Monday, 26 September 2011

"You Need To Get A Life ..."

I don’t know about you, gentle readers, but if I had a pound for every time someone has said that to me I’d be a very wealthy woman!  It’s a throwaway line I’ve come to really hate, showing, as it does, how easily some people [actually, quite a lot of people] dismiss the needs and feelings of others.  What it really means is “This stuff is just not important to me, therefore I can see no reason why it might be important to you.  You matter less than I do so just go away and take your problems with you.” 

If any of you are regular users of the most well-known social networking site you can’t fail to be aware that some fairly major changes have taken place recently and that they are not universally popular.  I reproduce here a conversation between one ‘Craig’ and myself which shows just how incapable some people are of putting themselves in another person's shoes: 

“Craig - Who genuinely gives a [expletive deleted]? If Facebook changing is that important to you then you should probably just have a little bit of a think. Then get a life! Thanks. 

Me to Craig - Some people who cannot get out of the house very often, if at all, rely on Facebook as their connection to the rest of the world. I suggest YOU have a little think before you mouth off in future! 

Craig to Me – I did have a little think. Somehow I still doubt it’s important to them. If anyone in the world needs Facebook that much then they've got far more serious problems than a little change! 

Me to Craig - You obviously have a full and interesting life with no illnesses or disabilities. Many of us are not so lucky! You are right - we do have MUCH more serious problems than changes to Facebook - but Facebook is one of the tools we use to help us combat them! We have a social life through its pages which is not possible for us out in the 'real' world. So when it is changed beyond recognition and our usual conduits to our 'friends' are changed or closed, it IS a VERY BIG DEAL for us. Just for once, try putting yourself in someone else's shoes before you sneeringly dismiss us as needing to “get a life”. If we could - WE WOULD!!” 

Now, I’ve been on something of a downward spiral over the last week or so.  It’s just one of the things that happen when you have mental health problems and even when you have a whole kit of tools to deal with them – bad periods WILL crop up and make your life difficult for a while.  I can’t speak for anyone else but I personally find it easier to talk about my problems online with comparative strangers than to talk with my nearest and dearest when I’m going through a bad patch.  As a result, social networking is a Godsend to me.  My online friends frequently lift me out of the doldrums without even knowing they are doing so – and when I do let them know how bad I feel, most of them are kind, supportive and thoughtful. 

I can see that for a person with a healthy, active social life the recent changes to Facebook are a mere bagatelle – trivia either to be accepted while they carry on as normal or rejected in favour of other pursuits.  For people in the same boat as myself however, whether because of mental or physical disability, they represent a pretty big deal!  I would love to be able to “get a life”, but at the moment social networking on the internet is the best I can do, and I am well aware that I am FAR from being alone in this. 

I believe that the “get a life” response is symptomatic of our Society’s decline.  It’s so much easier to dismiss the concerns of other people, when they don’t affect you, than to try and put yourself in their shoes for a while and understand what changes mean to them.  And this attitude comes down from the top – people who, for whatever reason, can’t take part in the rat-race of 21st Century life are denigrated and despised by Government, press and media alike.  So it’s no wonder that people who have no social problems can so easily dismiss those of us who do as needing to “get a life”. 

When we, as a Society, are once more capable of understanding and caring for those whose daily lives and needs are different from our own, then, and only then, will be able to call ourselves “civilised” again. 

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