I manage two Facebook accounts; one is my personal page, the other, my husband’s clown business. On most days, on both accounts, Facebook dutifully greets me with this message: “Galina, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 1 year ago.” (Or 9 years ago.)”
I love a good time hop as much as the next guy but after a few jaunts on the mental time machine, I realized that just because we share chunks of our lives in the heat of a moment, doesn’t mean we need to be reminded about it forever in perpetuity, like a deal with Kevin O’Leary on the Shark Tank. It’s lovely to look back at your children as they grow, but on the flip side, any social break up (romantic or friendship) requires a social media purge of historical evidence. After their break up, Calvin Harris deleted every memory of him with Taylor Swift, only that didn’t make it unhappen, it just allowed him not to be reminded of it. Facebook has yet to develop an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlight Mind app to erase our memories, but the demand is huge.
The cliche, “everything happens to bring you where you are meant to be,” is great if you’re happy in life at this moment, but rather unreassuring if you’re stuck at a shitty crossroads. Not necessarily death-bed worst, but more like,“C’mon this isn’t what I was destined for?! I’m one of the good guys; I deserve better!”
I didn’t enjoy my high school years and miraculously I can’t remember more than a handful of days from those four years. My body’s biological defense mechanisms kicked into gear to obliterate unpleasant memories. I don’t count on logging into my brain for it to remind me of that awkward afternoon at the donut shop.
When I check my FB account, I eagerly click the links; happy to engage in an unsolicited memory lane trip proven to result in smiles. I get to see my cynical teenager when he was a 7-year-old playing in a water park, so innocently, so disconnected from technology. I review wedding photos and birthday party photos and my daughter’s sweet birth announcement. All those goodies I’ve shared on Facebook over the years.
In my first few active years on Facebook, I existed in some unhappy corporate jobs, writing passive aggressively to the future me, through Facebook statuses. I tweeted so negatively about one job, I got myself fired. One year I made a cryptic update about a dead bird falling on my fire escape, alluding to hard times in life. Exactly one year later my daughter was born.
Nowadays I laugh at the immature me who thought social ranting would make me feel better or better yet, incite a situation change. Nowadays I read other’s soapbox rants on Facebook and say, “So what?” What are you doing about it other than complaining? I understand there may be an inherent desire to get a dialog going or rally people around your cause, but ultimately when you read it back years later, you seem like a loud obnoxious loner standing on a virtual pulpit delivering a sermon to an audience which has the attention span needed for a one-second swipe. I was one of those people once, but I’ve evolved. Now I post my rants on my blog.
When I log into my husband’s professional clown account, the Facebook memories served up there are radically different from my own. The feed is filled with seriously sick children and their journeys. Occasionally I see memories from two years ago when the 5-year-old beautiful girl was bald and now her mother shares the memory of her hair, grown back thick and curly, boasting positive levels on her blood test results. I like those memories; they show me progress, scientific success, hope, healing, resilience.
Then there’s Christopher’s mom. She’s a Facebook fanatic, over-sharer; and I don’t judge, people cope in different ways and these are life’s horrific tragedies. Christopher died three years ago. Every day I log on and see the memories of Christopher alive: Christopher smiling over a dinosaur cake at a birthday party or Christopher posing with my clown husband at a Mets game or Christopher in Disney Land or Christopher on the boat ride around NYC. Every day I log on, I get a virtual photographic eulogy. I get emotional because Christopher is a token. He is one of the hundreds of deceased kids who still live inside the mysterious algorithm of Facebook memories.
Every scroll down the page causes the lump in my throat to build. Every photo makes me want to hold my kids tighter, so grateful for the greatest gift, health. But then I think, what about Christopher’s mother? What is she going through each day? Is it lovely to see her son so alive rather than focus on him being gone? Do the memories help her focus on the happy moments, to savor all the joy she had with him in his 8 short years on this planet? What happens when the memories run out after she’s gone through them all? What happens when she logs on and there are no more images of her child, at once so alive?
Facebook has permeated every element of our lives – and now extends even beyond.