I’ve been thinking about bad things lately.
More specifically, I’ve been thinking about how what we share online affects us when bad things happen. Instead of a bad memory, experience or time existing just in our minds, now we’re reminded of it in old blog posts, Twitter updates served up to us by Timehop and Facebook posts from the past resurfaced by the social network’s On This Day feature.
I’m not the first to consider these things. Many people have written about Facebook forcing past bad memories down our throats with their end of the year video. (Eric Meyer’s post on seeing a prominent photo of his dead daughter in a year end video may be one of the most famous to have written on this subject.)
Compared to the other mediums or apps that bring forward your past posts, Facebook takes the brunt of the criticism. Likely because while, like Timehop you have to opt in to Facebook’s On This Day feature (or its year end videos), if you haven’t opted into On This Day, Facebook will encourage you to. It does this on posts from the pasts your friends have shared, but also from your own posts (I believe).
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because today is a day that something bad happened. It’s been two years since our hellish miscarriage experience in Cuba. I wrote about our experience here, on Facebook and for the Toronto Star. I willingly shared my bad experience on all of these platforms so others who have, or will, experience pregnancy loss, don’t feel so alone.
I don’t need Facebook to remind me what today represents. I already know.
Did that reminder in my On This Day feature today hurt me anymore than I’d already be hurt if Facebook didn’t remind me? I don’t think so.
Social media sites don’t encourage us to upload the bad stuff that happens in our lives; many of us just do it. We do it to start a conversation, to feel less alone or simply to yell out into the void in the hopes that someone hears us.
Sure, this is an example of a bad experience. It’s hard to compare it with a child dying or a marriage ending, or other things that you never expect will one day hurt when you upload those happy photos. But there’s the rub. Bad things happen, even when the memories start off as good ones.
When I took my wedding vows, I did so planning to spend the rest of my life with my husband. And I hope I do. I uploaded our wedding photos, photos from our holidays, etc. But if something bad happens and we’re no longer together anymore, I can’t blame Facebook for reminding me we once were. After all, Facebook didn’t make me post those photos.
Facebook may have reminded me about my miscarriage today, but I already knew. I know every day. It’s something I’ll never forget; something I’ll never stop wondering about what might have been. Even though we had a healthy baby boy last November who I wouldn’t trade for anything, I’ll never forget the first baby we lost.
So yes, you can curse Facebook for making you relive happy memories that aren’t so happy anymore or memories that aren’t so happy, but Facebook didn’t make you write that post or upload that photo.