We live in an age of instant communication. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus allow us to instantly communicate whatever happens to be on our minds and hearts. Did you and your spouse have a date night that was an absolute blast? With the click of a few keys, your happiness in wedded bliss is shouted out to all your “friends” and followers. Did you have a bad day at work ? With the click of some keys your “friends” and followers can know that tonight may not be a good night to tell you that your boss gave you an extra week of vacation–paid!
It’s always interesting to me to read my Facebook news feed. Some people share very little personal information but strive to make sure all their “friends” know their political position through their re-posting of news articles or the like. For some, they may not even have read what they posted but the headline of the story aligned with their beliefs so on their timeline it goes. Some people share everything positive about their lives. Their timelines glow of reports of Johnny winning his school’s highest award for excellent behavior and many pictures of Johnny with his award. They are quick to post how Susie graduated from college with highest honors all while volunteering thirty hours a week for a non-profit global impact organization that strives to impact our world in positive ways… Okay. Still others post every time something changes in the day. Their post may read “Just had lunch with my bestie!” at 1:45 and then at 2:00 they update again, “Just got home. Now to tackle that awesome Bible study I’m part of!” and then at 4:00 they update again, “Wow, Bible work today was so eye opening! Thank you __________ for leading such a wonderful study!” (and of course they tag the person leading) and then at 5:00…you get the idea.
I’ve written before about the darker side of social media. For me, that dark side involves the emotions perpetuated by reading all the happiness in the lives of my friends and those I follow. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that people can be happy–that life is handing them sweet lemonade instead of sour lemons. I seldom thought twice about a status that read something like, “I am SO blessed because __________________…” I’m sure you can fill in the blank with something you have seen on social media. I’m not sure I agree with the usage of the word “blessed” there but that is for another entry. This week, though, I saw something that made me re-think some of those types of statuses. One of the sites I follow is a meme site. Each day, sometimes several times a day, I will see a picture in my newsfeed with a funny caption. The post is usually intended to give the reader a chuckle over something. This particular post was simply a word poster that read,
“I can only hope that someday my life will be as good as my Facebook statuses claim it to already be.”
I read that and had to smile. Studies have been done that show the majority of Facebook users only post the good and happy things about their lives. In fact, one person admitted to having two Facebook accounts. The first account she used to post all happy things. The majority of her friends on that account were former high school and college friends. These friends would see a happy smiling wife, a mom who seemed to have it all together with children who were smiling. Her other account was where she posted more honestly. Her friends on that list were mostly family and people who saw her on a regular basis. In essence, this person was living a lie, at least in part. For whatever reason, she didn’t want those who knew her as a younger person to think she was not successful.
I am definitely not in that camp. In fact, I probably go too far in the other direction. I am very real in my Facebook posts…and I have been criticized and have lost friends because of it. In all honesty, I don’t have the energy to pretend to be something that I’m not. Being who I am and living with the demons I live with (depression and MS–not my husband) exhaust my energy resources usually by lunchtime each day.Do things happen in my life that make me happy? Definitely. A scroll through the photos section of my Facebook page reveals many occasions where I have found happiness–usually in the form of a little boy who, when he is old enough to talk, will call me grandma, my own children, my husband, and my furry kids. But I definitely do not hide the raw emotions that constantly bubble at the surface of my life. Daily pain, sadness, and loneliness often are revealed in the status updates I post. I can understand how that makes some people uncomfortable. They are sometimes quick to tell me that I have so many things for which to be thankful and I should have joy and happiness…
The thing is, I know I have much to be thankful for. This blog is not my only writing outlet. I still enjoy the old fashioned way of writing–pen on paper–and I do so daily in several journals. One of those is a thankfulness journal. In it, I discipline myself to find 2-3 things each day for which I am thankful. Some days the same things are repeated, but that’s okay to me for that means I am still thankful for them. I also write even more honestly in one of my journals, describing the pain, sadness, and especially the loneliness that accompanies living with chronic illness. I often wonder about the day I die–will my family read these writings and fully and finally understand what life inside this broken body was like? I’ve often thought about burning them at the beginning of each new year, thereby sparing my family any hurt upon my death. Maybe my writings will not impact them at all. I have no way of knowing. Regardless, I plan to continue to write.
Writing and music are two powerful forces in my life. I could get lost in both of them for days, ignoring the world around me. Writing with pen and paper is a lost art that I do not intend on losing. Facebook may have its place in my life. Without it, the world of my “friends” wouldn’t get to see my precious grandson–that would be unfortunate for them! And I refuse to change the way I post on Facebook. I live a real life–full of pain and sadness. I won’t pretend that I don’t. But I also refuse to give up the therapy of writing where no one can see the words…where what is written is between me and the page to be filled, and when that is complete, to close the cover and know that it will be waiting for me the next day, helping me to maybe come to terms with the hell that is often my life.