In a world that is literally on fire, throwing up a happy pic on social media of my kid at an amusement park feels totally tone deaf. Every morning, there is a new environmental crisis to behold, or a human rights atrocity being committed against minors by our own government. I can’t, in good conscience, share a goofy picture of my child mugging at the camera with a mouthful of birthday cake while other people’s children are locked in cages.
I can’t be happy, and outraged. I can’t give space to the joy in my life; I need that social media real estate to call out the racial and social and economic and gendered injustices. Right?
It’s a debate I’ve been having daily under this current administration, but then I realized my perspective was too small. There actually is space for all the good, and all the bad.
I had to look at the bigger picture: the overall take-away of a life documented on social media. And in doing so, I decided I was not going to be sorry for posting happy snaps on social while society crumbles around us. Awful things are happening. Wonderful things are happening. They are not mutually exclusive.
Sharing a picture of my family on vacation does not mean I am not also enraged about other families being split apart at the border.
Tagging friends in a post about the rare night out we shared as busy, working women, fitting a good dinner in among the efforts we put in fighting against everyday patriarchy is very much allowed.
Life goes on, for better, or worse, and often both simultaneously.
Social media is about going on record. I don’t want to look back on my life and all there is, was anger. I want to see the good stuff too. Facebook and Instagram, for me, have replaced physical scrapbooks. And I think that’s become true for a lot of people. We don’t know this yet, but the way we’re using certain social platforms could make the history of our lives accessible for generations to come, in more ways than physical photographs can. My children will be able to look at my feeds and see more moments than I could have ever afforded to have printed for a picture frame.
My guilt about posting happy pictures as we witness the modern horrors of our president (and other men — yes, just men — around the world) has been quelled by Facebook’s memories feature. This attempt to pluck my heartstrings totally worked, and cemented, to me, the notion that the legacy of my life was going to be found on social media, and not in a dusty cardboard box of old photos. When Facebook shows me what I posted eight years ago — when my daughter was a toddler and my son was not even a zygote — it only justifies its significance to me. Social media is where we will go to remember the good times.
It will also be where we can go to see how we were feeling, what we were thinking (my god, what were we thinking with that hair?!), how we were reacting to the news, and what others thought of us. OK, maybe that last point is the one you make for not using social media, but in my case, a string of comments can serve as a time capsule for future generations. What were we talking about? What were we celebrating? What made us come together, in good times, and bad, in these virtual circles (and, in many cases, bubbles)?
I don’t want my life to be captured in a litany of posts where I’m shouting into the canyon. I yell things, sure, mostly about gender inequality and the price mothers pay in the workplace, because those are the subjects most relevant to my life. But there is always room for dessert so I am not going to feel bad documenting the things that are bringing me joy. It is not to the exclusion of sharing my anger and dismay at the mistreatment of others. I don’t have to choose between posting a picture of my kids frolicking in the pool and posting an article outlining ways to support agencies providing legal aid to families whose children are being kidnapped and caged by American border patrol agents.
We all use social media differently, and I’ve decided to use it as a curation tool: to put out in the world (to my friends, anyway) what I don’t want to forget about my time on the Earth. When my kids, and their kids, go back to mine the data of my life, I want them to know it wasn’t all bad.