While she was hanging on during the last 24 hours of her life, we waited. Her son, my cousin, would update the family when there was something to update. He had started a group chat on Facebook Messenger that included several of us family members. Usually, he gave us a quick report after seeing one of her doctors or speaking to one of the hospice nurses. She was his mother. My aunt. My dad’s oldest sister. She died last month and I haven’t quite known what to say to anyone since.
I have experienced the death of family members before. It is always gut wrenching to watch and wait. But this one was different. My dad’s sister. That’s a little closer to home than what is comfortable. Sure, I realize that we all die from something at some point. But she was sick and no one even had time to get used to the idea of her being sick before she died. So I can’t help but think, what if that had been my dad who got sick? Is anyone ever really ready for this?
She was older than dad, the oldest of four siblings, but only by three years. Since then, I have reflected on my relationship with my aunt. I have gone through the thoughts that I wish I had seen her more recently. That maybe I should have tried harder to find the money to be able to attend the last family reunion. You see, we didn’t live in the same state. In fact, I can probably count how many times I got to see her in person in my whole life.
After being sad about not attending a reunion, I began to think more about this. I knew my aunt and she knew me. She knew my children as best as she could. In fact, when they were little, she used to treat them as if they would be her only “grandchildren” before any of her sons started families of their own. She was even a bit of a mom figure to me when I needed her perspective on something I was dealing with that she had been through. Like when we had numerous discussions about parenting issues like what it was like to raise a son who had an IEP.
You might wonder how we connected like that even though we lived states apart. It was the internet. Social media to be exact. Gasp! I know. Social media has a pretty bad reputation these days. Just browse your newsfeed a little while and I bet you’ll find an article or discussion somewhere that claims social media is to blame for the demise of mankind as we once knew it.
I wonder sometimes if people forget what it is like to be young. To be a completely self-absorbed teenager or young adult who is immersed in a heap of problems that are the weight of the world to us. Do you remember? I sure do. I’ve been thinking lately about how things were different then and how things are different now. But also, how things were actually the same.
We may not have had social media to magnify these problems that we had, but they existed. I remember the insecure girls who found comfort in promiscuity because they questioned their self-worth. I remember the rebels, the smokers, the pot-heads, the depressed, the dangerous. I remember the risk takers, the nerds, the preps, the populars, the religious. I even remember the bullies. I remember the overachievers and the “most-likely-to-succeed.” I remember the mediocre and the ones who tried so hard to fit in that they didn’t fit in anywhere.
I remember the worry and stress that parents wore on their faces that outshined whatever else they could have been wearing. It’s the same thing we wear on our faces today if we are parents of young adults who are trying to find their way. Young adults who don’t know life without social media. Our kids have problems just like we had, they just have a more modern twist because they’re living in version 2020.
There’s a lot of bullshit in the world these days. There always will be in one form or another. We can nod in agreement that the overuse of screen time has caused this or that according to the latest psychological study. That kids don’t know how to socialize anymore. That we have so much to worry about now as parents. You know, those things like nude photos being exchanged on Snap Chat or cyber bullying that causes suicidal thoughts amongst so many. Yes, yes and yes. All of these things are true.
But here’s the thing. We can’t make it go away. Social media. Or the stress and worry of parenting. Or the problems that teenagers and young adults obsess over. It’s here and we are right here in the middle of it. We are right in the middle of living our lives. And we can only do our best to live the best life that we can. And we can teach our kids how to do the same.
I joined Facebook 11 years ago in 2009 because the enthusiasm that my dad shared with me about it. He had not lived in the same state as his siblings in many years, so Facebook made it possible for him to rebuild his relationship with his siblings as well as with other family members. I always wanted to know my relatives who lived in other places too, so I joined to see what the fuss was all about.
Thanks to that decision, I was able to connect with my aunt. I was able to know her better than I would have known her otherwise. And she could know me too. She was one of the faithful readers of my newborn blog. The same goes for many other family members across the miles. Even though many negatives come with social media, I am not sorry for jumping on board. I am not sorry that my children use social media.
It is our parental responsibility to teach our children about social media. Not only the bad stuff about it, but the good things too. And adults, you know who you are if you need to change what you use social media for. It’s up to you to make better use of it. It shouldn’t encourage us to keep up with the Joneses.
The problems of the world are going to exist no matter how much we try to place blame on some kind of phenomenon. There will still be comparisons of one life to another. There will still be growing pains in all of the stages of life. There will still be bullying on the playground and not just online.
Instead of blaming social media for all the problems people have, how about we choose to look for the positive in social media once in a while? Like how it has brought my family together in ways that would never have been possible without it. And maybe, ask yourself what can it do for yours.