometimes I feel like, well, this is what I love to do- make people laugh. Maybe that’s my path. According to some, I make their day brighter, and I know you do, too. You do that for me and inspire me to keep writing. Love you, Patti Cakes and looking forward to meeting you IRL!! OH, IT’S HAPPENING!

  22. Anonymous Said:

    If I had a flat patti, I would dance around with you in my living room to cheesy 80’s hair band songs – that’s how much I love you! You make me laugh till i pee on a daily basis. if you lived in boston, we’d totally be bffs…or i would just tell people we were 🙂

  23. Anonymous Said:

    Thank you, Patti, for mentioning me there at the end.Also, I like that you keeps it real and that while you often have your head in the clouds, your feet are planted firmly on the ground 🙂

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