Monday, April 29, 2013

Doggone It, People Like Me!

Back on February 9th, 1991, the first "Daily Affirmation with Stewart Smalley" skit aired on Saturday Night Live. Future Senator Al Franken played an unlicensed self-help guru with questionable self-esteem who's catch phrase involved him staring into the mirror and saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

It was a fun skit that led to a book and even an SNL movie. Even though Stewart Smalley's self-affirmations are no longer with us, many people have taken his advice to heart. Self-affirmations blossom far and wide across e-mail chain letters and Facebook, proudly proclaiming who people are and why they and others like them should be proud.

Pride is a funny thing. Publicly proclaimed pride even more so. I personally read public proclamations of pride the same as I would read public self-affirmations, as signs of insecurity of some kind. Sometimes people rightfully feel oppressed by society and are declaring their pride in that aspect of themselves that society at large does not respect. Other times, or sometimes even simultaneously, that pride can take on this stubborn "my way is the right way" tone that lashes out at against others in ways that may be questionable.

Seriously, I hope these people are able to achieve a decent self-esteem, but... here is the part where we take a look at some examples!

Thus begins what is a huge category of these Facebook self-affirmations: People who need me to give a shit about their tattoos. Somewhere around 60% of the people I see socially have tattoos. They are not, as a rule, any more or less interesting than anyone else. This particular picture is nothing egregious, but just getting warmed up...

Here is a sad "Hey, we're special!" self-affirmation if I ever saw one. Does anyone really believe this kind of shit? I mean, let's think about this... Who is this person that is not good enough for tattoos? Am I good enough to get a swastika tattooed on my forehead, tear under the eye? Are we forgetting about the legit white supremacist covered in Nazi tatts here? There are all sorts of awful people who have tattoos. Presumably whoever would post this kind of trite garbage just isn't thinking about it at all. Some brainless self-affirming bullshit. My message to you, self-affirming tattoo person: I am totally not judging you for your tattoos. That's not to say I'm not judgmental...

Here we have the combo affirmation. The good ol' "You're awesome because you have tattoos" (sorry, possession of a tattoo is in itself a neutral factor in your awesomeness :-( bummer!). Then we have another large category of affirmations: Those intended to make women feel good about themselves. A large trend in those is to rip on skinny, non-curvy, or athletic women, so we can all celebrate "real women with real bodies". Again, your body type is a pretty neutral factor in how awesome I consider you, so sorry. Athletic women are kinda awesome, just like athletic men are kinda awesome, but the athletic look doesn't always capture all of the people who actually are athletic though...

When you get into these self-affirming posts for women, it really is a minefield of fucked up. Some of them are made by women and shared with other women, and others are made by men in some kind of support for women. This one was shared by a woman. It feels like there is this tension between "I'm beautiful and sexy!" and "Women shouldn't be judged so exclusively on their sexual attractiveness to men." I'm all on board with that second point in particular. It is annoying as fuck to hang out with dudes (and on some occasions women) who feel the need to comment on how fucking hot or not some woman is when she's a fucking virtuoso astronaut MMA fighter scientist. Some guys seem to think it is mandatory to pass their judgement, and as these self-affirmations seem to show, there are a lot of women who can't help but care.

As for the picture itself... yeah, it is self-affirming garbage. You are showing me your insecurity. The words, taken at face value, make no sense at all.

This contains all of the hallmarks of a shitty self-affirmation post. The classic "Most of you won't re-post this" is the ultimate sign that you are about to read some garbage on the internet. It also contains a huge blinking warning sign that for me says "Hey, remember that public drama post you made a few days ago? Here's your goddamned perpetrator!" There are a million variations on this one. This is the Sheryl Crow "Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man" of self-affirming social media trash. At root, my question is, "Why are you telling me this?" Why? You are so goddamned lazy you didn't even write this yourself! You just took someone else's words and posted them to your wall as if they were your own. You are trying to tell me how special you are by putting someone else's (a person who you've likely never met's) words in your feed. It's like feeling a personal connection to your horoscope in the paper. Ultimately, your self-affirmation failed, because the number of people who think you suck has increased by one.  Congratulations.

P.S. You're worthless.

I could go on with these forever. They infest the internet like locusts, you know, like, when there is a plague of them. Try reading the Bible sometime.
Anyway, yeah... umm, my point is, there is no limit to just how vague and unremarkable a feature you can possess and make a self-affirming post about. For example:

I do have brown eyes! OMG you guys! This is so true!

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