Mean Girls: the cult classic
Mean Girls: the memes
Mean Girls: the musical
Mean Girls: the pandemic
I remember when everything shut down a little over a year ago.
There was lots of talk of when we could be back together, how things would be different, and the appreciation for human contact.
But as the year continued another storyline developed – the mean girls (and guys) who emerged from the pandemic.
It was easier to be a Mean Girl.
Hiding behind a computer keyboard in an email.
Texting passive/aggressively and ending said text with a smiley face.
Or the worst, hiding in plain sight on Zoom calls. Prime time to say things in a public forum to someone’s face without in-person consequences.
All because of distance and screens.
I loathe Zoom
The last scenario recently happened to me and it was a virtual face slap that hurt worse than a real one.
I was alone. I had no one sitting next to me in that meeting.
And because we have all grown so numb to these virtual interactions, no one knew what to say.
No one stood up for me as a person.
No one told this woman to stop her baseless attack.
It was only after she finished her attempted assault on my character and reputation that I was able to get a word in to defend myself.
I am convinced that this never would have happened had this been a meeting where we all physically occupied the same space.
And even if this person had been so bold, I believe the consequences would have been very different without screens to separate us.
Eventually one person did speak up and told this woman why she couldn’t get her way. But the damage had already been done.
Mission accomplished, drama mama.
We have lost our context, our human frame of reference.
We get our groceries delivered, we wear masks, and we stay home to hide behind technology.
Here’s some context for the Zoom interaction I had: my mental health was at its lowest point in over a year.
I struggle with depression and anxiety and always will. I have PTSD that will never fully resolve.
Guess what is a trigger is for me?
Being blindsided and attacked. And all this happened at a time where pulling myself out of bed some days was an accomplishment.
Did this woman feel bigger? Better? More important in that square on the computer screen? You bet.
But back to the context. Did anyone know where I was coming from?
Sure, a few knew that I had spent the better part of the year being bullied by this person.
But no one knew the context – where I was standing or functioning on a daily basis.
Or how I felt that night in the meeting, alone in my study, facing a screen of many who I thought to be friends.
Or what it’s taken in these past weeks to pick myself up and move on for my own health.
When this incident happened to me on Zoom, I was mortified.
People who didn’t know me at all and certainly had no context saw me as someone called out, questioned, and attacked.
I was in tears but I could turn my camera off, hit mute and exist in a dark square that only displayed my name.
But the day is coming where that won’t be possible and these pandemic mean girls won’t be so brave.
Half the time I dread this and the other half – bring it, girls.
Mental health awareness month
So why share this story and parts of my own mental health struggles?
May also happens to be the month we focus on mental health.
The month we talk about removing the stigma.
The month we talk about having open conversations with our friends.
The month we acknowledge that many struggle with mental illness.
This month – as the pandemic hopefully is winding down – is the perfect time to really be aware of those around us.
Because some of us have been wearing more than one mask during COVID.
Return to “normal”
As life slowly returns to whatever our normal is going to look like, be gracious with one another.
We have little or no context for the lives we are entering back into for the first time since COVID began.
Take the time to understand. Talk. Ask questions. Don’t assume that everyone came out of this the same as you.
And certainly don’t continue the entitlement some felt as they were hiding behind technology, doors and masks.
No books, no sequels, no musicals, no memes… Mean Girls: the pandemic is coming to an end.