Is Muncie Saving “Face” on Facebook?

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Living the Lie You Always Wanted-Is Muncie  Saving “Face” on Facebook

The math says “Yes.”

Facebook Lie

 

 

Image: Courtesy of http://www.someecards.com

“May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook”

There’s more to this story than Muncie’s Facebook users could ever care to tell.

This meme on the surface is tongue in cheek but depending upon motive and its messenger, it delivers a snarky and passive-aggressive message  meant to scold fellow social media users who only share media which in some form or another, accentuates and/or creates the illusion of the positive: Photos of family vacations, pictures of happy children, small victories, while omitting their personal failures or struggles – The private heartaches, legal woes, poor decisions, broken hearts (theirs or the pain they are causing others) an empty or overdrawn bank account, an empty pantry and refrigerator, a horrible job situation, no job, an addiction, the struggles of being a single parent, crumbling marriages or relationships, infidelity, chronic illness (their own or a loved one’s),  a messy house, a messy life, living beyond their means and living in or on the edge of poverty.

Is this meme really a cry for TRUE authenticity?  Does the creator of this meme and those who pass it along REALLY want their privately suffering friends to appear ONLY that way on social media-as they are in life? Are they really ready to hold themselves accountable to the same authenticity standards they demand from others?

Or are Facebook and social media users here in Muncie and everywhere else developing their social media platforms to save “face”? 

Is Facebook the “Great Escape”?

It all boils down to math. The math is troubling.

The Untold and Real Stories of Today’s American Facebook Users; Courtesy of Math

According to data collected by the Pew Internet Research Data Bank-as of May 2013, 72% of online adults use social networking sites and among America’s population of 313.9 million,  there are more than 167 million Facebook users,alone,  76% of Americans in the work force are living paycheck to paycheck. Of these 167 million Facebook users, according to Pew Internet Research– 72% of them live in households that are considered low-income with breadwinners earning less than a total of $30,000 a year.

In America, according to the United States Census Bureau, 2010-and the Associated Press– nearly 80% of all adults; 4 out 5 U.S. adults- struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, today.  45% of all American children live in low-income families, according to the NCCP.

Financially secure?  Of the 2.5 million marriages that occur annually about 50% of them will end in divorce. That number increases with the number of marriages. “50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.  Being a single parent is also a significant well-being hurdle to clear; According to Life Site News: “1/3 of American children are being raised without a father and nearly five million children live without a mother.”

If all is well in money or love, it is reported by the American Bar Association that about ½ of all American households face legal battles, including civil and criminal matters, possibly even incarceration.  If lucky to be financially secure, keep up a stable relationship, and manage to avoid legal woes, according to PBS-In the Balance, it is reported that about 125 million Americans are dealing with (directly) or experiencing chronic illness and according the CDC, about half of all Americans are suffering from (directly or indirectly) mental health issues.  Additionally, Hope Networks.org reports that nearly 24 million Americans have an active addiction and as many as a whopping 75 million Americans, including children of addicted parents are directly/indirectly affected by a loved one’s addiction.

Question: What is the point?

Answer: Everyone is facing something.

Given all this data, it is a statistical probability that most social media users, even those who find themselves passing this meme along are probably experiencing some sort of personal or family dysfunction and/or privately suffering from a significant or seemingly insurmountable stressors, and blabbing about near-poverty, legal problems, an addiction, an impending divorce (or miserable marriage/relationship) and an empty bank account may not be on the list of things they want to share with the world, not if they want to keep their jobs and save “Face”.

 Muncie’s Brave Face and REAL Story; Also-Courtesy of Math

Muncie bears the ultimate success story of a family with a vision: The Ball family, whose culmination of businesses became the beating heart of a town and put it on the map.  Their vision took its form in Ball Corporation, a growing and thriving Ball State University, and Ball Memorial Hospital, which is now IU Health/Ball Memorial.  Not to mention all the businesses, start-ups, charities and causes the Ball family has historically supported.  Muncie has served as a launching pad for generations of successful people.  Muncie has a deep history of loyalty, growth and bustling middle-class opportunity, particularly when auto-manufacturer Borg-Warner was in its prime during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Ball Corp, AB&B, and Borg Warner among others, have since left.

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Borg Warner “Then”- The Borg Warner plant in Muncie closed April 24. 2009. At its peak, it employed about 3000 autoworkers, 
Photo by Stephen Smith

 

Fast-forward to 2013.

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Borg Warner “Now”- Kilgore Ave, Muncie, IN. October 10th, 2013- Photograph, Aimee Fant; Muncie Voice

Across the street from Borg Warner is huge parking lot that was once used for employee parking.  Now in 2013 Second Harvest (with the help of many non-profit partners/churches, including Unitarian Universalist) convenes here to feed hundreds of Muncie and East Central families in need, who line up every Second Thursday of every month to receive groceries.

Oct. 10th- 2013 Aimee Fant

Cars line up to receive groceries courtesy of Second Harvest; Oct. 10th- 2013- Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice

If you happen to live in Muncie and are discouraged by diminishing financial resources and limited economic opportunities, you are not alone and it is not just in your head.  Despite Muncie’s well-published (and well-deserved) break into Forbes’ Magazine-Top 400 for Small Business (for owners/management)- finishing #34, upon closer inspection, the economic prognosis for the average Muncie resident appears more bleak, and even dire for this generation of children if there aren’t some significant and immediate changes on the horizon should Muncie not be able to once again, find its feet.  Life-long residents in Muncie could tell you that you don’t have to look too far to see that many in Muncie are working hard to save “her”.  Though many residents and their families have been forced to “jump ship” there are plenty of loyal folks who have stayed and are dedicated to help build her back up, through investments and/or volunteer work.  Muncie has a large network of proud volunteer organizations that are addressing poverty and budgetary state funding social program shortfalls.  MyMuncie.org connects volunteers, organizations to causes.

In addressing the past exodus of businesses from Muncie, Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance has succeeded in attracting Dannar LLC, an auto manufacturer, and announced that approximately 288 jobs will be created over the next 4 years. Downtown Development, and so many other groups are working hard to grow Muncie, by proposing private/public partnerships and investments.

There are several omissions in Forbes’ short-sighted analysis. Though there has been a 4% uptick in employment in the past year, those positions are predominantly part-time service and retail positions; full-time positions have been spliced and replaced with a growing number of part-time positions, without benefits, which cannot sustain a family (without the assistance of the government).

The middle-income manufacturing jobs and technology jobs with benefits that brought prosperity to Muncie have increasingly been downsized, moved, and/or outsourced to Mexico (and separately Asia) since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, increasing profit margins for business owners and stockholders, growing the economies in other countries and playing a sizable role in shrinking Muncie’s economy along the national economy. NAFTA has since brought forth the decline of the American middle class.  The United States lost an estimated 689,200 jobs on account of NAFTA. Indiana was among the hardest hit.

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It has also been rumored that many employers have begun or plan to cut full-time employees to avoid covering health insurance, recently – in response to mandates of health coverage Affordable Care Act, set for a full-scale launch in 2014, but most changes are already underway. Though, this trend of replacing full-time, tenured employees with cheaper or part-time staff has increased over a several years. IU Health/Ball Memorial Hospital recently cut just under 200 employees, citing the ACA.

However, the reasons cited for these job and benefit cuts would be easier to swallow (and to believe) if  executive compensation weren’t continuing to climb at a rate of 5+% a year over the past decade.   It would seem that some large employers are simply demanding more of their employees, paying them less, and pocketing the difference.  Studied thoroughly as a representation of “Everywhere, USA” or as the Lynds called it “Middletown, USA” in a field study that began and was conducted in the late 1920’s and continued as a series of longitudinal studies, it can only be assumed that all the various economic crescendos and decrescendos are playing out, improving financial outcomes for a minute portion – (between 1-10%) but mostly negatively affecting the rest, just as they are doing through-out the rest of the U.S.

To see the real economic story of Muncie residents, neighborhood by neighborhood, use the interactive map tool provided below:

A Snapshot Map of Muncie’s Household Incomes-by Area.

According to the data collected by the 2010 US Census Bureau, the poverty level in Muncie is 159.3% greater than the Indiana average and 87.8% greater than the National average.

And perhaps the ugliest statistic of all for Muncie families, especially for full-time employed Muncie women and/or single mothers: The median earnings for women in Muncie is 81.7% LESS than the median earnings for men in Muncie; Full-time employed women earn an average of just $12,553 per year versus $21,227 per year for men.  DESPITE women out-performing men academically, in primary, secondary, and higher education, here and nationwide. 

The income per capita in Muncie is 23.4% less than the Indiana average and 35.5% less than the National average. The median household income in Muncie is 33.9% less than the Indiana average and is 42.9% less than the National average.  (That is nearly ½ the National average) With Muncie’s cost of living index sitting at -18% of the National average, the slightly lower cost of living do not offset the wage shortfalls.

The average median individual wage in the United States is $26,965 a year, while the average median individual wage for an individual in Muncie, is just $16,394, which is 10K and about 1/3 less  than the national average. Each of these figures are provided by the United States Census Bureau, 2010.

What’s worse is that number, despite rising costs of living, rising costs of fuel and food, is that salaries adjusted to inflation and the cost of living, particularly among public employees, as the size of federal and the Indiana government shrinks, the tax base becomes smaller, and property tax cuts have been implemented, have gone down over the past decade.

A signpost of the times and lack of state funding comes with a referendum, up for a vote in Muncie- in which Muncie Community Schools is (literally) having to beg residents for funds to keep school buses running.  Residents can vote referendum up or down (yes or no) Tues. Nov. 5th.

Social Media has created the Unstoppable Competing with the Joneses Monster

While social media has provided a platform for many to connect with and “hobnob” with all walks of life, breaking the barriers of generation disconnects, economic circles and former understood social status norms that define our natural world interactions, it also provides an opportunity for users to see “how the other half lives”- Economic inequality and the CEO vs. Average American Worker wage gap, which according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2013 is (CEO)354-(American Worker) 1–  plays out in various ways through social media- which for those with fewer economic resources is disconcerting and can amplify feelings of insecurity and resentment.

Illustrated through a moving graphic map that flows through 36 years of change- beginning in 1977 and ending in 2013, watch the top 1% gobble up America’s economy. The shades of red represent more equal economic conditions and the green represent a gross disparity in economic conditions.  These disparities are seen now more than ever through social media sharing, as users see every day how the other (upper) half (who are we kidding-upper 10%) lives, while they are silently suffering- not able to take expensive vacations with their families, not able to go out (in some cases, even on a date night) or even afford to buy Pizza King (a Muncie favorite, and frequent flyer on social media).

On the other hand, many financially secure Facebook and social media users (regardless of income bracket) have been made aware of charitable causes, community organizations, and have more opportunities to donate time and money through social media.  Many volunteer organizations depend upon Facebook and other social media websites to raise awareness.  Brad and Jess Smith, is among many Muncie residents who are active in community outreach programs within Muncie, recently supported and used social media to grow support for “Wifflemania”- September, 14th 2013- for children placed at Muncie’s Youth Opportunity Center, a placement facility for at-risk children.

Changing Faces for Facebook

For some social media users, particularly female Facebook users, regularly seeing their photos can cause immense anxiety, if they constantly compare their photos against the photos of their female Facebook peers.  According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (Los Angeles), there has been a 71 percent increase in the number of chin augmentations over the past year, called Facebook facelift.  “Dr. Adam Schaffner, a New York-based plastic surgeon, agrees, telling Mashable that technology heightens the problem for many women.

He continues: “People will come in and say, “I saw myself in the mirror, but I didn’t really notice it until I  saw myself on Facebook or on my iPhone or iPad.”.- DAILY MAIL REPORTER; July 17th, 2012

Through a constant stream of photos of our peers on our homepages, for some women and men, Facebook plants the seeds of self-image doubt in its users.

Though not all Facebook users are vocal about how and why they may be suffering, it is important to know that most everyone is going through something.

Many are not “Living a Lie” they simply choose not to discuss their turmoil (that which they have may have created or has been thrust upon them) on social media.  As pointed out, many residents in Muncie seem to be suffering economically. In a roller-coastery economy and internet trails that extend forever, maybe some self-restraint and positive PR isn’t so bad if we want to keep our jobs and perhaps a little empathy, self-reflection and perspective is in order for those who wish for their friends’ private turmoil to be made public.

We may keep in mind “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7)  

So if you don’t want to be supportive of your friends, that’s okay. That is your prerogative.  Say nothing. (Why are you friends with the said “poser” on Facebook and/or in life, then?)

So instead spreading the patronizing sentiment  “May your life one day be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook

Maybe post this one instead?

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About Author

Aimee Fant is mother of 3, public educator, writer and a CASA for children.

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