Of Brown Boxes and Facebook Controls

Recently, I found myself struggling to fix my Facebook privacy controls as I found myself battling nosy relatives and family members decrying my supposedly non-traditional life. Trying to make a proper access group for parts of my profile, I instead made a large user discussion group, resulting in my posting an apology on my wall. My brother had made the following comment:

“Geez, I know I need to get in shape, but damn, I feel insulted you have to put me in a running group…”

(I had made an access group specifically for my running photos that I posted on Facebook, comprised of fellow runners I knew or closest friends that wouldn’t ridicule me for my hobby. Elaboration to follow…)

After March, any racing activity will have to be on the down-low in Facebook; thank goodness I can let it out here and on Twitter. At least for now.

Seven years ago, I remember doing the same thing as I applied for jobs in the high-powered world of business consulting, fresh out of university.

“What is this?” snapped my mother as she picked up a piece of paper on my desk. It was a flyer showing the information and recruitment session for McKinsey and Company, a top tier management consulting firm that recruits from Ivy League schools and other top tier universities.

She looked at it closely. “Why do you have this on your desk? This doesn’t look like it’s a hospital or medical school.”

I ran up to her, trying to get the flyers out of her hand; unfortunately it proved to be a mistake as she grabbed my left arm and twisted it until it hurt.

“We spent thousands of dollars so you can make us proud and enter medical school or at the very worst pursue a reputable career in science,” she scolded me angrily. “If you wanted to work in business we would not have sent you here. Look at everyone else in business, they went to smaller schools.”

I managed to break free of her grasp.

“Stay focused,” she warned, as she ripped up the McKinsey flyers, “or stop wasting my time and my money. At the very worst, stop being a disgrace to our family. Look at everyone else who’s made it to medical school.”

My arm was hurting, but I was annoyed at the continuous embarrassment I would have had to endure had she ripped up more important pieces of paper, such as applications or resumes. Once she left I pulled the torn pieces of the flyer out, piecing together enough of the paper to jot the dates and locations for the information sessions. It was clear as day that I had to hide my on-campus recruiting campaign, just as I hid the scars on my head from my mother beating me up. She stopped beating me up my third year of university once we gave her an ultimatum, but it didn’t stop the psychological pain.

To hide the scars of abuse, I had a small box of bandanas and head wraps, a few berets and hats, even a fedora. People had thought I was creating my own style; in a way I was, but the main reason was to hide myself from embarrassment and potentially probing questions. Of course, I couldn’t completely escape; my hairdresser discovered the bruises and my then-boyfriend wondered why I winced in pain as he ran his hands through my hair.

I hated being embarrassed.

Cue the brown box drills my senior year of university.

My choice of career was no different. The same brown box I used for my head gear, was also the one used to hide my resumes and recruitment materials. If I got a call from my parents that they were dropping by or stopping by on their way to another destination, that meant I grabbed a medium-sized brown box, threw in any and all of my resumes, company brochures or on-campus recruiting information in that box, and gave it to a trusted friend or my GA (graduate student resident associate) who would keep it until my parents reached home.

That was seven years ago. Today I am hiding other aspects of my life from my family because not doing so will get me in serious trouble. Recently I’ve had to delete a lot of family-related contacts from Facebook because a number of them have posted nasty or simply questionable messages about my lifestyle.

“You’re still living in the city?”
“You’re still single?”
“Why aren’t you posting pictures of you spending time with your family?”
“Why the hell are you running?”
“Any progress finding a husband yet?”
“Seems like you’re the only person who isn’t posting pictures of her children! What’s wrong with you?”

I set my Facebook settings so that if an incendiary comment were posted – or any comment for that matter – an email is sent to me so that I can review and screen the comment.

Additionally, I’ve blocked a number of my relatives as well as any family-related application that turns up on Facebook. I just am not taking any chances. Unfortunately this has also made family gatherings a little less pleasant.

“Why aren’t you adding me on Facebook?” a number of these relatives will ask me at the next big family gathering.

I almost want to scream. I start off reasonably, “I’ve taken issues with the lot of comments you’ve posted recently on my Facebook wall.”   Unfortunately they feel justified in posting such garbage simply because I’m not like everyone else out there.

So this is what it’s come down to. Thanks to my friends who pointed out the access groups feature to me, there are parts of me that want to say the things I want (that are not racist, sexist, inflammatory or infringing on others’ rights) without dealing with garbage.

If you got me on Facebook and wish to see my running photos, aren’t a runner, and are understanding of my lifestyle, shoot me a message and I’ll add you to the group.

It’s annoying but welcome to my world I suppose.

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One thought on “Of Brown Boxes and Facebook Controls

  1. Wow, your stories never cease to amaze me. I can’t believe (or even fathom) the tough time you’ve had with your family in your lifetime. It’s so sad to me that they can’t support you, and that you have to physically hide things from you. And, no matter how they feel about your life/decisions, physical violence is never the answer (I grew up in an abusive household as well, so I can empathize some). You are doing so great without their support and I’m so excited about what the future holds for you. You are so strong to move forward without their support and I hope that someday, they’ll come around.

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