Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Asshole Pageant! Otherwise known as Facebook!
I joined Facebook six years ago after I bumped into Callie Waller at Kroger. We’ve known each other since elementary school. As we swapped notes on people we knew, she kept saying, “You’ve got to get on Facebook! It’s so much fun!” Oh, it was. I put up pictures of the kids at Disney World. I posted 25 random things about myself. I friended hundreds of people from all the decades of my life. I got to know people I had missed along the way. Back then, social sharing was about sharing our own stories. And cat videos, because DUH.
Now my Facebook feed feels like an Asshole Pageant where a long line of over-produced spray tanned freaks are vying for the prize of #1 Jerk. My entire feed is ads, memes, ads, cat videos, kid pictures, Buzzfeed quizzes, ads, and news stories that all of us are sharing. Those seem to get the most traction because they give us a way to talk about what’s going on in the world outside our own families.
My friend Wally is a retired journalism professor. I asked him once why internet news had devolved to Kardashians and 18-wheeler wrecks instead of in-depth analysis. He reminded me that news isn’t about what’s important these days–it’s about what’s INTERESTING.
And people find assholes interesting. Even moreso than cats sometimes.
By the way, I’m afraid to google “asshole pageant” because, while I’m using it as a metaphor, there is probably a real live contest out there where people line up to rate their sphincters. And it’s probably in Florida.
Seriously, take a look at your news feed. I’ve been trying to write this story for two weeks, but the contestants keep coming out from behind the curtain, faster than I can judge them. There’s the tumbling cop from the McKinney pool party whose fellow officers agreed was out of control. There’s the white woman who started the fight by yelling racist slurs at teenagers. There’s the open carry gun nut walking through the Atlanta airport with a loaded AR-15 and getting all smarmy with the security officer when she attempts to speak to him. There’s the furor over Caitlyn Jenner deciding to be whoever the hell she wants to be. Then we have to decide what “brave” is because there is an award to be won. My only problem with Caitlyn Jenner is that she’s still a Republican. Come on, girl. That’s like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.
We’ve got flesh-eating bacteria in Florida, Kirk Cameron filming somewhere in Georgia, lingering Duggars, memes about toddler girls hating their fat ankles. Oh, and the righteous indignation. There’s a blogger furious over a tattoo artist denying her a neck tattoo and some anonymous letter writer who objects to a yard that is “relentlessly gay.” Definitely out of the running for Miss Congeniality in our #AssholePageant.
And this week alone, we have Rachel Dolezal identifying as black (except when she sued Howard for discrimination because she was white!) AND Donald Trump running for President. If those two are in the Asshole Pageant, we’re going to have quite a nail-biter when it comes time to award “Realest Hair.”
Without Facebook, I would be hard pressed to find this many assholes in one spot (unless my football team is playing Alabama). So why put up with it?
- At the same time people were making cracks about Caitlyn Jenner, Sawyer introduced their new name to us. We met a few years ago as Wesleyan sisters and I’m proud to call them my brother now. Tarence, another Wesleyan brother, posted a picture of a vial of testosterone and said, “First day of the rest of my life.” He got nothing but love in response, from family, friends and sisters all over the country. It’s good to have a forum where people can step out and say, “This is me. I am here. Hello.”
- While we’re worrying about shark attacks and flesh-eating bacteria, Beth gave one of her kidneys to a stranger (she’s another Wesleyanne!). After the surgery, she found out that he’s a young father who has been on dialysis for two years. She gave him his life back. And those lucky enough to know her got to share her journey and see the possibility of living organ donation.
- Even when #RachelTensions erupted this week, Facebook made it possible for me to hear from Luvvie, Jasmine, Kelly, A’Driane and Grace–actual women of color who had illuminating things to say about the experience of living blackness in America as opposed to performing blackness on the Today Show. Thank my stars for these protestors at the Asshole Pageant, who still have the energy to stand up and holler, “YOU ARE BEING AN ASSHOLE. TAKE A SEAT.”
So in the end…worth it. Save me a seat down front at the Asshole Pageant. I wonder who’ll be sitting next to us.