I'm going to offend the hipsters for a second. (Along with the 52% part of me that despises the social media self-promotion craze, which I continually—and gleefully—participate in.)
Let's name the Fantastic Four: Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We're in the business of marketing our lives as something that others will "like", "follow", "retweet", or "share". And these calls to action can overtake and dilute our intimate and complex selves in such a way that we begin to define our worth and identity on a post's likes, or a snapchat's views.
But let me step off of that soapbox before I get carried away; because so many Warby Parker, thrift-store clothed, secondhand sneaker men and women have gone there before. Let me do something different; and at the risk of letting down the present day, anti-mainstream, mainstream millennial culture (which I hold membership in). Because today, I did something I don't usually do.
After having a particularly challenging range of emotions pieced together from various situations, I snapchatted/texted a select group of six or seven friends. The snap itself was, yes, a picture of my face, with a regulated number of words that basically said one thing: "This moment I'm in...is hard."
Within the next few hours, I got snaps back; faces I knew, phrases to comfort, deep frowns or attempts at silly poses to cheer up. And something happened. Because in the span of a few snaps, a west coast insta dedication, and a Facebook post, I felt...known.
And I almost cringe writing that down. Because for quite some time, I've harped on and fought to make known the detached dangers and diseases hidden within social media. But there are also benefits.
Today, seeing someone's let-me-try-to-make-you-laugh or oh-my-gosh-that-sucks face, made me feel heard and cared for. People were sharing in my pain and offering small reassurances, and help, by saying "I am here." Even if, (laugh-out-loud), it was only for a six-second snap. Because as silly as it sounds, a six-second snap still offered me, however limited, a sense that I was not alone. Today, social media helped me see that people, in that moment, truly and genuinely cared.
Now; is there still a nostalgia and forgotten beauty to things like handwritten letters, postcards, phone calls and just plain "hanging out"?
Absolutely. And nothing takes the place of a human being in front of you. But it must also be said/acknowledged/recognized; there is something very beautiful about the fact that I can Snapchat/Facebook/Insta friends from west coast cities—and even those in my own city who can't be physically present in that moment—and I can communicate my hurt/challenge/pain; and they can empathize. They can practice presence. (Albeit in an altered form.)
So here's to the moments when social media doesn't distort self worth or distract from the present; here's to the moments when social media acts like the weirdest love letter we've ever received—and in the end, one that still makes us giddy.
The advancement of technology—especially in social realms—is a bit scary. But when it reinforces greater human connection, and deepens our relational interactions, my goodness. I mean.
I never thought a six-second double-chin photo could make me this happy.
(Attn: Please still write letters and see your geographically-near friends in real life.)