Perplexed by a friend

Joey Garcia

I have a friend whose behavior perplexes me. Three years ago, her teaching contract was not renewed. She wrote long, emotional Facebook posts about how she was leaving education because she couldn’t take the stress. She never admitted that her contract wasn’t renewed. Two years ago, she posted about her new job as a second grade teacher. She was let go and again filled her Facebook page with posts about leaving education forever. She never said she was fired.

Today, she posted about her new gig as a substitute teacher. In between, she posts memes about love and faith. What’s your take on this?

Studying a particular discipline in college rarely prepares us for the reality of work or our compatibility with a career choice. Many degree programs are built on a foundation of theories that might not correspond to what happens on the job. That’s not a conversation most people are willing to have since it would disrupt fantasies about education and employment that help to propel our economy. The downside is that some people are emotionally unprepared for the blowback they encounter regularly at work. Or the blowback they create.

The flip side of your question seems to be an expectation that your friend should be aware of her dissonance. After all, she’s posting memes about faith, right? But those posts may be her way of keeping afloat emotionally. We can’t know unless you ask her, and she chooses to answer honestly. It’s much more interesting to explore your underlying belief that an attraction to faith equals the highest integrity in all things. If that were true, there wouldn’t be such a horrific number of abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church or in Buddhism.

It also seems that you think of social media as a platform that inspires personal transparency. That’s true for some, but not everyone. Social media is designed to encourage us to react, not to thoughtfully respond. Our brains, wired to seek dopamine, are happy to oblige. So we post, and 30 likes later we feel affirmed. Or should I say 30 hits of dopamine later, we feel affirmed by those likes even when affirmation is not ultimately in our best interest. So your friend posts about her heartbreak and receives empathy in return. She feels better. It makes sense that she would repeat the action in the hope of moving past her repeated disappointment. In the process, though, she may develop a social media addiction that keeps her repeating the cycle.

If you want to let go of the way this situation troubles you, accept your talent for insight. You have the ability to see deep on a platform (and in a world) where superficiality reigns. You have a gift, but not one that most people possess or care to cultivate. How will you handle it?

You can choose to block it. You can obsess about being the only person who notices when things don’t fit. Or you can be grateful for insight and use it to inspire happiness in your own life.

Meditation of the week
“When we replace our sense of service and gratitude with a sense of entitlement and expectation, we quickly see the demise of our relationships, society, and economy,” says Steve Maraboli. How do you behave when a friend expresses an attitude of entitlement?

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