What are you trying to do to me America?
Facebook turned 10 this week, and I spent a good part of the big day watching the Look Back videos Facebook created for us, their begrudgingly loyal users, highlighting years’ worth of our photos and status updates. There, set to the most perfectly inspirational, emotionally manipulative-but-I-like-it, nostalgic-though-I’ve-never-heard-it, instrumental piece of music, was a peek into my near seven years on Facebook.
I cried at the pictures of my kids from when they were little. I cried at the wedding photo I posted for our 17th anniversary, and at pictures from Disneyland and Christmas and our friends’ Nicaragua wedding and my dining room table.
Then, I cried at Melissa’s, Jill’s, and Pam’s Look Back videos too. I got emotional with Katharine’s, Tricia’s, Kirsten’s, Tim’s and Sheila’s – and that was in the first two hours.
We’ve read the cautionary tales about social media – linger there too long and you can be left feeling empty and depressed because your friends seem like they are having a better time than you, and to add insult to injury, you weren’t invited to their good time. You were already well aware that your own life wasn’t perfect, but then, blammo, there’s your life, set against that perfect piece of music – and you realize, it’s pretty magical after all.
I needed a break from all the Looking Back and turned my attention to what my 13-year-old was watching on ESPN – Super Bowl winners through the years, searching for their family members after the game, desperate to share their joyful elation with the ones they love.
“Who’s that?” I asked Jacob, already starting to tear up.
“That’s Jason Pierre-Paul. He plays for the New York Giants, and his dad is blind.”
Tom Brady looked for and hugged his sisters (I guess before he married the supermodel?). Dick Vermeil loves his wife AND his grandkids. Ray Lewis loves everybody. Big muscley guys hug their moms and dads, kiss their stunning wives, and cradle their babies, after a win OR a loss. And it is beautiful.
“You are why they make these videos,” my husband tells me at the end of every one of these sports specials. If I watch the pre-game show of a game I otherwise could not give two hoots about, I am suddenly pulling for the guy who overcame something terrible to get where he is today. I am now his number one fan, and anybody who roots against him has no soul. (Full disclosure – I may have also once cried while watching the ESPY’s.)
I left Jacob to his stats and analysis of a game that was two days in the books and retreated online only to find stories of a good Samaritan handing out $5000 checks to waitresses struggling to pay for their educations; a school custodian who completed his own higher education during his few off-hours, only to work his way up to teacher, and finally principal overlooking the same classrooms he had once cleaned. There was the 13-year-old with strong pipes and a dream crushing a Nina Simone song; a philanthropic couple picking up the cost of San Francisco going all out to celebrate Bat Kid; a dog and a cat being best friends; and God knows how many people saving other people from train tracks.
Thanks to the Superbowl, this week I’ve already watched, re-watched and re-wept at the (somehow controversial) Coca-Cola ad during which “America the Beautiful” is sung in different languages and the sweet Cheerios ad with the (somehow controversial) biracial family. Don’t even get me started on the puppy and the Clydesdale.
My heartstrings are all stretched out and exhausted…exhausted, but happy. Which reminds me that Pharrell’s appropriately named anthem for happiness, “Happy,” is practically guaranteed to play on the car radio at some point of your commute.
Goodness isn’t new, but I pray to God it’s just extra noticeable this week, and not simply trending.
Maybe we all just need a healthy dose of nice. Perhaps there is something in our DNA that seeks out good when overwhelmed by the icky, the bleak and the #RichKidsofBeverlyHills. Maybe we are all just collectively looking for the anecdote for the snarkiness, cynicism, grumpiness, injustice, and sadness we see in real life and whenever we turn on anything with a screen. I don’t know, maybe we all just have a bad feeling about these Olympics.
It’s ok to admit that sometimes we want a good cry for a good reason. Being touched so deeply by something we simply see reminds us that we are capable of all kinds of feelings – not just anger, amusement, or “meh,” – but also forward-looking hope and backward-looking gratitude. There is still a lot of love out there floating around, and it’s ours to take, and share.