What I write today may stir up emotions and ruffle a few feathers when you read but I think there are a few questions we need to ask ourselves, now more than ever.
A few years ago, after the horrendous carnage in Newtown, I actively gave up reading the newspaper and watching TV news channels. In my view, these platforms only spewed a constant barrage of negativity which affected me deeply. Though I realized withdrawing from them would not put an end to these bone chilling acts of hatred and violence, it was the only thing I could do to insulate myself from a cruel world. I needed an informant who would be a harbinger of good news as well as keep me abreast of current events. So, I tuned in to Facebook instead.
Every morning, I sat with my chai to scroll through the news feed on FB just as I had with ‘The Times’ during my growing up years. I wished friends who had birthdays and anniversaries, congratulated parents on new births and children’s achievements, gave a thumbs up to loveable family pictures and also went through posts that socially conscious friends put up on global happenings. It felt good to see smiling faces in the morning and every time that I checked in through the day. Of course, I would be lying if I did not admit that there were instances when the green monster whispered into my ears, “Look at them and look at you.” Overall though, it was truly enjoyable and addictive.
Then one day, I posted a picture of my puppy, Leo, and me. While I napped on the sofa, my little fuzzball cozied up to me and took his siesta on my head. His white fur on my shiny black hair, the two of us with our eyes closed, lost to the world around us, made for a delightful snapshot my family could not resist capturing. It was one of those ‘Awwwwww’ moments that rang in quite a few likes and comments that were flattering. The photograph was captioned ‘Happiness’, though the moments prior, that had led me to take the nap were far from happy. I was exhausted trying to housetrain my furry munchkin. Just that morning, I had taken him on a couple of hour-long walks. While he bounced on the grass, sniffed the myriad smells that wafted through the air outside and chased butterflies, he chose to pee on my carpet. Each time we returned from our stroll, he would look at me , a defiant, naughty gaze, that spoke “Thank you for the good time, ma’am but no spot in the world is as nice as your carpet” and pee right there. Darn! At that moment if anyone had remarked on Leo’s cuteness quotient I would be the one that barked, “Take him, please! I will even pay you the rehoming fee!” Right before I dozed off that day, I wondered why I had not just agreed, but insisted on bringing a puppy home.
So you see, the post ‘Happiness’ did not portray the entire story. It was a depiction of that one blissful moment in a chaotic scenario – a half truth. I chose to reveal only what I thought was appealing. If my family had taken a video of me – high-strung, nostrils flared running around the house with an Arm and Hammer spray and a tissue roll, shrieking “LEO, NO!” in a high-pitched voice, would I have posted it? It would have been embarrassing. That got me thinking. Wasn’t that true of so many posts out there? We are careful to showcase just the perfect moments on social media because we all deeply harbor the belief that feeling out of control is a sign of failure which in turn is an embarrassment.
Though when I look back at my life it is the very moments of frustration, failure and rejection that have toughened me up. That is when I have wandered through the deep chasms within my heart and discovered a treasure trove of strength. Dark times always stoke the warrior within a person then why we are so afraid of them? While we glorify and celebrate our triumphs we also need to acknowledge and accept our failure and teach our children likewise.
In the recent past, I remembered reading a post which was a poem that a husband had dedicated to his wife of 25 years on their anniversary. The poem oozed of the sweetness of their love. It was a beautiful and thoughtful gesture, yet I wondered if the husband had not professed his feelings on FB, would the nature of their love have changed? Not really, right? If the way you feel about someone you love changes because you post it on social media, then you are on rocky ground. If you have been married for longer than two months, you know that in a marriage, even a good one, there do come dreadful times when you wish you were Harry Potter and could silence your spouse with a flick of the wrist and the spell ‘SILENCIO!’ It is the way a couple navigates these turbulent times that defines their strength. Yet, we avoid these moments and always paint a rosy picture. Not that we need to wash our dirty linen in public, but we don’t always have to pretend. When we flash our best smile for a selfie though we may be weeping within, we reinforce the message to our children that we need to put on a mask of happiness all the time.
Social media is a wonderful platform to reach out to people, raise awareness, connect hearts and rekindle friendships. I myself may not have found success as a writer if not for blogging, parenting websites and FB. And we certainly do not need to stop sharing happy times. After all, in this world we all do need our daily dose of good news. But our children also need to fail to grow and they need to know that they are loved despite their tantrums, their mistakes and their shortcomings. There is a growing obsession, almost a compulsive need, amongst the young to have fun and post it on social media. These children must learn the whole truth. Pleasure and pain, ups and downs, success and failure are two sides of the same coin and most importantly social media is a tool not the reason to live.
As for Leo, that was just one rough day. I now suspect that he loves me more than my children do so he is not going anywhere 😊.