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The Big Reveal and the Culture of Facebook

Somebody I know posted a 300-word screed on Facebook yesterday that began, When I was a boy, a female babysitter, who was three times my age forced me to have sex with her.

Ninety-seven people—including me—responded with emoji faces indicating “like”, “love,” or “weepy.”

We wrote comments, too. Amen! Way to represent! You are strong and brave beyond words! Thank you for contributing your story to the narrative!

I wrote: Sigh. Your story is not uncommon. Thanks for telling it.

I didn’t know what the fuck else to write.

I don’t know this guy very well, but I like him. If he needed reassurance and absolution through some impersonal social media channel that he had mistaken for the Universe, I was happy to provide him with it.

Still. I couldn’t help thinking how curious it was that instead of seeking out a close friend or a therapist to unburden himself to, he had chosen instead to make the Big Reveal to a hundred more-or-less random acquaintances on Facebook.

A sign of the times.


Many of us use Facebook—and I presume other social media, although FB is really the only social media I use personally—to reveal carefully curated glimpses of ourselves. We write and publish our own little personal People Magazine stories. I post about my cats! Sometimes, I post about my children.

Some of us—people with more charisma or maybe just better crowd-churning skills—have branched out into tabloids or reality show production. Thus, I know a helluva lot about Amarylis Baruna, once a certified Hot Babe, now a depressed housewife in the NYC suburbs who worries a lot about her weight. She still looks fine, by the way. Every time she uploads a picture or a video of herself post-spinning class, posing fetchingly in color-coordinated workout garb, she gets at least 50 responses from people, tripping over each other, to post, You look GREAT, girl!

Then there’s that person who texted me ghoulish pix at five in the morning several weeks ago who’s constantly posting about the ways that cruel people attempt to break her indomitable spirit! The pain, the anguish, punctuated by descriptions of all Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad things that happen to her. Each description grosses at least 15 emoticons right off the bat; more, if she plays to responders in the follow-up comments.

Such posters are not aficionados of the Big Reveal, of course. (Just as a sidebar: I know enough about the person who texted me ghoulish pix to recognize that the public image she’s grooming with such an elaborate pretense of openness is not the private reality. The really, really big deep, dark secrets are locked away in a safe.)

But such influencers set the stage for Big Reveals.


What is the Big Reveal?

Well. It’s what happens when you decide that Facebook is the place to Confess All.

It reminds me a bit of those Maoism-inspired criticism/self-criticism sessions I was forced to participate in back in the day when I was a volunteer medic at the Berkeley Women’s Health Collective.

It’s much more effective as a social policing device than the quaint Catholic custom of the confessional! The bad things you do or were done to you, after all, are not sins against some sort of hierarchical God; they’re transgressions against a consensus, and only the social collective can purge you of your taint by helping you launch a new narrative.

I’m not sure how it compares against the benefits of psychotherapy, but I imagine it’s right up there. After all, a therapist can only help you understand yourself. But the Big Reveal can make you imagine that the collective understands you!

Anyway, it’s a phenomenon I’m seeing more and more.

Ever the enlightened anthropologist from the planet Mars, I can’t say the Big Reveal disturbs me so much as bemuses me.

It’s amazing! In only five years, social media through such devices as the Big Reveal has done more to cement reactionary social norms than religion has managed to do since the Enlightenment.

This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2018 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think there's something about social media that encourages people to amplify the things going on in their lives, or make them want to shape things to fit a certain narrative. People only really seem to pay attention to things that are BIG and DRAMATIC, so people often tend to exaggerate things a tad if not outright lie.

Thankfully I got all that out of my system when Livejournal was active and I know to keep drama off Facebook. (I noticed you said "Facebook is my only social media" like Livejournal doesn't count, heh. :) I kinda get that, tho - it does feel a lot more like a private diary). Part of the reason I join so many groups on Facebook is because I feel a lot more free to let my hair down and say how I really feel in spaces like that, without worrying that my gun nut cousin is gonna butt in.

I think "Broken Monsters" is the next book I'm gonna dive into - I remember you raved about it. I also read there's some kind of social media angle in the plot and I'm curious about that.
Sep. 26th, 2018 04:54 pm (UTC)
I loved Broken Monsters! Yes, huge social media plot pivot.

I also loved Beukes' earlier novel The Shining Girls.

I should warn you, though, that both novels are really dark. Like really dark.

I don't think of LJ as social media! Although, clearly it is. Weird, huh? :-)
Sep. 26th, 2018 04:56 pm (UTC)
Maybe Livejournal these days feels more like a group chat.
Sep. 26th, 2018 05:29 pm (UTC)
My little friend group feels like sane people who've seen all my warts and like me anyway. :-)
Sep. 26th, 2018 02:32 pm (UTC)
Sep. 26th, 2018 04:55 pm (UTC)
Fuckin' Twitter.

Oct. 1st, 2018 04:39 am (UTC)
Vaguebooking is also popular
Oct. 1st, 2018 08:52 am (UTC)
I'm so out of it, I don't even know what "vaguebooking" is.
Oct. 2nd, 2018 02:28 am (UTC)
People post a very "clickbait" post, trying to get others to "ask" why, who, what...
Oct. 3rd, 2018 12:16 am (UTC)
In the absence of deep genuine connections, I guess such reveals are one way to build connection. People will respond (or not), and in doing so they signal their willingness to develop a deeper relationship with the speaker, and to see the speaker the way the speaker sees themself. It's a way of controlling how others see you, maybe.

There are other dimensions, as you are exploring. I'm not claiming what I am saying is complete or applicable to everyone... but this is one way to see what is happening.
Oct. 4th, 2018 11:44 am (UTC)
Yes, that's true as well.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )