A contact on one of my social networks tried an experiment, and I decided to try it to. I posted something like this:
For everyone who "likes" this post in the next 24 hours, I'll make an anonymous comment about you.
My contacts could opt in, effectively asking me to make some sort of comment about them, posted publicly but without their name attached. Everyone who "liked" the post knows that I wrote a comment about them, but they don't know which comment is theirs. Everyone can also see the list of other people who "liked" the initial post, so they know who the other comments might be about. But I am the only person who knew for sure which comment belonged to which person. (I've forgotten many of them now).
It was a fascinating exercise for me. I was able to reflect on the people in my life, both what they're doing with their lives and what they mean for my life. Because the people around me play a large role in determining how I'm able to create my own identity, these comments are probably more about me and how I view the world than about the people I'm writing about.
If there's a simple "take-away," it's that I didn't have to try to avoid saying negative things. Positive things are what came to mind first.
Thus I present you with the comments. Each paragraph below is about a single person I know.
You are the definition of "well-adjusted human." It's not everybody who finds a place in society, fills their role perfectly, and remains both interesting and dedicated. I respect that a lot.
You're among the most fundamentally creative and curious people I've met. You've knowingly chosen a difficult career path so that you can fill your life with things society says are supposed to be frivolous, which takes a lot of strength. You and I both know society is wrong.
I used to think I was invisible to you, then we did that one thing together and it became obvious that I wasn't. I respect your recent decision to face the unknown and change things up, so I hope everything goes well!
You're one of a handful of people who got caught up in a rather negative period of my life, and I wish I had been more capable of expressing my gratitude for the ways you helped me grow while we worked on that thing together. I know you weren't having the easiest time either, so I'm very happy to see you're still chugging along.
You live, quite literally, in a very different socio-cultural world than me. There are many reasons we'll probably never end up in a situation where we become close friends, but I'm really glad that people like you exist in the world.
Do you remember that time I did something stupid, and I said "oh yeah, sorry," but then I did it again basically right away? That still pops up in my mind sometimes. And then I think "man, they're always so positive and enthusiastic!"
It was a big step out of your comfort zone that brought you to the same place as me. Now I see that doing such a thing is totally within your character. You're on a lifelong quest of learning and adventure, and I'm excited to see what you'll discover!
Some people stay dedicated to their task most people would have given up. A handful of people stick with their task long after that, so that everyone calls their dedication as "insanity." That's you. What "everyone" is missing is that, if someone is going to succeed at your task, they have to be insane to start with. I hope you make it soon!
For someone who supposedly doesn't care very much about anything, you've sure found a way to be really good at some of them. Your unassuming character adds to the charm---a characterization you would scoff at.
I remember we spent quite some time together quite a while ago. Then you totally disappeared from my world, then suddenly reappeared. It's nice to see photos of your adventures, and it seems like you've found a positive environment, so I'm glad for that.
I get a weird feeling that my mere existence annoys you in a way you may not have consciously realized. Either way, I like the fact that you've seen and done some real stuff, and now you're seeing and doing some totally different real stuff. It's a nice balance.
Have we literally only met once in person? Your enthusiasm was infectious, and every time I see you I think "yeah, go That Person!"
You're a little weird, and I think it's great. It seems like you always find a way to make inane things just exciting enough that you don't want to poke your eyes out. I wish you made a bigger deal about that, because our society could use to be more fun.
I don't know much about you, but your practicality has always struck me. There's really something to be said for people sure enough of themselves that they can keep moving through big life changes with hardly a complaint.
You have a habit of popping up in weird places. I must admit I have totally failed to keep up with you in any consistent way, but whenever I see you, it's a the centre of something interesting.
You've become a fixture in my daily routine. Your struggle is my struggle. I do appreciate the way you live in extremes of emotions and giving-a-shit. It's inspiring, believe it or not.
You were a very different person when we met, and I already thought you were interesting. You're very different now, and way more interesting! I somehow doubt we'll ever end up in the same circle again, but the way you talk about the things you care about is a clear sign that you're having a tremendous positive impact on your community.
I remember when we met, I thought you were a bit of a poser. Over time, I came to see the situation was the opposite: you were, and have continued to be, quintessentially yourself. It's everyone else around you who just can't deal with it. This sounds like some dumb FB meme, but it's actually true I think.
In a sense, you seem like the epitome of contradiction! Always fun, always dedicated. I hope that thing you started recently(ish) is going as well as you hoped, because I know there were some reservations. Either way, you're on track for something great!
I saw you once recently, and I didn't say anything because I didn't know whether you would recognize me. The thing I remember most about you is that characteristic blend of sass and skill. How enviable!
You're another person who was affected by my own bad times. By the time I realized my mistake, it was already too late and I didn't know what to do. But it's quite clear that you've found your place in the world, and you're living it up in the best way possible. Your life is filled with joy, and I'm glad you found that place!
When I think of how I could make the word "virtuous" into an onomatopoeia, it sounds like your name. You approach everything with such, well, with such aplomb, and you seem like one of the most experienced people I know; it's always a little surprising to remember our age difference. I wish we could live in the same city forever, but that's just not how life works.
We've been on each other's peripheries for many many years. I always thought you were a hard worker and persistent, and I'm glad for the times we did creative things together.
Sometimes I wonder how we became friends at all, because I don't think I was very nice to you at first. I can't tell you how grateful I am that you stuck with it. We've both faced our share of trials over the past years, and even though we haven't lived in the same city for a while, you're always there at the right moment. When everything falls apart, you help me run out of the way. When I'm ready to give up, you hit me with a stick and push me back out the door. You've worked hard to get where you are, and I'm proud for your accomplishments.
Where you are now, it's totally not where I thought you would be. You're highly characteristic, and I haven't always agreed with you, but I've always been glad that you were there. And now you're spreading your inspiration somewhere else, and it seems to be super effective---how exciting!
When we worked on that thing, I was a little hesitant, and I didn't think you had the acumen to do a terrific job. How wrong I was! Shame on me for doubting. You've become a role model in how to do things like that.
We met in a different life, and we were both very different people. Now, you're doing something I could never imagine for myself, and that's both frightening and impressive. Keep at it!
Every time I feel like I know who you are, some other new dimension comes out. For someone who's so deeply connected to so many aspects of our society, you don't seem to wear the burden too much. Like you've mastered social consciousness without sacrificing your happiness? I don't think even you know where you're heading, but I hope I get to join you in that world because it will be an awesome place.
You've been on my periphery for so long, and I've only recently started to notice what you have to offer the world. I wish I were a little cooler so that I knew how to talk to you without The Academic Perspective.
You've also been on my periphery for a long time. It seems like you've really made a place for yourself in this world, and you're happy there, living things out, making it exciting in your own way. I'm glad you haven't lost your creative flare either, which is one of the keys to a balanced life!
What a fascinating world you must live in. The contradictions that make up your very existence, presented alongside the certainty without comment. You're a role model for many people and many reasons, and self-aware in a way that makes me totally confident in your continued success.
I really respect how you blend your two main interests in life. It gives you an evenness, or maybe a measure of realism, that I aspire to. You have an adventure coming next year, and I'm eager to see how it will turn out!
You are the hardest-to-read person I've ever met. I have a tremendous amount of respect for who you are, what you do, and how you do it, and I trust you more than almost anyone. But after as long as I've known you, sometimes I seriously wonder whether you merely tolerate me out of politeness. I wish I were brave enough to ask.
We don't know each other very well, but whenever your name comes up, it's because you're going somewhere cool and doing something exciting. Yours is a difficult career path, but it looks like you're having so much fun along the way. I'm cheering for you!
It was through terror that we first bonded, but now that stuff is done, and we've both moved onto and through some other stuff, and we're still friends. Not many people see where they want to go, then walk through fire, find out they're actually headed somewhere else, then turn and take on the spikes, find out that path is wrong too, then decide that ultimately the best way to get there is by falling off the cliff... then survive the cliff, and get up and keep walking. Your persistence is truly awe-inspiring, as is your commitment to doing things in a way that works for you, rather than getting kicked down the hill. You've never failed to impress me somehow.
Tireless, persistent attention to deal. That's how things get done, and that's how you do them. It's always difficult to ask people to commit to your cause, and I appreciate the balance you strike between annoying people juuuust enough that they remember, but not enough to actually get annoyed. A dangerous game and you play it well!
It's a bit of a mystery to me, how someone like you exists. You really aren't taking the easiest path through life: partly that's just what life gave you, but partly it's your own choice. What can I say about someone who starts at the back, chooses all the most difficult things, and still ends up doing them better than the people starting at the front? You've done a host of great things already, and everything's coming up in your favour. I'm really excited for you!