I quit Facebook last year. I did it because it seemed like every time I opened the app, I saw post after post about politics, and it wore me out. Don’t get me wrong – I have always followed political news, but I like to get that news from more 20th Century sources – the newspaper, the radio, and TV. (I know, that’s so analog). I like these more traditional sources because I can get them when I want them – and not sandwiched between posts from my cousin about her dog.
I joined Facebook years ago to stalk my kids when they were young and doing stupid stuff. I felt I needed to try to prevent or reduce the stupid (or at least prevent them from documenting it for all time). The online stalking of my children didn’t prove to be too successful, as they just migrated from Facebook to all the other platforms I was too lazy and annoyed to follow. But I did end up enjoying Facebook for what it offered to non-stalkers – a way to keep up with friends and family who I didn’t see regularly (like my cousin – and her dog). I liked seeing videos of their kids doing idiotic things. I loved my sister-in-law’s annual house decorating extravaganza each Christmas (sooo many ornaments). And I really appreciated learning about what people I went to high school with were doing with their lives – without having to attend the most awkward social function ever invented – the class reunion.
But in the last few years my feed became increasingly political. This was no surprise given our political climate and election seasons. I found myself getting annoyed and impatient with the feed, furiously swiping down past one political rant after another until I could find the cute kid (or dog) post. Heck, I’d even be up for a cat post now and again (although I do have my limits). And so I stopped looking at it. I still would post something now and again for work on Facebook, as well as Twitter, because well, that’s part of my job.
And then in April last year, my Mom died. Six months later, my Dad was gone. And nothing seemed important besides being with my family and friends, who absolutely helped me get through the first really hard weeks. Being with my friends and my family – at meals, at parties, movies, and other get togethers really helped me deal with my grief and bring me back to the living.
But now we have Coronavirus, and with it, school and business closures, working from home, and social distancing. I know these measures are absolutely the right thing to do in order to “flatten the curve,” ensure sufficient medical capacity, and save lives. But I miss seeing people, and I suspect, others do as well, as evidenced by recent calls for “physical distancing” over social distancing. So I decided to give Facebook (and Twitter and now Instagram) a try once again.
My feeds have changed. No longer dominated by political opinion, the posts skew towards the personal – stories of working parents trying to figure out the new normal of “shelter in place,” and doing it with a sense of humor. Offers to buy groceries for elderly neighbors who can’t go to the store. And videos of kids (and sometimes dogs) acting silly – and their parents documenting it for posterity.
And so I’m back on social media – hoping that one silver lining of this horrible Coronavirus cloud is that we can use the tool something besides partisan bickering – for silly kid and pet videos, for dumb jokes, and for posts that offer help to each other. I know it’s important for all of us to connect with others, and since we can’t do it in person, I hope that this isolating time will enable Facebook – and all other more hip forms of social media that I’m just too old and/or lazy to figure out – will achieve their potential for bringing us together instead of splitting us apart.
My colleagues and I want to do our part to help in this effort. We’re launching a semi-regular (well really when we have a good idea) series we’re calling #CHSSPLive, on Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram (and maybe other platforms my younger colleagues are more comfortable with that I don’t even know exist) to share a variety of resources, good ideas, content, giveaways, and even one or more of us doing stupid stuff in front of a camera just to remind us all that we are a community, and while the uncertainty of this crisis is scary and at times, just lonely, we do have each other and things will get better. To join us, you can follow our Facebook (californiahistorysocialscienceproject), or Twitter (@CHSSP_SO) feeds.
I hope you’ll join us on this journey, as you work from home, while at the same time taking care of your kids and worrying about your parents, as well as your retirement accounts. These are scary times, and I won’t pretend to know when it will get better. But I do know that connecting with other people will help us get through it. And if there are funny videos of kids, dogs, or even better, kids and dogs, I’m in.