By: Ariel Fixler
I came in contact with a lot of whispered white lies that we in the cancer community call, “social media snafus”. They could be so easily avoided if the person didn’t get caught posting contradictory statuses or posts.
People would tell me they were sick, or not in town, busy, immersed in family or personal drama, etc. I always felt badly for anyone who cancelled, because his or her excuses were always valid to me. I always heavily sympathize with illness, being pressed for time or spread too thin. I choose to find the best in people.
However, those feelings would quickly vanish when those who were sick would also tag themselves at the gym, proud that they were back doing hardcore cardio or doing activities one would never engage in while sick. Gym selfies are kind of hard to see for those canceled on due to “illness”. Others told me they weren’t around but tagged themselves at hotels, shows, movies, restaurants, bars — literally steps from my apartment or hospital. One person tagged themselves in the hotel that was half a block away. If I would question them about it I was met with more excuses. They were having a stay-cation at a hotel etc. I always realized people post and tag themselves to show people they are A-OK and they are living the life. Forgetting that they are being pretty thoughtless with people who aren’t able to have the same life bragging rights. Those same people that they are canceling on. It seems as though coming clean was as unfathomable as wearing a suede jumpsuit with massive camel toe.
Others would tell me after the fact they were in town (or not at all) but take pictures on Instagram/Facebook that they hand landed at LGA/JFK/EWR. You know the pictures “I’M HEEEEREEEE”. Those stung sometimes because I corresponded with these weekender arrivals (and friends) very often. They would stealthily post or drop the info after the fact that they were in town. Either they would tell me after the fact, sometimes tell me late into their short visit or proclaim their arrival via social media. I just started to do eye rolls eventually when people (who were out of towners) would post the typical NYC pictures and I would discover their arrival or outings after the fact via social media. That is when I decided to take a step back and break from social media.
I wrote most of it off as not fully thinking about it before posting (which is the ultimate downfall of most people who proclaim, complain and post on social media). Also, whenever I had the balls to confront people on it (in a Fixler-esque sweet, sour and sardonic manner) I would be hit with excuses. These excuses were not limited to the length of their trip, multiple obligations and the list went on and on and on. I never heard you know you are right I FUCKED UP or MY BAD. So I just kept it to myself and started to isolate more to avoid disappointment and hurt. I used to be the most social person even being communicative during illness, but this method of canceling and not showing up made me feel more and more reclusive. I didn’t want to feel more pain and be riddled with lofty expectations and hope.
A word to the wise, this topic is talked about at length in Cancer Care and other types of support groups. The visitor assumes the sick (aka us the patient), must be isolated and doesn’t bother with social media. Or perhaps they simply forget how public social media is so they are free to post about their “normal” activities. Well, sometimes it’s our only way to participate from afar, even if what we see on social media is a mixed bag. Even if they get caught in the act they lie, deny or worse, have more excuses. Yes, they were in town but “barely” and are in town for a hot minute. They would say they are only steps away from you but only for a night or two.
The visitor would say, I had plans and didn’t want to cancel. Then the friend blames the patient’s compromised immune system for canceling. I began to have less and less sympathy as I realized that such people were being less than honest. Damn, I got frustrated! No one likes to be lied to or to call people out on false excuses or having to cancel. Using a compromised immune system and going on the defensive never felt quite right, either. Why not simply say, “Hey I’m sorry you’re right, I messed up. I take full accountability and responsibility”.
I lost a lot of respect during my illness for people who resided in Excuse City. The same people who jumped to a defense. I found their actions to be a major offense. I respect people who take full responsibility and “mea culpa-ing” will earn only favor in a patient’s eyes. We know we have to isolate. We would give anything to have your social lives. What a relief not to worry about excessive nausea and vomiting in any form of transportation.
So if you are going to cancel, reschedule or embark on a minor white lie, remember, don’t post something that will get you into trouble and shine light on said lie in a public forum. Seeing all those posts makes us think that you would rather do anything than sit with us. You can tell us the truth, whatever the reason. It’s so much better than to see the truth online. And it’s so much more hurtful and offensive. Lies do more damage than the straight “talk” and when you are deceptive, it makes us question future visits with you.
Excuses to we patients are as bad as telling us your outreach went to spam (which we futilely check with no results) or telling us you called and our voicemail is full or the connection is bad or texts don’t go through. We don’t want to take the energy to catch you in a “cancel and post”. It’s exhausting and it hurts, especially from those who say they want to support us but don’t know how. This is not a the answer to your HOW. Deflection and desertion feels like rejection.