Monday, September 23, 2013

Facebook and co.

Last night, I had a small realization. I realized that I love the fact that I have so many friends from different walks of life, and that social media portals like Facebook allow me to have a direct window into all of those peoples' lives. I used to view social media as a big waste of time, almost an addiction really, but it's become very important to me in my life abroad as a tool to stay in touch with friends back home and across the world.
I realized how much I appreciated this tool when I was looking through my Facebook feed yesterday and realized that I was going around "liking" everything. Usually I tend to use the "Like" button pretty sparingly - for big events like the birth of a child or a long-awaited engagement. But yesterday, I scrolled through my feed and I "liked" nearly everything. I "liked" a surfing adventure in Maui, an anniversary celebration in a hot air balloon, a young cousin's first homecoming, family photos and baby photos, a Star Trek-themed goodbye party, an eight-year-old's birthday celebration, the sending of a teenaged daughter off to college for the first time, an acceptance to nursing school, an acceptance that time spent with your sister is time well spent (if not best spent), an acceptance that life doesn't always turn out the way you expect, which can be at times utterly beautiful and at others utterly devastating.
One thing in particular that I "liked" was a friend's move back to Seattle after ten years of being away, and as I clicked the button it hit me that that will someday be my move. And when I announce that move, many of my Facebook friends will "like" it, too. (If we're all still using Facebook by then, that is.) Maybe my move back to the Emerald City will come sooner, or maybe later, but it's clear to me that there is no way I'll be able to stay away much longer from the place that has so convincingly won my heart.
Most of this is stuff - this constant stream of updates in my Facebook feed - most of it isn't my life, but by the simple merit of being small snippets of my friend's lives, these bits and pieces do become part of my life. Pictures of children that I've never met, photos of places I've never lived, Instagrams of food I've never tasted. I appreciate the fact that there are people in my life that enjoy these specific things and live them out, even if I choose not to do that particular thing myself - at least not yet, but there's still time. There's always time. In the meantime, I can't help but celebrate these little things that are going on in these peoples' lives - these little things that for those people living them are the BIG things - and reveling in those celebrations with them, however remotely, however quietly, however behind-the-scenes.
We all have relationships with people that are going to be different from the relations that those people have with others. That's exactly what a relationship is, by definition: a specific set of experiences and behaviors that is unique to the parties involved. Some argue that social media has changed the way we relate to one another as human beings. I just think that it's added another layer, and that's not necessarily a negative thing, generally speaking.
Perhaps this revelation is important in another way: it helps me see that I'm not the cynical, critical analyst that I sometimes perceive myself to be. And that's a lesson I can stand to learn again and again.


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