I've come to learn something about social media of late that far too many people don't appear to see. In the current climate and under a sea of understandable anger and discourse it's become even clearer to me. So clear, I'm compelled to sit down and write about it. Not in a keyboard warrior kind of way; the one that shouts angry remarks at people under the disguise of an online, not entirely real persona then runs away. No. This is my blog. My online journal to the outside world, AKA a handful of readers, but the point is it will always be here, which is a good lead into what I need to say today.
It will always be here.
Through Facebook and Instagram I try to post positive thoughts, pretty pictures, sections of great literature I love, quotes from my favourite authors and poets and to take people with me on my walks in the countryside, some of whom perhaps aren't able to take them themselves. I share an honest dark side to navigating grief and heartbreak too, always leaning towards offering a message of hope to others who are on the same path or about to find themselves there. There has been the occasional medicinal rant over the years of course, but mostly it's a reflective, cheery space. And I wonder if I can convince anyone to do the same with theirs.
A couple of years ago one of my lovely friends, Sarah, who has Lupus, was holed up in her bedroom for around five months due to severe and painful complications related to her condition. Through her ordeal I walked the fields, hills and valleys of the Southern Uplands in Scotland in a pair of bright, pink wellington boots and posted photos every day on her Facebook timeline with little anecdotes to cheer her day and offer encouragement as she pushed determinedly on towards her own return to the outside world. I told Sarah, one of the most upbeat and positive people I know despite living everyday with this devastating, debilitating disease, to imagine these were her feet inside the pink wellies, enjoying a serene and much needed walk in the outdoors that I knew she was missing. I labelled the photos #pinkwelliesontour and many of her friends began to post about loving the daily walks too. Together, we all took a stroll through the most magnificent medicine that is nature.
Today I am becoming a post and run kind of person because what I see is a lot of ranting at the state of the world, of the misdemeanours of others that we need to out and the continued sharing of what is indeed important information to have available for wider consumption. My problem is not with the sharing of this, it's that it feels like no one has anything else to offer and the rows of angry conversation much of it sparks is a heavy, hard thing to read over and over with no reprieve. Again, important debate but sometimes the best we can do is move forward after first taking the lessons from whatever it was. Action is always important, but there are more movements towards change than our collective anger will allow. I don't have an answer for everything and nor do I wish to belittle people's experiences or make light of recent world events, I only offer an alternative view as somebody who's lost what has felt like the hardest thing for a person to lose only to find that alternative view amplified.
To use the words of The Black-Eyes Peas, Where Is The Love? It's no wonder so many of us despise the world of social media forgetting that it's us that populates it; that this is the message we are leaving for each other.
Just months before my son, Ryan, died, I posted on Facebook about an intention to leave it for good because it was getting me down. Then Ryan showed me how absolutely beautiful Facebook can be and what's incredible is that he achieved this feat by continuing to speak to me through it after he died. At once any questions I'd been left with, such as, 'Was I supportive enough?' and 'Did I tell him often enough how much he meant to me?' and thoughts like, 'I wish I could hear his voice just ONE more time,' began to be cleared up almost every day by Facebook. The platform for this is my Facebook memories, a place that is also where Sarah recently told me she now enjoys a stroll in nature in her pink wellies on a yearly basis.
And I thought, what if together, online, we could take a hand-in-hand stroll instead of a troll? What if the news was left to the news platforms where we could go get them and then rush out for a soul cleansing chatter with the friends, neighbours and loved ones we are missing in isolation? What if we, as people enduring this terrible, trying time as one, shared our passions, our adventures, our unique outlook on life and, heaven forbid, our love - the most powerful thing there is - through our social media outlets? What if it became only a space for that? What if Facebook were to become Lovebook? I expect incredible changes would occur, I really do. Because the simple truth is that everything - all the things that are wrong in the world and that we're sad and angry about - could be altered or at the very least eased by a single antidote: an injection of positivity and love.
I've switched my interactions up a gear, leaving thoughts and memories for the people I love knowing they'll be able to continue to hear my voice and gain some comfort from it long after I'm gone because: It will always be here.
Do I want my children to look through my posts and think, 'Wow, mum was really bloody angry about Donald Trump,'? No. I want them to be able to recall that their mum loved loud; their mum loved deeply. Their mum loved them.
Their mum loved.
I hope that you can too, now more than ever. Dare to lead with your heart, it's your most honest and reliable compass. If you get it wrong, it's only because you weren't pausing to listen to it properly. Keep hope alive and take care of each other X