We all do it.
Something pisses us off and we need to tell the world- or at least our Twitter followers. The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions is called catharsis and it’s a necessary mental function. Just like pooping is a necessary biological function. Bitching about something is like letting your brain poop.
Why would you want to poop all over your friends? Or, worse still, poop so that the eyes of the public can witness the spectacle?
None of us want to do that. Well, okay, 99.9% of us don’t want to do that, the remainder are probably banned from my comment feed. So why are we so keen to bitch about our lives on Twitter, Facebook, the Tumblers, etc.?
Why is it that some people only seem to use social media as a means of dumping their emotional waste on the rest of us?
The 7 Habits of Not Pooping On Your Friends
Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People introduced the concept of the Emotional Bank Account: When you invest good vibes in people, you build up the ability to make withdrawals when you need them. If you’re constantly overdrafting, well… eventually your banks (read: friends) will start refusing your business.
I’m a musician, so financial analogies make me anxious and frightened. Back to the poop.
When you need to complain- and again, we all need to answer that call from time to time -that emotional waste has to go somewhere. If you can find your catharsis from a private stall like a pen-and-paper journal or talking to a pet, good on you. Most of us have to look for a sympathetic ear like a porta-john at a carnival when the urgent need arises.
The natural antithesis, of course, is feeding your friends. Everyone likes to be treated to dinner, right? When someone else picks up the check- spontaneously or planned -you remember that person fondly. Especially if there’s sushi involved. And Mai Tais. And… dammit, now I’m hungry, where was I going with this?
Oh yes… Every time you direct positive output to your friends, it’s like treating them to dinner. Or at the very least a cup of coffee, it all depends on the magnitude of the good vibes you’re sending out. Sure, posting positive tweets or updates takes some energy and focus, but it’s an investment that always pays off.
Breaking The Analogy
Covey’s bank analogy and my poop analogy both break down in one key way: When you put money in a bank, you’re only putting it into one account. When you pick up the check for a friend’s lunch, you’re just making that one friend happy.
Social media, a public forum by definition, gives you the almost Christ-like ability to feed your entire audience with one good post (hopefully about fishes). Imagine being able to deposit a hundred bucks into your savings account and seeing it also applied to your checking account, credit card balance, car note, and mortgage.
Similarly, when your #FML tweet hits your followers, you’re pooping on all of them at the same time. You have the choice to make a single withdrawal (direct messaging, email, actual in-person conversation) or a batch withdrawal (tweets, status updates, CryJournal). Does your level of relief increase commensurate with the number of people smelling your poop? Hell no.
Eat For Everyone, Poop On Few
Everyone poops. I can’t stress this enough. It’s a necessary emotional function that we simply cannot avoid without risking heart troubles, stomach acid, and headaches. But for God’s sake, do it in moderation.
I try to make a habit of posting positive updates publicly, but reaching out to one or two people when I need to unload some emotional unpleasantries. I pick people whom I know I’ve fed often, people who ideally will have some context or understanding of why I’ve chosen them for this particular braindump.
There are always exceptions, of course- like when there’s a call to action or the chance for customer service to redeem itself. But for the most part, keeping the complaints private and the praises public has served me well over the years. Of all the friends I’ve pooped on, I’ve lost very few.