Words by Kathryn Monsewicz
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
~ Mother Teresa
Think of Mother Teresa as you press your fingertip to the little white and blue icon on your phone screen. It illuminates as a sea of white, preparing you, wiping your mind clean of all individual thought and action so that it can download some “Trump-this” and “cute-cats-that” and “People You May Know,” which everyone knows you don’t really know.
Facebook is like the field days you had in elementary school. Everybody from your class is romping around, playing on the bouncy houses, screaming as they slip down the slides and sucking down cotton candy faster than the sugary floss can be spun; but someone always has to ruin the fun and get themselves hurt. Tommy loses his balance in the bouncy house and falls, disrupting Jessica’s new backflip so she falls and sprains her ankle. She’s crying. He’s crying. She spits at him for knocking her over. He spits at her because she spat at him.
Facebook is a big bouncy house with a bunch of spit flying around.
But do you remember those old field days; the grandest of all grand recesses? For my generation, our memories were captured on cheap, disposable cameras (the ones where on the package is a young father pushing totally-not-his-daughter on the swing) or digital point-and-shoots that, unless you want it to fly away, you better have a wristlet attached. Today’s children have their smartphones to snap a quick photo and upload the content straight to Instagram or Facebook. On Facebook, these photos are added to a timeline. Facebook is very diligent in keeping track of all of these lovely memories from 2000 and God knows when. Facebook even remembers that Bratz-themed birthday party you had when you were eight and you had chocolate syrup smeared all over your pudgy, baby-fat face.
Privacy settings may vary, but overall, every one of your friends (including the 150+ you really don’t know) gets to bask in that past glory with you.
Feeling nostalgic? There’s an app for that! Looking to laugh and reminisce with friends? Same app. Want to feel a little nauseous, too? It’s all rolled together in that one app! “On This Day,” the Facebook application created to show you what you looked like or what you were doing so many years ago on this exact same day, is just that application.
When you see those infamous grams of the past, what do you do? Do you smile and choose to “share” them, or do you cringe and try to erase them from all of existence, sometimes only to find out they were a “tagged” photo and the best you can do is “untag” yourself?
Isn’t there something to be said about trying to erase your past when that is what brought you to where you are today?
I’m guilty. I’m guilty of trying to erase my past. But guess what? It’s not that easy. You can’t just erase the person you used to be because a part of you will always be that person.
I see pictures of middle school trips to Washington, D.C., when I thought I could pull off straight-across bangs; pictures from a school project where I’m collecting mud from a pond and you can clearly see that, yes, my underwear was purple that day; selfies from when I thought neon eyeshadow up to my eyebrows, hot pink hair extensions and fishnet gloves looked “scene;” pictures of high school football games where nobody actually watched the game, but jumped from friend group to friend group just to chat; pictures of my prom when I was too scared to eat the vegetarian lasagna because I didn’t know how many calories were in it and then they brought out the cookies and ice cream and I just couldn’t enjoy any because they would make me fat; pictures from the first weeks of college when I cried every night because of how lonely I was; pictures from vacations with family where I’d go to any art museum available and happily identified every single piece, artist and period of history, taking careful notes of each so I could show my art history teacher when I returned to school in the fall.
Pictures. Pictures of my life that I’ve deleted. I hated them. I thought I looked hideous, fat and awkward. I had bad memories from some, remembering relationships that turned bad or people who I’ve lost. I felt almost bullied by my past through Facebook, when really I’m the one bullying my past. Not to mention, I erased pictures of other people. I erased friendships that I thought I didn’t care to remember, I thought I could erase from my head or from my heart, but they are all part of my timeline. Once you delete these photos, old photos that you no longer have on your brand new Android or slick and stylish MacBook, you cannot find them again. All you have are the images in your mind, and you have done your very best to forget about those before Facebook’s app had a say in it.
The past has a boomerang effect. You toss it out the window like leftovers, and it comes swinging right in through the backdoor to knock you on your head when you’re not looking.
So you wiped your profile clean of all the misfit photos from long ago. Guess what? Five years from now, given Facebook hasn’t gone all Myspace on us (Myspace? What’s that old dinosaur?), you’ll delete the photo of you and your sorority sister clinking cheap beer bottles and wearing messy buns on your heads. You’ll need to because by then you’ve graduated, you’re job hunting and praying your potential employer doesn’t find you on the Interwebs.
Maybe it’s the right decision to delete certain photos if the benefits outweigh the costs.
All I’m trying to show you is that our timelines, the ones we live on and through, remain somewhere with someone. In the head and in the heart, we have memories that have built us up and torn us down. We have today to post those new photos, to begin the next point on the timeline. Have your memories today. You never know when you’re going to erase them.