I’m Thankful For … Well, Not Facebook, As It Turns Out

I returned to Facebook today. The experience was mostly underwhelming.

I felt the same way as when I visit DC: I’m coming back to a place where I spent a lot of time, but mostly haven’t missed, and all the things that annoy me about it are there in my face instead of in my memory, and the good is only good in small doses.

I’ve already gotten annoyed by several “[number] years ago today I met my best friend and now we’re married yaaaayyy!” statuses. So I’m going, “Well, the hiatus was a very good thing, and I’ll definitely be spending less time on FB in the future.”

But what I’ve most noticed when signing in to Facebook again, is seeing “I’m thankful for _______” statuses. The first one I saw, I thought it was sweet. Then I saw more and more and more, and realized, “Aww crap, I should have waited until November was over before coming back to Facebook.” Because if there’s one thing that has made me regret my return, it’s the Status Updates O’Plenty Thankful that you see. Every. Damn. November.

Somehow, somewhere, someone started a Facebook trend that every day in November, leading up to Thanksgiving, people post one thing they’re thankful for. Presumably this gives them free rein in December to complain about holiday stress or not getting something they wanted for Christmas or how shitty the past year was.

Before you jump to the comments, no one needs to explain to me why the daily “gratistatus” exists. I get it: gratitude, preparing for Thanksgiving, etc. etc. You can post whatever you want on your Facebook account, and maybe you find it helpful. I’m not attempting to infringe on your rights. I’m just expressing my thoughts on why it’s stupid.

  1. Because so many people do this, it gets really repetitive for a whole month. And because people try to do it every day, sometimes it gets to be a bit of a stretch as Thanksgiving draws closer.
  2. Gratistatuses (gratistati?) are usually “I’m grateful for family/a job/’Merica/food on the table” and not something interesting like “This holiday season I’m thankful that I survived that hit-and-run with only a few broken ribs.” (I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be grateful for common things. It just doesn’t make for interesting FB material.)
  3. This is heartbreaking news, but … like most other things on Facebook, no one else really cares.
  4. If you truly need to practice gratitude, then a.) journal it, and b.) try to do it outside of a month that features a holiday specifically reserved for being thankful. Then, it’s a real challenge that might change your life. It’s like if you were only affectionate to your significant other on Valentine’s Day. Also, on Joy’s suggestion, c.) actually let this supposed gratitude change your behavior. It’s no good posting “I’m thankful for my husband!” if you’re going to totally forget that a few hours later and bitch about him to a coworker.

That reminds me of a chapter in The Screwtape Letters where he instructs Wormwood to interfere with his “patient’s” prayers by having the man pray for his mother’s spiritual state rather than her earthly state. This makes it easier for the patient to “care” about his mother, but not have to actually treat her well:

Make sure that [his prayers] are very ‘spiritual’, that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. … In time, you may get the cleavage so wide that no thought or feeling from his prayers for the imagined mother will ever flow over into his treatment of the real one. I have had patients of my own so well in hand that they could be turned at a moment’s notice from impassioned prayer for a wife’s or son’s ‘soul’ to beating or insulting the real wife or son without a qualm.

However, people might post grateful statuses on Facebook in the hopes that it will cultivate feelings of gratitude where there are none. After all, in Mere Christianity, Lewis tells people who do not “feel” loving, “Act as if you did….Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.”

But is posting a Facebook status action enough?

Acting out thankfulness, I think, depends on what one is thankful for. If someone posts on Facebook that she is grateful for her kids, that should prompt her to treat them with more patience. If someone says he is grateful for his job, that should lead him to procrastinate less, or help another person who might be searching for a job.

I suppose what annoys me most about these types of statuses is when people do it just to join a trend and make it nothing more than another “holiday tradition” that will be forgotten until next year. Of course, perhaps I shouldn’t judge, since I don’t know for sure why any one person does it. But meaningless things have always frustrated me.

IMG_0254Joy brought up another good point, that there is also a bit of hypocrisy–or at least the appearance of such–in FB gratitude posts. Everyone uses social media to craft an image of themselves. I post pictures of my cooking to show how awesome I am in the kitchen. I post Shakespeare quotes to remind people that I’m not just a sarcastic idiot. Humility is an element of thankfulness–being thankful implies that you might not deserve something you have, or that different circumstances might have deprived you of it. When you mix a “gratistatus” with “look how awesome my life is” posts, it creates something of a mixed message that smacks of insincerity.

Am I against showing gratitude? Not at all.

Am I against insincerity and blowing one’s own trumpet? Absolutely.

Am I as guilty as anyone else? Hell yes.

5 thoughts on “I’m Thankful For … Well, Not Facebook, As It Turns Out

  1. Regarding gratitude and your concerns about action/inaction, it has been my experience with naming things for which I am grateful that it helps me to actually be grateful for them, treat them with care, and and bring more thankfulness into my life. It is kind of like Paul’s litany of “think on these things” — in the end, you obviously have to go beyond thinking, but it is a great place to start and really lays the foundations well. As regards it being in a particular month, in a lot of ways it is kind of great to have a time as part of the year that says “hey, this is important!” — you want to incorporate it into your life, but having a seasonal reminder to do so is helpful.

    • So, I still agree with my sentiment here, but I’m definitely starting to wish that people would start journaling their thanksgiving instead of facebooking it…

  2. I was thinking the exact same thing today and feeling guilty and un-PC for my annoyance. It’s great people are grateful but every day for a month is repetitive and degrades its meaning. I think it should be more personal and private. Thanks for saying what I was thinking.;)

  3. Pingback: Weird History, Part Eight: Stories From Wampanoag Culture That You Can Share at Thanksgiving | Em Speaks

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