Your digital life, and what it’s like to cast your own reality TV show

By Mike Fleming

I LIVE INSIDE MY OWN HEAD much of the time, and it can get kind of harried in there.

People around me might beg to differ, since I paradoxically tend to process things outwardly. But my thoughts, beliefs, emotions and opinions all spin around at a rapid pace, and only fractional offshoots make it out of my mouth.

This is why I write. It allows me to edit the cacophony before it’s released onto the world. It’s also why I kind of love — OK am obsessed with, totally hate — Facebook. It’s the me I want people to see, edited for clarity and content.

And in some cases, it’s the You I can’t believe you’re showing as if the internet isn’t forever. But you do you, Boo.

The choices people make in presenting themselves are telling, and often informative beyond what they intend. I actually like some of them more with a glimpse into their thought processes. And yes, I judge people who share every neurosis, or say, devote their page to the Donald Trump apology tour.

It’s interesting to me which items I post that people clamor to comment on, and those that generate no reaction at all.

THERE’S CERTAINLY AN ASPECT of prurient interest in Facebook that I can only relate to reality TV, with a cast of people from my own life. They play themselves, but usually they script and edit it.

It’s a very interesting show, whether it’s a train wreck I can’t stop watching, or a two-Kleenex drama. 
And there’s also the Facebook Crush phenomenon, that character or characters on the show who could get it any day, any time.

Everyone I know has one. It’s the friend of a friend who you barely know who is just so hot, so funny, so smart in his representation of himself, that you just can’t help stalking him. A little. My most recent one melted once I talked to him face to face, so there’s always that risk.

SO. YOU GET A MESSAGE or friend request and click it with the anticipation you might feel when seeing which bachelor is behind the door on “The Bachelorette.”

Is it someone from the past you loved and have lost touch with? Yes! Is it a new friend who you’d like to get to know more? Score! 

Or — OHHH! — It’s that cross-eyed bitch from high school who was never nice to you. Or it’s that smart-ass bully from back then. Or it’s that freaky guy who follows you around the bar. Or worst, it’s someone who totally remembers you, and you have no idea who they are.

And what are these characters up to? A cute blogger is being witty even before his first cup of morning coffee. Your best friend is waiting on muffins in the oven. Your high school sweetheart is playing with her son’s imaginary friends right now. A woman at work hit on the wrong girl last night.

“YOU NEED TO GET A LIFE,” my brother says. He’s right. We don’t need to add to the reality show vibe right now, and there’s reality, not reality show, to be had. We get enough alternate reality with the president making our government a daily show full of zingers, twists, shockers and bombshells.

But Facebook can affect real life in productive ways, as well though. Huge turnouts at gay Atlanta rallies can be turned around in less than 24 hours thanks to the power of Facebook. On a personal level, I really do stay in better touch with people I don’t see as often as I’d like, especially out-of-towners. And I’ve had more courage to approach people in person who I gleaned insight on from Facebook. It’s a great conversation starter.

A friend was having a bad week, and because I saw it on Facebook, I was able to offer an ear when I otherwise would have been oblivious to his circumstance. And it’s fun to watch some people prove every day that they are capable of complete meltdowns in public forums, providing due warning for future encounters.

I have made some connections with people that actually started on Facebook. So the love-hate continues, and ultimately, I like my computer, laptop, tablet, and phone. All my friends live in there.