Righting the iceberg

iceberganalogyAccording to Freud, the human psyche is structured into three parts:

The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts.

The ego seeks pleasure and avoids pain but unlike the id the ego is concerned with devising a realistic strategy to obtain pleasure.

The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. Its function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 12.05.36 PMClearly Dr. Freud could not have fathomed a world with Internet and social media. A world where you need not be the brightest, just the loudest or most outrageous, where substance is often replaced with snark, and perceived anonymity brings out the very worst of all of us at times. It’s the iceberg analogy turned upside-down.

Lest you think I’m being a bit preachy, I will freely admit to being guilty of all of the above.
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Just the other day I was at the mall with my son when I snapped this picture with my iPhone with every intention of posting it to Facebook or Twitter with some snark-filled remark about the irony of a perfume named “Unbreakable Bond” featuring a couple whose marriage lasted less than four years.

I could have justified my actions by telling myself that if anyone deserves a little public humiliation it’s the Kardashians, who have made lucrative careers of allowing cameras to film what many of us would consider the most private aspects of their lives, all in the name of fame and fortune. Even those who have never seen an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians are inundated with headlines of their latest escapades courtesy of gossip magazines placed at the check-out line of their local grocery stores. One could reasonably surmise that for a Kardashian, there’s no such thing as bad press.

So, what stopped me?

My son. Who asked me why I was taking a picture of a bottle of perfume. What could I tell him? That it’s not okay for him to make fun of people but that it’s different for me? That I have an online reputation for my fun-loving snark and sarcasm? I decided right then and there that the purpose of taking the photo would not be the one originally intended. Maybe I could use it to share a lesson learned about empathy and grace right there in the long check out line at Burlington Coat Factory.

Regardless of how much you have or don’t have, life can be downright painful at times. And I don’t care how rich and famous you are, filing for divorce is a public admission that you made a mistake; that the vows you thought would last a lifetime did not; that you have failed at love. I’ve been told that going through a divorce is in some ways more painful than dealing with the death of a loved one, and that it is not something you would wish on anyone–not even an overexposed celebrity who probably should have seen it coming. Love is blind, and it often makes fools of us all.

I’m not suggesting that I will cease and desist all of my snark and sarcasm–it is, after all, my love language–only that I will ask myself how it would make me feel if someone posted the same thing about me.

The virtual world is a deceptive one. We fool ourselves into thinking that people understand where we’re coming from, that they understand when we’re kidding like our non-virtual friends do. Not long ago at a soundcheck before church, I stood on stage surrounded by a group of talented and experienced musicians and vocalists who also happen to be close and long time friends. So when I referred to myself as “the talent” it was understood that I was kidding, the joke made more amusing (for me, anyway) by the fact that of all the people gathered on that stage, I was the least talented of all of us. But referring to myself as “the talent” in an online setting just doesn’t go over as well, because there will always be those who misunderstand me.

I know choosing my snark and sarcasm more carefully won’t make a dent in the online sea of of mean-spirited humor. There are many popular websites whose sole purpose is to share a laugh at the expense of others. Some do so with permission and participation of their readers while others encourage their readers to submit unflattering photos taken without permission. Of the latter, ask yourself if you’ve ever ventured outside your house looking less than completely put together. Would you be okay with someone taking a picture of you wandering the aisles of Walmart in your ill-fitting sweatpants and flip flops? What about your mother, father, brother or sister? Because I can assure you that every unflattering photo posted on sites like these are of someone’s mother, father, brother or sister taken without their knowledge or permission. Imagine seeing your most unflattering moment captured and knowing that millions of other people have access to that same picture. It’s just not nice.

I won’t tell you where to draw your own personal line in the sand. I don’t think you’d find many who would fault you for calling Adolf Hitler a bad person or saying that Al Gore did not invent the Internet. But comparing someone to Adolf Hitler who isn’t knowingly and deliberately participating in genocide? That’s a line I personally will not cross.

If you’re still confused about what’s acceptable, you can heed words that were written centuries before the Internet was a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye (see what I did there?):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. –Philippians 4:8

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Maybe we can all do our part towards righting the iceberg.

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2 Responses to “Righting the iceberg”

  1. Jake January 3, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    “Regardless of how much you have or don’t have, life can be downright painful at times.”

    It’s stupidly true. And terribly difficult to remember when you see someone who we assume is making a fool of themselves when truly, they’re just struggling. It kills me, because it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over and over again with relative pain or at least embarrassment each time. God, help us!
    Jake´s last blog post ..Vanity

  2. SimplyDarlene January 7, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    The first time I read your conclusion, I thought you said something about a Twinkie in his eye.

    Slooow down, Darlene.
    SimplyDarlene´s last blog post ..Winter. Time.

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