There it was, sitting slap bang in the middle of my feed: an image of a very cute four-year-old beaming at the camera.
“Dear Jasmine, four years ago you came into the world and have been a delight to your father and I. Keep on shining. We love you to the moon and back.”
If I had a pet hate on Facebook this was it. Declarations of love to children who A) couldn’t read and B) even if they could read would not be allowed on Facebook.
Who was this post for? Obviously not the child, so why post it in the first place?
It feels disingenuous and tokenistic to me.
Facebook means different things to different people
I was already an adult when Facebook became a “thing”. I still remember debating whether I wanted to join, after all, what had MySpace done for me?
Now it’s an integral part of our lives, and we all post updates for different reasons.
We post to share our lives with friends, to make them laugh, to share significant news. And some to celebrate the people in their life that they love.
Those love letters to children online used to drive me to distraction until I came across another kind of post, a love letter of a similar ilk but at the opposite end of the spectrum.
When social media keeps love alive
Yes, I did just write that sentence after criticising parents for being soppy about their kids. But bear with me.
Every year, twice a year, my friend Justin posts two separate birthday messages.
Only his posts are to his parents, who passed away when he was in his twenties.
These posts always stand out to me because they are so full of life and love. They feel authentic, like he’s actually talking to them. He always digs out a photo- the slightly sepia-toned image that throws you straight back to the 70s and 80s.
The words he writes feel like they’re almost coming out of the photo itself.
And every year Justin goes through his albums, remembering, searching for a new photo to post.
“It’s a way to keep them real and alive and acknowledge them once a year.”
These posts are real, living and breathing memories
I’m not annoyed by the fact that his parents can’t read the posts, and yet, as Justin says, “I like to think that they can still see what I’m up to and therefore would feel the love from the post (anything I write is written as though they might read it, and any photo I select I ask myself if they would mind me sharing that one).”
Justin isn’t doing anything differently to the parents posting photos of their little angel. It’s just his memories are retrospective, where the parents’ memories are happening right now.
In a way, we’re all playing a bit at time travelling on Facebook, we leap back to when our children were small, or to see our parents were when they were young.
For Justin, it brings his parents forward to him now, in 2018.
“It’s also a way of bringing my dearly loved mum and dad into an age they’ve never known, leaving recent memories and stories and making sure they have their place in this time.”
That’s not disingenuous or tokenistic. It’s simply a new way of keeping our memories alive.
My friend Justin has schooled me well.
I’ve stopped judging soppy parenting posts.
And I may even start adding a few more of my own.
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