Fifteen Minutes

A couple months ago, I typed up a little thing and posted it on Facebook. It was just a funny little play on recent headlines, meant to point out some of the more obvious hypocrisies in the social-political issues of the day. I put about five minutes into it, and didn’t think much of it.

Imagine my surprise when my Facebook status received over 30,000 likes and shares in a matter of hours. (As a point of reference, I doubt anything I’d posted previously had gotten more than 100 likes. I’m just this guy, you know?) Shortly thereafter, Facebook removed my status update for not meeting community standards.

My assumption is that it was the result of a formula: X Likes + Y Shares / Z Complaints = Post Removed. Sure, I can see why some people might not like it, but it was a long way from offensive. But, whatever.

Wait. Not whatever. I was pretty happy to see my message, no matter how flawed, reach so many people so quickly. I decided that I wanted to get it back out there. I found a cool website (www.cmx.io) that generated comics in the style of XKCD (www.xkcd.com). With just a few minor edits, I turned my status into a comic, uploaded it to imgur (www.imgur.com), and put it back out there.

Meanwhile, in America…

That’s when things got really crazy. Over the next couple days, that comic racked up a quarter million shares and likes. It bled over to Twitter and Pinterest. It was picked up by Lizz Winstead, who has over 100,000 followers herself. It was viewed 750,000 times on imgur. Daily Kos shared it with MILLIONS of viewers. It was (very badly) ripped off to make a new meme featuring some guy from Duck Dimwits. I had to remove Facebook and Twitter from my phone, as I couldn’t use it due to the constant notifications. In short, it went viral.

Well, that was something, wasn’t it? The response was overwhelmingly positive, but that’s to be expected as I was mostly preaching to the choir. The negative responses were far more interesting.

One of the first messages I received after posting was some weird, rambling screed comparing me to the Nazis. It really made no sense at all, but certainly helped prove Godwin’s Law.

Next came a handful of generic whiners: stupid liberal, that’s not true, you don’t like it when conservatives make generalizations, blah, blah, blah.

Most surprising, though, was the number of people who went to great lengths to disagree with me. I received messages from dozens of people who wanted to explain to me, in great detail, why I was being silly. The practical upshot was that no reasonable person would think this way. Conservatives aren’t terrified of Muslims, they’re terrified of radicals of any creed. I was being unfair by making these sweeping generalizations, because no thinking person would use this logic.

To those people I say, “DUH.”

That was the whole freakin’ point. No reasonable person would think that way; I was making fun of unreasonable people. If you are not the type of person who uses this sort of logic, I wasn’t making fun of you.

Everything I referenced in this little wordplay came from real, actual statements by public figures. UNREASONABLE public figures. UNTHINKING public figures. These are the people that drive us liberals crazy. These are the people that should drive reasonable conservatives crazy, too, because they make you look bad, much like Nancy Pelosi makes us liberals look bad. We’re not so different, you and I.

The whole experience was fascinating to me. For one thing, (I’m not gonna lie here) it was pretty good for my ego. It was interesting to see it spread, and it reinforced the speed and power of the internet. It demonstrated that viral can’t be forced. If I had known what would happen, I probably would have tried to monetize it somehow. (Actually, if I had know what would happen, I probably would have edited it a million times and screwed up the whole thing.) I wished I had something to promote or share while I had the internet’s attention.

In the end, it was just a thing that happened. I’m proud of it. It’s unlikely I changed a single person’s mind, but maybe, just maybe, I did.

Really? More Than a Year Since I Wrote Anything?

Here we are, at the beginning of another year. My birthday is right around the corner, and I’m celebrating another year of feeling like crap every single day. Another year of weighing and measuring nearly every bit of food that enters my body. Another year of watching my weight bounce up and down, even though I’ve been dieting for five years straight. (By the numbers, I should have lost so much weight that I ceased to exist. Instead, I’m almost back to the same weight I was at this time last year, despite being 25 pounds lighter at one point.) Another year of specialists, procedures, and therapies that haven’t helped.

It’s also just about time for another annual physical. So, here’s my dilemma:

Do I go see the same doctor again? Do I look for a new physician? My current doctor is a big fan of “eat less, exercise more, all your problems will go away.” But, he does have a few years of history with me, so maybe he’ll finally consider another explanation. A new doctor might be hesitant to do much of anything based on a lack of history. Neither is likely to believe a word I say, as the truth doesn’t make any sense. Most doctors I’ve seen treat me like I’m A) lying, B) exaggerating, C) confused, D) drug-seeking, and/or E) stupid.

I’ve scoured the internet in an effort to diagnose myself. All signs point to a thyroid issue (or a related pituitary issue, or an autoimmune disorder that presents like, and can lead to, a thyroid issue.) Unfortunately, everything I’ve read says that most doctors fail to order the tests that would actually help define any of these conditions. Instead, they rely on a single test (TSH). If that test comes back in the “normal” range (which mine did), it’s the end of the story. Never mind that there is very little agreement on what normal is. Never mind that there are a wide array of thyroid, pituitary, and autoimmune issues that don’t show up on that test. Never mind that I’ve identified more than thirty symptoms commonly associated with thyroid issues. Never mind that even if my thyroid IS fine, I am still experiencing all these symptoms, and maybe “eat less, exercise more” isn’t quite enough.

Yes, I’m aware that self-diagnosis is an imperfect approach. Yes, I’m aware that the internet is not always a reliable source of information. I’m also aware that I walked around for more than a decade with a hernia, and couldn’t get a doctor to diagnose it until after I had diagnosed myself. I’m also aware that when I got a second hernia and told the doctor I had a second hernia, I still had to see two more doctors before being diagnosed with a second hernia. I’m also aware that I spent years with crippling back pain before I could get a doctor to order an X-ray and an MRI to discover two bad disks. I’m also aware that basically, I have spent my entire adult life in pain, and not once has a doctor acted BEFORE I diagnosed myself.

So, what, am I writing this just to complain? Maybe. But it’s also to help me clarify my own thinking. It’s also because I want to get back to writing more. It’s also because maybe, if I throw this out there on the internet, someone will read it and relate to it and have some helpful advice. All I know for sure is that I can’t do this much longer.