No, this post is not what you think it is. As frustrating as social media can be, I still think it can be beautiful in its own right. It’s influenced so many aspects of my life.
Thinking back, the most memorable and momentous experiences that I had in recent years was the death of my grandmother, Rita. And a lot of this was documented on social media by me and my relatives.
It was a year ago, in fact – October 21st, 2015. I was already closed up in my room for the night, idly browsing YouTube when I got the text. Grief and astonishment washed over me, and sat in my bed thinking about her and all of the memories that I still cling to today. As upset as I was, I was overwhelmed with this sense of gratitude. I got to spend so much time with an incredibly smart, stubborn, strong, and hilarious woman. My grandma was a great influence on my life – and not everyone gets that privilege.
As I sat there texting my cousin about random stories and moments we shared with Grandma Rita, I of course glanced through my Facebook feed to see if anyone had said anything yet. I didn’t want to be the first to post something, but I was already working up what I was going to say in my post to memorialize her – the writer brain in me couldn’t resist.
Maybe only an hour or so had passed since I found out, and there was already a couple of posts about it. So I thought, “Why not?” and posted the following picture collage with my thoughts:
After, my mom asked me why my sister and I had posted so soon, and we both came back with the same response, “Well, someone else already had, so we thought… we might as well.”
Now, with a year’s time to think about it, I wonder why it is that we feel the need to share our most intimate thoughts, memories, pains, heartbreaks, when we’ve lost someone? Especially, as in my own case, this person was never even on the internet, much less social media. Why did I (and many other people) want to share who this person was and how important she was to me when she would not have seen it even if she were still here with us? Or, why does it matter when a fair amount of my friends never met or knew this person?
All of these questions considered, I had a positive experience in sharing (with my small circle) what an impact this woman had on my life for a few reasons:
- I was filled with inspiration to share the positivity she brought into my life, and hoped that it, in some way, could bring a sort of relief other people’s perspective of life and death.
- I was filled with the joy that reminiscing and nostalgia brings when looking through old pictures from family gatherings. There were so many moments and snapshots – so many filled with laughter and pure joy.
- I was able to say goodbye in my own way. I was able to give myself closure by sharing my feelings with the people who know me and know that I’m not good at saying these things aloud – that the paper and screen are a much more effective way for me to say what I want (and need) to say.
So we ask ourselves: Why? Why do we do it? Well, for me, it just comes down to celebrating the joys of life and having a sense of community in the lows of our lives.
We celebrate the beginning of life with photos of newborn children – there are children whose lives are almost entirely documented on Facebook. Whether you find that beautiful or overdone – that is the world we live in.
So… why not mourn (and celebrate) those lives that have come to a close?
Before social media, there were ways to remember and memorialize those we’ve lost, but none were so effective and sharable as social media. We could give a beautiful eulogy, but those could only reach a limited group. Now, we are able to share so much more with much more people – which can be understood as both a good and bad thing.
With social media, we are given the opportunity to bring a voice and narrative to a time in our life that we don’t want to forget – whether it’s a welcome, a goodbye, or a moment somewhere in between. Whether 1 or 10,000 or 1,000,000 people witness your insight into that moment. Whether your moment is as significant as a marriage or as inconsequential as a cup of coffee. If you so choose, social media is the most simple and effective way for your story to be told. Bring on the memories!