Page had a mood disorder later in life, suffering from depression. She also became an Evangelical Christian, even working for Billy Graham. Every individual is a series of complexities, like Page. We can never really know everything about a given person. Appearances are often deceiving. Really deceiving. But in a world of globalized technologies, social media networks, and search engines that can keep your photos online for, well, ever, is it possible to not judge a book by its cover?
The interesting thing about this 21st century quandary is, we all have an innate desire to share who we are with another human being. We want to bare our souls, and our bodies. Share our secrets. Become intimate. The ultimate human desire is acknowledgement. When we are intimate with another person, and not just through sex (though that's a good start...), we are asking for all of our scars and imperfections to be not only seen, but accepted. It's like saying, "I'm a monster...can you still somehow love me???"
The answer isn't always a kind one. But once in a while, we let someone get close enough to say, "Yeah, everything you think is hideous, I find beautiful." When that happens, it feels like a miracle. Like something out of a fairy tale. Except, you don't have to lure the prince by leaving your shoe (or smart phone) at his castle.
Ironically, social media networks can provide a space big enough to spurn intimate friendships, despite the enduring prevalence of (often regrettable) pictures on the internet. #SelfieSunday anyone??? People you've never met before are suddenly trusted friends you talk to on a daily basis. Sites like Twitter can provide an anonymous sheen to those who desire it. You don't have to use your real name, or post any personal photos. You can be anything, say anything. Under the mask of anonymity, without the pesky intrusion of "surface" judgments, it's easy to get to know someone. But some of us don't have the luxury of being anonymous. And that poses a different question: How can you trust people who may well know everything about you when you have no real way of verifying their identity?
A recent story in the Toronto Star talked about a woman who was swindled out of over $1,000,000 by a man she knew only from an online dating site. You may be tempted to criticize her, saying, "Why would you do that???!!!" But before you do, remember, we all crave acknowledgment. Know what another word for acknowledgment is? #LOVE.
Yup, as usual, #LOVE is to blame.
Why would you send naked pictures to someone you've never met before? Give large sums of money to what is, essentially, a name on a screen? Tell your most intimate secrets to a friend who may not be a real person at all?
In our desperation to be #LOVED, we are willing to take BIG risks in a brave, new world. Like Bettie Page, what we know merely scratches the surface. Makes you wonder just how much you don't know about the "friend" you've never actually met. Not that meeting a person guarantees anything. But when you do meet another human being, you at least know that individual is real.
There's no easy answer, or one-size-fits-all solution. The first thing to check is your gut. What's it telling you? Next, observe. Look for pictures, signs of "real" life. Look at their interactions with others. Consistency is key. And if you really want to know if Shelly from Detroit who claims to be 34 isn't some 17-year old little shit getting his rocks off on punking innocent people, do an internet search. If you have a person's name, city and state, you can find pretty much anything you want. You may have to use your credit card to get it, but so what? Your peace of mind is worth the price of admission.
Even with all of the above, it doesn't guarantee you'll really know that person. But if the person on the other side of that DM (direct message) is sharing their world with you, it's very likely it's legit. Acceptance and acknowledgment are the reasons. The need to be loved is something we all share. It's the miracle of humanity (sorry, Jesus...). Trust is always difficult, but you don't need complete trust to take a risk. Except in yourself. Know yourself and no matter what, you will be fine.
And what about me??? You want it all, you say? Sure! Start with the 2009 archives and work your way to the present. Even five years' worth of essays won't help you know all of me. But I have shared who I really am with a few special people over the course of my life. Even a person I've never met. Know why?
Because I believe that #LOVE always wins, and not just in my books....