I’ve always thought of Facebook a digital scrapbook for the crafting-intolerant. I once had this amazing idea to create a product where you could make a personalized bound book of all your posts, pictures, pages while somehow preserving the layout of Facebook at the time you posted it. The interface hasn’t changed much lately, but these are significant cultural timestamps for my generation. People really lost their shit when The Wall first appeared as a prominent feature. At one point, you could select which six friends you wanted to feature as permanent fixtures on your profile. Every time there was a change in the organization of the News Feed, mine was flooded with posts threatening to deactivate their accounts (“oh no, please don’t,” said no one.). I used to save screenshots of my page at pivotal stages of my college life so that I would always have this culturally relevant image of WHO I WAS/how I chose to present myself at the time. I’m sure I’ve since lost them in one of my hard-drive crashes, which are tragic in nature and number.
Our lives move quickly in the reflections of the screens where these highlights appear — we don’t post all the awful feelings and anxious thoughts (well, I don’t) and I certainly don’t believe anyone really expects our digital lives to be perfect iterations of what is happening IRL. But when I look through my old tweets or Instagram posts that I thought might improve my mood by showcasing all the fun it looked like I was having, I remember writing those words and experiencing a large range of emotions that will not show up in a Facebook memory, but remain and remind still.
All that being said, I like this feature (which is called On This Day– similar to TimeHop), which shows me a photo or post from this day in a previous year. I never share them, but I appreciate that we’re leaning into this utility of a product whose many functions I frequently bemoan. Ultimately, I would like to see a larger percentage of Facebook users approach the colossal amount of time we spend on this website as an effort in preservation, rather than a platform for dispensing nonsense or playing a part or keeping up with the Joneses. We write, we take photos, and (to some extent) we exist on these social media platforms in order to remember.
Today’s memory/photo made me feel sad, but it invited me to feel grateful for life well lived and then I decided to look at others from October 28ths past. And, in doing so, I stumbled upon a truly delightful glimpse of that day I skipped a class in graduate school to go meet Hanson at the Vanderbilt bookstore. I wrote about it on my old blog, at whit’s end, as #24 in an end-of-year countdown where I highlighted my personal top “29 of 2009”. Thank you, Internet, for giving me a space to keep my memories and for helping me to remember the fullness of my big and beautiful life, both on and off screen.
in october, i caught word that hanson was going to be performing a brief acoustic concert in the vanderbilt bookstore, followed by a meet-and-greet. naturally, i had to follow my instincts and plan my entire tuesday around being present at this blessed event. i owed it to 10 year old whitney to be there, screaming and crying, since my love for hanson was a strong contributor to the awkward individuality that stood between me and a social life back in 6th grade (you may be pondering to yourself – 6th grade? let’s see, that was about 1997. yes. the year that “mmmbop” was popular. you are correct. i just jumped on the mmmbandwagon too late and thus, the ostracizing for my delayed obsession).
needless to say, this was an epic event and i was happy to mark something off a former list of life goals: to meet isaac, taylor, and zac. (also, surprise appearances by my loves lauren turner and nina myers made it all the better.) the meet-and-greet was NOT smooth. instead of saying something charming and witty, like “i’ve seen your home video tulsa, tokyo, and the middle of nowhere about 18 times and i think we should get married”, i said “thanks for being here” like i was standing in the receiving line at a funeral.
actually, it went more like this:
taylor hanson: hey! (starts signing my cd)
tay: thanks for coming out!
me: thank… YOU for… being…. thanks. (slumps away shamefully)
i guess we’ll never know if our love could have blossomed. plus, i’m pretty sure he’s married. meh. next time i meet a lifelong celebrity crush i’ll try to bring my A-game. look out matthew thiessen.
*note: Matthew Thiessen is also now married. I know this because I sat across from him and his wife at dinner while they were celebrating their anniversary. And I didn’t say a damn thing.