Social Media: Over The Grand Meta Rainbow

In contemplation of the reasons people take the risk of embracing social media and its unique mechanisms of virtual bonding…
by: Carolynn Kingyens
And it’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.
― Lucy Christopher, Stolen: A Letter to my Captor

I joined social media rather late in the game, somewhere between 2019 and 2020. For over a decade, I dodged the rather peppy ‘Are you on Facebook?’ bullet from pretty alpha moms I’d meet at the many playgrounds my daughters frequented around Brooklyn. I’d always shake my head, indicating a ‘No’ to their question, along with a faint half-smile, often feeling like the odd-mom-out of a bigger, albeit virtual club. It was around the time I was working on my poetry manuscript that would later manifest into my first book, Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound, that I’d start to entertain the idea of social media. It was an internationally-known poetry editor, whom I had great respect for, who’d recommended that I join to bring more awareness to my writing. Up to that point, I avoided all social media, except for LinkedIn, where I found a more professional decorum, an invisible, pleasant boundary that existed between connections, a safer space if you will. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter / X, YouTube, TikTok were all unknown terrains ― the wild, wild west where scary trolls, perfect Barbie-looking influencers, potential stalkers, and ghosts and their ghosting happily played. 

One summer evening, in 2019, on an adventurous lark, I joined Facebook followed by Twitter before the Elon Musk acquisition. Sometimes on social media I feel like I’m in an echo chamber of one, especially on X and Instagram, while other times I feel like Don Henley from The Eagles, who’s stuck in a metaphorical Hotel California, where I can check out of Facebook anytime I’d like, but I can never leave because I want to know if Stacy’s adorable hairless Sphynx will make it out of surgery OK. I want to know if John’s book on dolphins will win that well-earned prestigious book award.  And I want to see new photos of Kevin’s vacation home being built at the bottom of a Pacific mountain range off the coast of Oregon — all while hitting the love emoji on each sleek, new finish like cove ceilings in his living room and a round Craftsman-style window right above the reading nook that swings open over a cliff to the turbulent, greenish-blue sea below.
A few years ago, I found myself unable to sleep so I did what a lot of people would do in the same situation ― binge-watch YouTube. A random algorithm had led me to a video on how to survive a hostage crisis. In the video, the expert spoke on the subject of a hostage negotiation who recommended that the hostage appeal to their captor’s humanity by sharing random intimacies such as childhood memories, favorite colors, biggest regrets and even insecurities, slowly building their trust along the way to optimize the hostage’s chance at survival. The next day, I would sit down to write a list of things that I would say in the event of a real hostage crisis, starting with my favorite color ― blood orange, a more orangey-red than a pinkish-red. I’d then move on to my favorite delicacy, which had to be raw, ocean side oysters served with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of horseradish, and a dash of Tabasco. For some reason, I’d share that my favorite words were brackish and mire, without being able to explain why exactly. Now granted, my going the self-effacing route with my imaginary captor — whom I’d already envisioned in the same likeness as the feckless, older brother of Michael Corleone from The Godfather, Fredo ― was a risky move on my part. 
The whole ridiculous exercise made me stop to think about social media in the context of a hostage / captor bonding experience, maybe with some Stockholm syndrome thrown in for good measure. Like graffiti on a train, or on the side of a Bronx bodega, our digital footprint points to the fact that we were once here, too, just like Brooks and Red’s memorialization from The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe that’s what social media has become with our strong collective desire to share our stories out into that great big Meta void. It’s a virtual bonding with God only knows who on the other end of the cloud: bots and trolls, friends and frenemies; haters, hackers, scammers, and a family of strangers. Or maybe once in a great while a real, authentic connection, that magical spark in the dark that makes life a little less dull. 
Most of my social media posts are poems, excerpts from my published short stories, my Rain Man-like memories, film scenes with little anecdotal pocket-life lessons, parallel observations with a rare selfie thrown in every few months, and obscure, vintage music videos from my youthful glory days from artists such as Buffalo Tom, New Order, Soul Coughing, and Tori Amos, circa. 1992 -1998. I guess you can say I’m a confused mixture of everything I can’t stand. I will end up chalking it up to what I have to do to get my love of writing out there, somewhere over that grand Meta rainbow, where I can find something meaningful like maybe a real career in writing one day. Since turning fifty, and from where I stand right now, it’s a total shot in the dark. 
Carolynn Kingyens was born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia. She is the author of two books of poetry — Before the Big Bang Makes a Sound (2020) and Coupling (2021), both published by Kelsay Books. In addition to poetry, Kingyens writes short fiction, narrative essays, book / film reviews, and recently exploring screenplay writing. She’s currently working towards the completion of a short fiction book-length manuscript with the working title Attachment Theory, comprising, at the moment, of thirteen short stories from “It Was A Good Day” to “The Peggy Effect” to “The Invitation” to “Attachment Theory.” She has been married to her husband and best friend for almost twenty-five years, and share two beautiful daughters. 
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