My Number Is 10

“Hey Chris.. guess what? I’ve been given a number!” I whisper excitedly, glancing above my Android to where my husband is sitting on the couch.

He lifts one of his eyebrows. “A number?”

“Yes,” I nod in assent, repositioning myself on the couch, tucking my leg under me, and beginning to briefly explain the process.

“There’s this thing that’s been going around on Facebook. I’ve seen several people start a status off with ‘I received this number,’ and then they use that number to list little facts about themselves.. anyways, I liked those statuses and then those people either inboxed me a number (my number) or responded to their status in a comment, giving me my number. Soooo,” I continued, smiling excitedly, “now I get to post a certain number of facts about myself.” I smiled cutely, waiting for his response.

“That’s so stupid, Rose.” He rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and returns his attention to his mobile device.

And I knew that he would say that.. that it was stupid. And for a few days, I thought that he was right. I felt silly and teenagerish and stupid for feeling excited about my number (at this point, I’ve received so many numbers from so many different people that I’ve had to calculate a rough average: my number is 10).

Over the past week, I’ve spent time scrolling through my news feed, and a few times each day, another friend of mine would declare their number and share personal facts, hobbies, fears, childhood memories, likes, dislikes and dreams in a post about themselves. And I really enjoyed reading what people’s responses to their numbers were; some people took their mission lightly, sharing cute stuff like their favorite clothing item, restaurant or shopping store, while others opened themselves up in a significantly deeper way, sharing nostalgic memories, truly remarkable life events, artistic pursuits, and just generally meaningful aspects of their personal life journeys. It was all very interesting — remarkably more interesting than Facebook typically is — and I enjoyed seeing new faces declare their numbers each day.

After receiving and ignoring ten different numbers that were given to me, I decided to re-evaluate my own personal stance on the number game.

“I’m enjoying learning little things about other people,” I forced myself to admit, “so why not share stuff about me too? What’s the problem? What makes the number game so stupid and juvenile? Why ignore the number?”

And thus I was forced to consider the matter. In all honesty, I probably analyzed the whole thing way more than was necessary and gave more thought than is reasonable to the matter — it’s a Facebook thing; it can’t be that deep. But still, I’d like to share a few (literally – a few) little observations that I’ve made (as well as, at the end of this post, my number).

So, on the agenda, I have two topics that I would like to cover today.

First: (question) Why do people like to share information about themselves?

Second: (statement) Why I think the words “different,” “weird” and “crazy” are desperately, horribly, irritatingly overused.

 

So.. why do people like talking about themselves? I mean — me. Why do I like sharing personal information? Photos, thoughts, random little facts? Both in person and over the internet? Why does it make me smile when Chris comes home from work with a holiday tin of yogurt covered pretzels? Is it simply because I like them, or is it because he remembered that I like them? (really, it’s half and half). But you can see the point that I’m making..

Why do YOU like for people to know stuff about you, and remember stuff about you? Or can I say, to know you? Why is it so important for us to be recognized, realized and understood? Why do we like to be positively associated with certain things — things that we like? For example, I love bunnies, guitars, Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream and ice skating, so I like to think that when others (and I mean people who know me well) stumble across these things, they think of me. But why do I want that sense of association or ownership with these words, thoughts, things and ideas?

 

Back in the days of infant Academia (elementary school), my *favorite* days of class were the first days of class. The very first day. My clothes looked sharp and were perfectly coordinated in color, my folders and notebooks showcased pictures of things that I liked at the time and my backpack smelled fantastically new. The first trip to the bus stop was always nervously but eagerly anticipated — what assortment of folks will be traveling with me to class this year? And then, at school, which class will I have first, who will my teacher be, and what types of children will constitute my pack this year?

Typically, you’d walk into class and the teacher would have a seating chart of sorts. All of us kids would stream into class and stand awkwardly near the room’s entrance until each of us would finally hear our name called. I always breathed a mental sigh of relief as the teacher gestured that I sit at a desk located towards the middle-front of the room (the back of the room always seemed ominous and distracting to me). So then you’d sit there in your desk, with a colorful blank notebook lying in front of you and your brand new backpack sitting awkwardly on the floor, while the teacher finished her work of assigning seats. After a brief introduction involving the teacher and the purpose of the class itself, the predictable and exciting “first-day-of-class” activity would present itself: “Now class, we will go across the room and give brief little introductions of ourselves,” the teacher would smile encouragingly. I’m remembering Ms. Brasco, my 1st grade teacher in South Carolina: she was in her early fifties and tall and lanky, with short and fiery red hair and brown, squinty eyes. “When I call your name,” Mrs. Brasco continued, “just stand up –” here the class would gasp a little, “or sit,” she followed up quickly, motioning for us to calm down, “and announce your name, your favorite color, and your favorite thing to do.” The questions would vary over the years, and the “introduction method” or style would change also, but the idea was always the same: get to know the people around you and share with them some of the highlights about who you are. I always loved these group initiations. Learning about people was fascinating, and as the teacher went around the room and her gaze drew closer to me, I would think hard and deeply as I harnessed my thoughts about me; “what do you really want to say? what do you really want them to know about you?” and then I would share what I thought were my most interesting thoughts.

 

And today, life is the same. That’s why we have these social mediums: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (is that one still around?). All of these social media networking sites are little outlets and inlets that enable us to connect with people and to engage them — and in this internet age, we are able to limit the extent to which we engage the people in our lives to varying degrees by our own personal choosing and according to our comfort levels. We are able to probe into the lives of others, unknown, and conversely speaking, they are able to catch glimpses of our truest selves through our posts, comments, and photo updates as well as the little trivia games that pop up every now and then. Like this number game.

So, after all of that rambling, I guess it’s like this: people are intensely interested in other people, but are devotedly interested in themselves. You are yourself after all; aren’t you the most interesting person you know? And as much as I’m going to enjoy creating my little list of ten facts below, I’ll bet you $20.00 in cold, hard Monopoly cash that I’ll enjoy probing myself and delivering my responses more than you will enjoy reading them. And that’s okay. Perhaps just as important as sharing information with others for their benefit is the act of expressing ourselves, purely for our own benefit.

 

One last thing, and this is technically number two.

 

I noticed, with this number game (and in communications in general), that people frequently use the following adjectives to describe themselves: Crazy. Different. Weird. Craycray. Strange. Freaky.

Here are a few examples.

Example 1. “I’m really different and unusual and it’s hard for people to get me.”

Exhibit B. “I’m so crazy and just love to have fun.”

Scenario Blue. “I’m different and people tend to think I’m pretty freaky but I like being weird.”

Just stuff like that, you know. Now how can I put this delicately..

 

In a sense, it bugs the hell out of me.. people using these words. It’s like a constant cry for acknowledgement; I’m special! I’m not like anyone else! I’m DIFFERENT (aka you, reading this, are the mill of the run, everyday catch and find.. but I’m not!). And it just.. rubs me the wrong way. Reading declarations like these.

But then, in another sense, how can I really be perturbed? It’s simply what I just stated two sentences ago: a person asking to be recognized as “different,” and special, and unique. And there is certainly, absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 

But I guess that the heart of the problem with me, in having these words used so freely, is that we’re all different. We are all special and unique; it isn’t the “exceptional person” who is different — it’s all of us. There isn’t a set normal, and as much as we abide by stereotypes like “girly girl,” “tom boy,” “skank,” “athlete, “musician,” “stoner,” and “goody goody two shoes,” and labels like “photographer,” “free spirit, “hermit,” “introvert,” “extrovert,” “dreamer,” “optimist” and pessimist and neutralist and vegetarian and meat-a-tarian and princess of the bunnies and “gamer of the century….” where was I? right — as much as we seem to abide by all of these stereotypes, labels and mere adjectives, they can not and do not communicate the whole substance of a person.

All of these labels can be put to good use by being helpful in pinpointing certain attributes or features of a person, but they are all very general (and then, in a complete other sense – because I just love glaring contrasts – limiting). They don’t correctly paint the portrait of a person; rather, they give a hint at color, or an idea of texture. That’s how I see it. They, these adjectives and labels, are not to be picked, gathered and combined to form some kind of portrayal. They are simply facts and descriptions and little hints as to who a person is.

And that is why, alllll of these years, I have pretty successfully avoided labeling my own self as “weird” or “different” (and if you know me at all, then you know that I truly am off), because, by definition of the word (and not our common understanding of it), calling myself different would be like throwing the rest of the world into a plastic-sealed bag labeled “same.” That’s just dumb. And rude.

So, in beautiful conclusion, you are special. You are different. I love observing you and learning more about you, and I hope that you enjoy the personal and goofy insights that I choose to share with you.

 

My Number Is 10

So now, long at last, here are ten little facts and tidbits about me that you may or may not know. Regardless, these are what I’d like to share today.

1. I love vegetarian tacos so much that I could eat them every day. Consecutively. With no breaks. Ask Chris if you think I’m kidding; he has vegetarian chorizo practically oozing out of his ears (gross much? sorry).

2. I listen to the Spice Girls about twice a week. It’s a nostalgic kind of love.

3. I’m extremely proud of myself for pursuing a rinky-dink little Associates Degree for the past 2 and 1/2 years, forgoing quiet evenings in and fun weekends outdoors. Obtaining a degree is an important goal of mine, and I am now < 1 year away from achieving this milestone.

4. I love bunnies and the bun — well she is my spirit animal.

5. I spend a portion of each day daydreaming that I’m a videographer. I could film such interesting music videos.

6. I have always coveted boys. They make the best skateboarders and coolest musicians (girls voices typically irritate me with very few exceptions). Whenever I day-dream of being a stage musician (of the likes of Trent Reznor or the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or a famous actor (like Seth Rogen — see, I just did it again. I would technically be an actress), I picture myself as a guy. Which is weird.. because I’m not gay. Neither do I have homosexual tendencies. So it’s very interesting.

7. I talk to my German Shepherd in one voice and he responds in another (disclaimer: after reading this, you are NOT authorized to commit me).

8. I’ve never dyed my hair! Even though I’d love to have dark brunette hair (it’s the most gorgeous hair in the world), I just refuse. I wouldn’t take the time to keep up with it and I sort of pride myself in going “all natural.”

9. Growing up in an extremely religious home, I missed out on a lot of stuff during my school years. If I could go back in time and change one thing about my experience with middle- and high-school academia, I would love to have either been on a sports team or in a drama club. I think that acting or playing a sport, on a team, with other kids my age, would have been super fun.

10. I love rugs and candles, earth and pastel colors, and I intuitively know that I will never regret getting any of the tattoos on my body. I will always appreciate having little “landmarks of time” to look back on.

 

Until my next public wordiness,

Aun Aqui

21 Days Later

21 Days Later.

…Okay, it was actually, TECHNICALLY 22 days. But who’s counting? I like how “21 Days Later” sounds (is it because there’s a well-known movie that contains this time frame in its title? it’s unlikely), so we’re just not going to count one of the days that I spent off of Facebook. And yes… this post is alllll about Facebook, the social media/networking site that we I just hate to love (and love to hate).

I began this little “experiment” on October the 13th, a Sunday.. and initially, it began out of sheer irritation. With people.

Over the years, I’ve watched quietly as my “friendships” with people have turned into weekly “likes” and monthly “comments,” semi-annual “in-person” visits and annual “happy birthday” posts. And on Sunday, thinking about it just made me angry (coupled with seeing the same girl smiling in her stupid car seat and the other same girl standing awkwardly in front of her bathroom mirror.. for the seven hundredth friiiiiiickin time). I was sitting on the leather couch in our living room, legs tucked under me, leisurely looking at Facebook to pass the few intervening minutes before Chris and I would begin playing Heroes on Netflix when I suddenly stared down at my phone accusingly. The blue F logo seemed to shine more brightly and infuriatingly than ever. “You know you can’t stay away,” it seemed to scoff. “Are you challenging me?” I whispered inside my own head, raising one of my eyebrows in disgust. “You think that you can just replace eye contact, hugs, table side conversations and hearing someone laugh OUT LOUD with your crypt and html?” A vindictive idea hit me suddenly: leave Facebook.. but for just a little while. A set period of time. Show blue F that YOU are the boss, not some hopeless addict stalking the lives of grown up kids who don’t give a hail mary about you.

I had seen too many of my friends declare their hatred and disapproval of Facebook and then rashly delete their Facebook accounts, only to reopen these same accounts a month (or even a week) later. So I told my little world of family and friends that I would be taking a Facebook hiatus… that I would be back in December, and that if anyone wished to contact me in the meantime, my email was provided in the status update. I posted the status with a satisfying click and smiled to myself approvingly; “thisssss will be an interesting experiment!”

With all of this new information and all of these intriguing ideas developing in my head (and about five minutes into my “experiment” — it may have been three), I noticed that Chris was taking a long time coming in making his way downstairs, so I absentmindedly reached over for my phone and tapped the blue F —- completely out of habit. I caught myself quickly, a little surprised, and then decided that I would need to take things a step further by creating some preventative measures. Yes, it was decided; I definitely needed to set some boundaries so as to safeguard my resolution. I proceeded to delete the Facebook app from my phone and then sighed in relief. Now, keeping my promise would be easier.

It was a long time coming. For too many months, I’d hear Christopher droning on in the background while I scrolled mindlessly through my Newsfeed, only to, five minutes later (after he had left the room), perk up and ask, guiltily, “Whatttt were you just saying?” Car rides to and from school that used to be scenic and an ideal time for conversation turned into official Facebook catch-up times, and driving myself to work and back became a safety hazard as I routinely hugged a bowl of cereal in between my legs, brushed my hair with my left hand and tried, with my other free hand, to respond legibly to private messages and public comments on my wall.

So an eventual break was inevitable, and upon making my resolution, my mind immediately drifted to my blog, and my irritation-infused break from Facebook quickly became an exciting sort of “experimental endeavor” to see how many of my friends would reach out (ie how many people that claimed to be my friend really cared about me) during my absence.

So yes. This whole Facebook Hiatus, 21-days later business began as a sort of pity party.. a pathetic idea of pronouncing open judgement on the 442 people that called themselves my friends — turning them into guinea rabbits and “scientifically” testing their affections and loyalties.

The following day, after Chris left for work around 4:40 in the morning, I reached my arm over to the nightstand and grabbed my phone. My early-morning routine is to “check up” on Facebook for a few minutes to help acclimate myself to an empty house and then, to fall back asleep. I stopped myself, staring into the dark, thinking “without Facebook.. what can I do on the internet?” I googled “news” and read up on a random article about something that didn’t interest me before moving on to news articles related to the recently shot Veronica Mars movie. They engaged me for about six or seven minutes but proved dissatisfying, so I checked to make sure my alarm was still on, set my phone back onto the night stand and tried to fall asleep.

The next day, I wondered if anyone had commented on my post. Or liked it. But I told myself… you’ll find out in December. Remember? You do not care. And they probably don’t either.

So passed Monday. My first day without Facebook.

Tuesday morning, Chris left for work and again, at 4:40 AM, I reached for my phone and wondered to myself, “what can I look up that will help me fall asleep?” Now, you first must understand that we’ve been studying Space in our Physical Science class, so I’ve pretty consistently had black holes, comets and gravitational wells on the mind. I have actually (despite my self-attested ‘non-scientific nature’) developed quite a liking for Space.. a fascination with it, really. So, at 4:44 in the morning, I decided to YouTube videos of Space. And I was successful.

For the past three weeks, I have spent my early mornings watching videos of Space, from simple satellite views and collages of stills to Felix Baumgartner’s daredevil free fall from 24 miles above the earth. It became habitual for me to google pictures of Space and wonder to myself what kind of Space tattoo I’d like to put on my wrist someday. I now consider Space as a dear interest of mine; we bonded during my absence from friends and I often picture myself, at night, before falling asleep, as suspended in space, looking down on earth as though it is something completely separate and distinct from me.. far, far away. One of my new goals in life is to ride the Virgin Galactic someday (or, fifty years from now when my hope is a tad bit more feasible but still a fantasy, whatever functions like the Virgin Galactic).

So my days passed uneventfully; the round of work and school and cleaning and shopping kept me busy and, without Facebook, life was quiet. I spent more time thinking and less time observing others. It was sort of relaxing (especially coupled with the fact that I picked my Yoga routine back up).

And, ultimately, I was able to prove that my suspicions were true: friendships “these days” are pretty darn superficial. Out of the 442 friends I boast on Facebook, 5 contacted me during my little hiatus… and it was all the ones that I expected would.

So! Was I successful? Sure.. I tested out my theory and, yes. People really don’t give many flying flamingoes about keeping in touch with acquaintance-friends. Good job, Rose! That’s a crazy, unexpected find.. but seriously, my mindset regarding the whole experiment changed pretty early on. Like… on day 2.

On day 2, I realized, this experiment isn’t to test the people that claim to be my “friends…” it’s to test me. On multiple levels.

Firstly, I let not using Facebook become an excuse to not contact people (people that I supposedly, purportedly care about and consider “friends”). It’s a two-way street, and to ignore and neglect people entirely is clearly seriously worse than soley using Facebook as a communication medium (it’s better than nothing, right?)

Secondly, the emphasis that I placed on how many people would contact me during my social media absence was a shitty idea of “scientific analysis.” Facebook friends aren’t best friends. ..does it even need saying? The term “Facebook friends” redefined itself for me during the past 21 days, and I’ll end with that.. in a moment.

Thirdly and mooooost importantly, my Facebook hiatus tested ME. What am I at the end of the day? Who? All likes and comments and friend counts aside, what is important to me and about me? What do I consist of? In what do I find personal value? What are my hobbies.. do I have any anymore? Do I make time for the people that I love? Am I negligent? Does Facebook become a barrier, or an excuse, or is a platform, a tool.. a surprisingly helpful medium?

And how did I spend my time during the past 21 days? The time that I used to spend on Facebook I spent, instead, playing the piano, watching videos of Space, doing some extra cleaning during the week and calling family members more. Mainly, my grandparents. It was a pretty fair trade off.. in some ways, life was better.

But I missed Facebook. True; 437 of the 442 friends on my Facebook page aren’t my besties, but who has the time for that many besties? Acquaintances are valuable. It’s nice to keep in touch with the people that you used to work with, and it’s fun to keep tabs on the schoolmates that you used to go to class with in a non-intimidating, pressureless kind of way. It’s special to see pictures of people aging, and kids being born — and it’s fun to watch dogs biting frisbees and to see pretty meals presented on fancy restaurant plates. I truly enjoy it, and, with greater moderation, I have decided to keep Facebook. For all of its faults, it has one great anchor: providing your family and friends at your fingertips and allowing you to involve yourself, as much or as little as you like, in their lives.

So my conclusion on the matter is Facebook is great but breaks can be good. Coming back to it now (earlier than I anticipated — my mother misses me and I finally convinced my Grammy to join; how could I possibly miss this turn in history?), I have a different perspective on the whole thing and my addiction has been effectually curbed.

Wonder how many likes this post will get…

Forever Facebook,

Aun Aqui

PS as a side note, is it just me or is any one else out there Twitter-hesitant? I’ve pretty much resisted every social media advancement/ invention that presented itself during the past few years (Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn).. and because it’s so frickin time consuming. I’ve invested years into Facebook and really don’t need to be virtually present “everywhere.” Facebook, at the present, still seems to rule the social media world.. and I really hope it holds. Thoughts?