I have a love-hate relationship with those pop-up Facebook memories. I love seeing what went on in my life three years ago, eight years ago, or last year for that matter. What I hate is that my posts lack depth. There is usually only a photo and a line or two of text. Really? That’s all I could think of to say about the most mesmerizing waterfall I may ever see in my life or about that pair of goofy-looking orange-footed ducks that took up residence at my place two years ago?
I am a travel writer, for cryin’ out loud!
I have even won awards for being a travel writer, damn it! Surely I could have taken one minute longer to say something more descriptive or witty about a moment in time that seemed important enough for me to want to share it with others on social media. I do get paid for stringing words together.
But therein lies part of the problem, for me, at least. It’s easy to slide into Joe-the-Plumber apathy and ignore the drip under my own sink or to do shoddy work at best. I get paid to be descriptive and witty on my business Facebook page, all the while doling out inconsequential drivel on my personal page to the passel of friends and family who were kind enough to befriend me along with the handful of people who follow me for unknown reasons (maybe they like mindlessness?)
I think most of us have moved well beyond the early days of oversharing every last detail of life on Facebook, to a place where we post and like almost from obligation. We enjoy staying connected, we get a rush when we post something that everyone loves, but dang it’s work! Clicking “share” on some other hack’s post that kind of matches our opinions is way easier.
But doing that neither changes the world nor preserves important memories in our lives. This is the reason that my memory reminders suck.
I have a niece who doesn’t spend a huge amount of time on Facebook; she has three kids at home. But when she posts photos of the kids or her new house or what is important to her at any given moment, she does more than just post the less-than-perfect images most of us slap up on Facebook. She writes something from the heart about what she has captured. Boy, would I love to see her memory reminders. And I am pretty sure that she relishes them far more than most of us do—certainly more than I do mine. Because she took the time to write—to tell the story of her journey through life in little snippets, she is rewarded with reminders of life’s preciousness every time Facebook chooses to send her one.
And I am betting that she gets more reminders than I do because quality begets quality, right? A computer metric somewhere probably judges the word-worthiness of each of our posts, carefully choosing which ones to show us in the hope that we will suddenly feel inspired to churn out more of the good stuff to share.
Judging from my string of lack-luster memories lately, I could be completely wrong. The Facebook computers may, in fact, have a sense of humor when it comes to choosing what to remind us about. Why else would I have been shown a post this week from the anniversary of my shoulder surgery, in which Gary posted the string of expletives being yelled by the woman in the hospital room next to mine while he waited for me to be wheeled back from surgery?
Some of my travel writer friends are far better at maintaining their personal pages than I am, many of them smoothly blending daily life alongside their travel-writer personae. Shelly Rivoli does this quite well, as does Rossana Wyatt. My only excuse for opting not to use a single personal profile, is, well, personal! I live in a small town and we are all up in one another’s business half the time anyway, so having a split Facebook personality seemed a better idea than oversharing about my horses and chickens to readers looking for travel advice or about our trip to Greece to neighbors who only want my soup recipes.
In case you didn’t know it—you are a travel writer also.
We’re all travel writers— moving through life, one step at a time, one Facebook post at a time. And we all have the ability to write something beyond “hey, y’all look at this.”
I’m kind of picking on Facebook (easy target, right?) but the real point is that it is all too easy to ignore our ability to use written language to effectively capture our thoughts and feelings. Emoji much?
Why not use Facebook to explore and expose our travel writer selves the way my niece does. Why not make it a personal and messy and memorable record of our journey?
Travel and writing have two things in common—they are the corrective lenses that let us see one another clearly without squinting.
These two things are our shared superpowers! Through words and travel, not only can we come to understand one another better, perhaps we also begin to see ourselves more clearly.
There is so much talk about Facebook being an echo chamber where we insulate ourselves from alternative points of view. It’s easy to unfriend or unfollow anyone with a different perspective on life. Don’t like someone’s politics? A few clicks and you never have to consider their point of view again. You neighbor posting too many anti-this or pro-that rants? Not a problem. You can stay safe in your world-view without giving your neighbor’s another thought.
Maybe what we need are more words that we write ourselves.
More words written from the heart.
More words that connect us to each other, regardless of where we live, who we voted for, or what we believe.
More words about daily life.
More words describing peach blossoms and dance recitals and family vacations.
More words about others.
More words of inspiration.
More words of strength.
We could probably change the world with our words, you and I.
At the very least we can change what Facebook shows us as memories in a few years.
Hang out with me on Facebook—either half of my schizophrenic self is fine—and tell me what you really think.
Go More. Experience More. Enjoy it More. And write about it more.