I started my career working for a former politician. My next job put me on the staff at a church, and years after that, I started working in schools. Now I'm back in a church-ish world. One time I took a quiz on Facebook titled "What is your version of hell according to your personality type?" and the answer was working for a soulless corporation doing something I knew was designed to cause a harmful addiction or take advantage of desperate situations.
I shivered when I read the description and thought, "Yep, that would be hell for me."
I have worked with and for some of the most earnest, passionate people you can imagine. I've doodled in my notebook at meeting tables while planning events to raise awareness about food insecurity and hunger in the local community. I've listened on the edge of my seat as my old boss and his colleagues talked about hard decisions that made the world a more peaceful place, at least for a little while. I've stood up in front of students and colleagues and friends, in classrooms and assemblies and group meetings, to encourage people to live with empathy and understanding for themselves and others. One of the best things I've done in my professional life was organize a day when a handful of teenage girls and faculty members shared their experiences with the school community through "What is it like to be me...?" essays. I love people in the individual and the aggregate, and I am able to put a roof over my head by helping them do a better job loving themselves and others. I have to pinch myself sometimes.
And that's usually when I stub my toe on something someone posts on Facebook.
If working for world peace is like "trying to get along in a really big strange family" as the Storypeople image above suggests, then Facebook is the awkward family reunion. We all have a Cousin Eddie (and in some cases, it's us!) lurking somewhere, and for every moment of connection and reconnection we get by showing up, there's always some exchange that sends us away muttering, "Why do I come to these things?!"
As an introvert, I love Facebook because it lets me skip over the awkward small talk at the beginning of a conversation. "How are you? What have you been up to?" turns into "So how was ______? The photos were beautiful." Then we're off into an enthusiastic account of a vacation or party or event, and a genuine exchange unfolds, all because I saw a snapshot of a family on a beach posted on someone's wall. I enjoy keeping up with my friends and their families, and I've found that commenting back and forth on Facebook takes some of the sting out of the half continent that has separated me (from one direction and now the other) from many of the people and places I love.
My own wall looks like a jumble of recent photos of my kids and memories with friends and loved ones. I put up an occasional sarcastic observation, and I repost content that resonates with me in the hopes that it will encourage someone else. I sometimes put up events I'm attending so that other people with similar interests will come, and with any luck, we can trade digital interaction for something more personal.
In general, my stuff is well received by the people in my "Friends" list, and that matters enough for me to feel encouraged when I get a lot of "likes" and a little deflated when I don't. I put a lot of my life there, but there are big pieces I don't or won't share--my older children ask me not to post pictures of them, and I try to respect friends who prefer to keep their lives private. So even though I see Facebook as an opportunity to live in a much wider community, which I believe is a good thing, I also recognize that it doesn't come close to a full, accurate representation of my life or anyone else's.
I dread the months leading up to the 2016 election. I might even consider a temporary ban on Facebook until mid-November, except it can be helpful to commiserate with other people who are in the "Can't we all just get along?" camp. I always have to step away on days that are painful for me--it's one thing to accidentally stub your toe on something that catches you off guard, but it's something altogether different to repeatedly slam your fingers in the door on purpose. But even if I step away temporarily, I know I'll be back. Knowing and being known--even imperfectly, even somewhat superficially--offers the hope of building something better, together. Even if that's just less awkward conversations at parties.
Plus it's too fascinating to see so much of humanity on display. And I love people, I really do, even the Cousin Eddies out there.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.