Friday, February 7, 2014

The Blessing and Curse of Social Media

Yesterday was my birthday. Though it was one of those days that I legitimately needed several extra hours to get everything done and was running around all day, it was a good day. A really good day.

Probably the best birthday I've ever had.

There was no celebratory dinner. It was waiting in the crockpot when we got home from all the other things we had to do.

There was no cake. Which is fine, because I really don't like cake anyway. (Gasp! I know, right?)

There was no party. Unless you count the singing of Happy Birthday as we crammed chicken cacciatore into our mouths.

There was no hurrah. My youngest didn't even realize it was my birthday until last night.

And you know what? It was still awesome.

I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, telling myself (with real reason) that I didn't want to be on a social media site, that I didn't need to connect with classmates from decades ago, that I didn't need to be wasting my time there. I pushed it away because I was afraid I would like it, if I am just being honest with myself.

I eventually gave in and joined.

Over the years I have reconnected with people I never thought I would, forged friendships with people I never would have had the chance to, and met some of the nicest people I've never actually met.

Then there is this. Most of you came by way of Facebook.

All day yesterday, I received posts and messages from these people that live in my computer. I laughed at a few, teared up at others, was touched by everyone that took time out of their day just to write to me.

It's fairly fantastic, this internet thing.

A few times, though, I saw people posting memes and links to posts whining about the 10th anniversary Facebook movies. In case you don't know what they are, earlier this week, Facebook celebrated their 10th Anniversary. To thank their users, they created an app that generates a one minute look back video of your time on Facebook. The first posts you wrote and pictures you shared, the items that people interacted with the most, the things that some algorithm decided were worthy of being included in that little snippet of life.

Most people loved their video. Some didn't, usually because it included pictures of painful reminders, posts having to do with heartbreak or loss, people who aren't here anymore.

Even if people loved their own video, eventually the snark about everyone else's videos began. It seems in this world we can't ever just let people have their moment without making it about us, can we? We seem to think that our opinions are important enough to voice them, even at the expense of others.

If you don't want to make a video, fine. No one required you to do so. If other people do, leave them be. Chances are that video means something to them that you could never possibly understand.

My video made me cry. In it, pictures of my parents who are both gone now, of my babies when they were little. Images from some of the worst days in my life where I was trying to hold it together and smile for the camera. Others that show the moments when I started to emerge from the tunnel. When life turned around, when there was genuine joy again. Pictures of the things I love, the people I love, the things I am proud of.

My video was an absolutely accurate representation of what my life has been like, perhaps because I am absolutely authentic, even online.

The trouble with social media is that it's easy to portray ourselves as something other than who we really are. It's easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to the images everyone else puts out there. If you can take it for what it is, though, be real about who you are, and stop worrying so much about what everyone else is doing, it can be a truly beautiful thing.


  1. that last line is the most inportant line of this post. and of course, happy birthday to you!!

  2. Beautiful. And the happiest of belated birthdays to you!

  3. You know how I feel ;). The videos are another example of the eerie accuracy and complete failures of Facebook algorithms. But even with all my snark (most of which I did not express on social media) I remain happy that there are those who were truly touched by their videos and the videos of their friends and families. Whatever brings people together can't be all bad.

  4. "When life turned around, when there was genuine joy again." Very happy for you.

  5. I've forgiven you for not liking cake. It made me a little sad when people started video bashing. I try to live the old adage of if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it. Unless it is off-the-charts funny. ;) P.S. Happy late birthday!

  6. The reason why we are friends and I wanted you to join me on is because of the last line you wrote.

    You and I feel the same about the medias that are social and about how we write. I'm glad I know you, you feel like the family I should've had.

    Thanks, dude.

  7. I missed out on all of this. Sometimes, living in my bubble is a good thing. I did miss out on all the videos and subsequent bashing. . . So I made my own tonight.

    I cried.

  8. I have the same feelings about social media; I take it when it serves me, I leave it when it doesn't...most of the time. ;)
    Glad you had a happy birthday!


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