The first "whisper" I heard- and by that I mean a distinct impression that I got in 'reply,' though often not 'in answer to' my prayers- was in late August. As I sorted through the various sources of grief that had already come in with the tides of 2012, I began to pare down my mental clutter to only things which were truly important to me. One space waster that didn't make the cut was a kind of invisible audience I maintained in my thoughts- my own little jury.
This imaginary audience was composed of the people whose opinions mattered to me for one reason or another. There were family and friends, mentors, certainly my rivals and enemies, further back in the audience were professional peers, strangers, perhaps ex-boyfriends and an assortment of people I envied in some way. If I thought about it, I could identify the specific goal that I had for each audience member. "I want her to think I'm smart and funny," I might say, "And him to think I'm brave." " I want that person to be jealous of me," and pointing to another, "and her to see me as a decisive leader. And I want that group to think I'm successful..." There are endless adjectives I could seek from each person for specific reasons. And, in hindsight, I played a game throughout the day keeping track of how I fared in earning those adjectives. Whenever I interacted with these real life people whose opinion is important to me, I would update my corresponding imaginary audience. "Yup, he 'liked' my post on Facebook. He's definitely impressed with me," I'd say, turning up the "admiration output" dial slightly on my imaginary audience.
I admit it sounds so juvenile, but at least I can guarantee its not unusual. Facebook allows people to play this mental "audience" game with the thinnest possible veil over it (myself included obviously). Someone will post a picture from the open door of a sky diving plane, really serving as a badge that says, "View me as wild!!" Someone else always posts pictures of three and four digit bar tabs, really imploring, "View me as young and popular!" Others post pictures of their executive desks, watches, and real estate, saying, "I'm successful!" "I've made it!" or "I'm an adult!" And of course the people wanting to be viewed as sexy, artsy, or rebellious are all too obvious. With the ultra ULTRA connectedness that social media paired with smart phones provides, it's as though everyone can maintain their own reality show not just mentally anymore, but digitally. And the whole world can know what Lisa thought when the alarm went off, what the weather looks like outside of Lisa's window, how far Lisa ran with her Nike app, where Lisa digitally checked in for breakfast, how Lisa's traffic experience was, how Lisa liked the show she clicked on at a Facebook affiliate website, and whether Lisa claimed a Groupon deal at lunch. It is so difficult to stop playing the imaginary audience game- in other words trying to score points for achieving what you want everyone to think of you, or getting others to think of you period- when Facebook and other sites are like a public digital scorecard for the game.
Anyway, in August I just got very tired of this game. Not just Facebook and other sites that can so easily be used to fuel the self-obsession trend, but the mental game as well. I was not interested in monitoring what I thought others thought of me. And I wasn't interested in tailoring my behavior at all, even subtly, to win the fleeting awards of their admiration or jealousy. I was content to be viewed as no more intelligent or gracious or productive or witty or anything than anyone else. I thought- I'm just me, and I have my own stuff to deal with, so onlookers feel free to get to know the real me, if you want, as I do so.