Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How Facebook helped me be myself

Like yesterday's Facebook story, I wrote this piece nearly five years ago. What a perfect time to reminisce!

Facebook Flirt* was the sort of guy I should have known in high school but didn’t. Even though we attended the same school, I never spoke one word to him.

But now, years later, I see he’s the perfect guy: He’s smart. He’s a musician and an accountant. He loves mural painting and the beach.

How do I know all this? Easy. We friended each other on Facebook. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe my own world-changing revelations that would result from that simple first click. In hind-sight, I certainly did more than ‘add a friend.’

In our world of social networking, Facebook has rendered the traditional high school reunion virtually obsolete. In fact, Facebook is swiftly becoming the new Google, only easier and with less risk of carpal tunnel from typing all the different permutations of search terms. Facebook, lucky for me, was the curious and nosey girl’s dream come true. It’s like a single’s bar, only better because A). You’re not in a bar and B). You actually know more about the person than simply his first name and his go-to karaoke song.

But with ease comes a new sense of intensity. It’s all a lot of pressure. You get photos, up-to-the second status updates, even live chatting.

Until Facebook came along, I was what most people would consider a social wallflower. I was shy, quiet and admittedly, a bit unsure of myself. And when it came to love and relationships, those qualities were only magnified. I suppose my physical disability had something to do with it. In a world where blondes and brunettes with long legs ruled supreme, I’d resigned myself to the fact that my physical disability by default made me a Spinster For Life.
I’m not entirely sure what it was about Facebook Flirt, though, but something about him made me not want to settle for my self-imposed Spinster sentence. Maybe I needed a challenge or maybe I genuinely saw something in him that made me think “This guy might not be like all the rest. This one might be different.” Whatever the reason, I casually sent him a message one afternoon, carefully choosing my words so as to come off as casual and subtle as possible without sounding like a complete certifiable clinger.

Though I tricked myself into believing I didn’t care if he replied or not, I was secretly giddy inside wondering if I’d hear back from him. And I did, a few days later, when he sent me this response. I sat there like a bobby-socks, hair-twirling school girl analyzing the note. OMG, he’s read some of my writing….and not just ‘some’ but ‘A LOT.’ OMG, he actually liked what he read. OMG, he wants to type with me soon.

OMG, what was I going to type back? I shot off this reply, after several hours of contemplation. The reply had to be subtle, yet make a bold statement. I had to be forward, yet not reek of desperation. It had to be casual, yet inviting.

Over the next few months, the inevitable poking war ensued. I’d ‘poke’ him. He’d ‘poke’ me back. I’d return the gesture with another ‘poke’ and so on. We settled into a comfortable rhythm, and even I’ll admit my face light up with a smile each time I logged on and saw that magic poking finger icon. Never mind the fact that I had virtually no idea the hidden meaning behind the elusive pokes – some Facebookers say it’s just a way to say hello while other Facebookers say it’s a subtle form of flirting. I chose to believe the latter, naturally.

I should be over this, shouldn’t I? But frankly, I liked the way this dance made me feel. Facebook gave me a new sense of boldness I’d only seen other woman pull of. I felt somewhat empowered by it, to say the least. Over the next few months, we flirted like innocent high schoolers: posting witty things on each other’s wall, more poking, yet all the while keeping everything a bit subtle, mysterious even.
Six months later, I began thinking a bit deeper, about everything our little banter had meant to me. I, finally, got to know someone who didn’t add my disability into the equation. Of course Facebook Flirt knew about my disability. But he also knew that I longed to go to Vegas for my thirtieth birthday, that my dream was to move to New York City and climb the ladder to publishing success -- and, that, for all my supposed self-assurance, I was really just completely awkward and a huge dork. For the first time in my life, I could be anyone I wanted, but I really only wanted to be myself. And whether he knew it or not, Facebook Flirt helped me in that department.

I realized, ironically, that in addition to turning me into a giggly schoolgirl, Facebook had also managed to transform me into a woman too. I could leave my love handles, what I saw as my disability baggage, at the door as soon as I logged on. No, I wasn’t hiding it. No, I wasn’t denying it existed (I knew it was there; I lived with it every day). What I was finally realizing was that for once, it could come second. I could put it in the backseat (maybe seal it in the trunk if I wanted) for awhile and sit in the driver’s seat. At long last. I could be a woman. Not a woman with limitations. Not a woman with a disability and a wheelchair in tow and a long medical rap sheet trailing behind her. Just a woman.
Just me -- a woman who wanted love, who wanted to be loved for who she was, who could maybe, if only for a minute, pretend differences didn’t matter, that flaws are hot and imperfections are sexy. Because contrary to what so many people in my life think, my disability does not make me a superhero immune to those sorts of feelings.

I’d like to think I’ll still have this newfound boldness should Facebook Flirt and I ever meet in person. At the very least, it would be interesting to see how that would play out. Maybe he’d play me a song. Me? I’d probably be too dorky to do anything other than poke his shoulder and say “In-person poke.” And I’m sure there’d be some giggling on my part involved.

*Not his real name, for obvious reasons.

[Photos via We Heart It]


  1. awhhhh........ that is so sweet !!! Not sure I mentioned it , but Lauren Ruotolo who wrote "Unstoppable in Heels" has a disability and lives in NY and is in publishing! You should friend request her. Anyhow -- your writing is so fun and positive and gives such inspiration!!!! All I can say is that you will NEVER be a spinster !!! (even if you don't get married) You are way to bubbly and fun to ever get that label! Another great blog post - you are infinitely talented !

  2. Wonderful post! Facebook and blogging has also helped me to find out who I am so I know how you feel. Thanks for continuing to inspire!


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