Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Life According to Facebook

I have a document that contains every Facebook status I’ve ever typed.

It started out as a way to chronicle my life, the small things that I won’t remember in twenty-five years. Then I realized that it had the added benefit of self-censorship—I stopped writing a ton of frivolous posts that no one really cared about. Mostly though, it’s just a fun way to look back and remember.

I can see major events: my first visit to Taylor is announced with great excitement (most of my early statuses are marked with exclamation points, though never more than one per sentence). I can watch change: a freshman year lament that I know no Taylor people who play Settlers of Catan to an announcement of a board game party that thirty of my friends attended. And I can laugh at dumb quotes, observations about life, and heated opinions that time and distance have cooled down a little bit.

At first, one of the reasons I didn’t want to use Facebook was that I thought it would make it too easy for near-strangers to get to know me. I would be an open book. That’s partially true, and a valid concern. But not entirely.

You could scroll down my “Timeline” (still skeptical of the format change, by the way) and read every single word I’ve ever written, every fragment of what I did and thought and reacted to in the world around me. And you wouldn’t really know me, because there are several things I don’t put in Facebook statuses. Here are a few.

Emotional updates: Facebook is not a virtual mood ring. The people who care need to be told how I’m doing in person, rather than reading a vague statement on the Internet for hundreds of non-caring people to see too.

Controversial statements: Beware, those who are my friends on Facebook—I keep a file of ridiculous and poorly argued Facebook arguments I find, both for my own amusement and so that if I become a professor someday, my students can rewrite them as an exercise in how to write persuasively. I’ve never seen an intelligent, level-headed argument on Facebook. It’s like trying to have a philosophical conversation in a gladiator arena. The atmosphere just isn’t right.

Beliefs and motivations: You’ll probably learn way more about what I love and hate and why I do what I do by coming here than just glancing through my Facebook posts. Not because I’m ashamed to talk about topics like faith in a public place, but because cramming deep topics into a shallow medium feels like doing a swan dive into a kiddie pool.

So my document of Facebook statuses is hardly an autobiography. That said, I enjoyed reading over them again. Here are a few, just for fun.
Senior Year of High School
“might not have to go to the National Honor Society induction because of Academic's like a conflict of nerdy things!”
“is going to be an awesome hippie a retirement home. Yes, I am serious.”
Freshman Year of College
“wonders how she is going to a squaredancing hoedown tonight when Taylor doesn't allow dancing. Maybe we'll call it ‘square-walking-briskly-in-time-to-music.’”
“waits expectantly for the end of chemistry class, after which she will only use the Periodic Table of the Elements to write coded messages.”
“has realized it is a bad idea to make a snow angel with your cell phone in your coat pocket, particularly when you don't realize that it fell out of your pocket and into the snowbank until the next day.”
Sophomore Year of College
“You know your sister is a early childhood ed. major when she argues the difference between a duck walk and a gorilla walk as you go down into your crawlspace during a tornado.”
“will be relying on Dayquill, lotion Kleenex, and prayer to sing in the Christmas program tomorrow.”
“My computer log informed me that I've put in over 100 editing hours for the first two chapter books combined. At least 12 of them have been the past three days. I am about to go into a professional writing major coma.”
Junior Year of College
“is - hold the phone - BABYSITTING! For the first time. Yeah, what now, bucket list!”
“Going on right now in English 105: Conversation with Ruthie and Stephanie on which apostle I would marry. Consensus: James, the brother of Jesus. NOT Peter or Paul, who I would divorce in about two days (after which Ruthie wondered if they could hear from heaven and I felt compelled to apologize).”
Is it really important that carolers from Gerig Hall came in at just the right time while my suitemates and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever out loud? Or that an older couple from my church invited me to their house to try salmon for the first time? Or that a bunch of writing majors climbed a tree and chatted with me during finals week?
No. Not really. These aren’t witty statements that everyone could get a laugh out of, or critical life events, or requests for prayer. They’re tiny snapshots of the daily, and when I read them again, I remember the emotions that came with them: the holiday excitement, the warmth of being welcomed into a family not my own, the joy of friendship.
And I remember that days matter. Moments matter.

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