Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 17, 2014

Opinion: It doesn't happen unless it's on social media

Joshua Robison
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Last Monday I woke up in a pretty good mood.

After an enjoyable weekend of Mother’s Day gatherings, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror and say, “You, mister, are a pretty swell guy.” After all, Friday evening was spent at my parents’ house, and on Saturday we gathered around with my wife’s family. Sunday, of course, was actually Mother’s Day, so the kids and I did our best to pamper my wife as much as we could. Pies were purchased and cards were signed, all in an effort to give back to the women who had given us so much over the years.

“Yes, indeed,” I thought to myself Monday morning. “I may not be the best son/son-in-law/husband/father in the world, but surely, after this weekend, I am on the short list.”

But then I logged on to Facebook. Monday morning’s Facebook greeted me with dozens of digitized photographs of people and their moms. Numerous “friends” had posted pictures of themselves hugging their moms, pictures of them smiling with their moms, and pictures of just their moms, most of them complete with status updates that basically said something like “just want to take time today to say happy Mother’s Day to the best mom in the world.”

Needless to say, I felt terrible. I felt terrible, because although I had spent time with multiple moms over the weekend, I had not taken that next crucial step in our contemporary culture. Pathetically, I had not digitized that precious memory and then share it with hundreds of hundreds of people. I am a jerk.

After some reflection, though, I began to reconsider the source of my shame. Did I feel bad about myself because of Facebook, what with all its bits and bytes of happy people doing happy things, or did I feel bad because I had, just moments prior, felt good about myself for merely doing the right thing? So what if I had gone the extra step while making the macaroni and cheese by putting three tablespoons of butter in the crockpot when the recipe just called for two, and why should I take pride in making sure the steak didn’t burn on the grill?

These actions took place, certainly, as my cholesterol level can attest, but they had not been archived. They had not been uploaded. These events were, in a word, lost. Without a picture shared or even a tweet twote, did these events ever even happen? The online community won’t ever understand how delectably the salmon had paired with the grilled yams, which is such a shame, because, just so you know, they were delicious.

Granted, there is a certain degree of irony in all of this, as this column will be uploaded to the Internet. Thus, the aforementioned Mother’s Day events will indeed be shared with the World Wide Web, but by then it will be too late. Mother’s Day was over a week ago. A week! In cyberspace, no one cares if you even scream unless it just happened, or, better yet, is happening in real time.

It seems we have meandered into this weird cultural labyrinth where joyful little moments — a dinner with old friends, a child’s first bike ride, a hug from a loved one — seem somehow less valid unless they are uploaded very quickly onto the Internet. For example, if you are about to enjoy an appetizing piece of meat you have spent hours preparing and then additional hours cooking, then you had better take a picture of it and let everyone know before you ruin the beautiful thing by actually tasting it. If your kid has just stolen their first base in little league, it now seems that you have a responsibility to at least get that information online before a relative has the bad luck of hearing about the accomplishment second hand by the happy little kid who stole the base in the first place.

“You stole second? Last night? And I’m just hearing about it this morning? What is this, 1987? Go get me my smartphone, why dontcha,’ so I can take a selfie of me slappin’ ya’ dad in the ear!”

Thus, it only makes sense that eventually — and by eventually I assume last week because I don’t have a smartphone — a software company will design an app with preloaded status updates you can attach to pictures and just send on their way.

This way after you take the picture you won’t have to burden yourself with the task of thinking about what you want to text.

I assume these PSUs — preloaded status updates — could be categorized by icons for even further efficiency. About to drink a copper-colored craft beer with an aromatic head? Try, “I can smell the hops from my seat.”

Need people to know that you are enjoying yourself at your 20th Pearl Jam concert? Why not click on “Feels like Eddie Vedder is channeling 1997!”

Is your adorable little kid being cute…again? Just attach “laughin’ at the kiddos” to that sucker and let the world know about it.

Why? Well, because it’s 2014. You have to.

Next week, I will gather with old classmates to celebrate our 20-year high school reunion. Many of us have not seen or spoken to each other since 1994, but thanks to Facebook, many of us do have an idea what each other has been up to these last couple of decades.

And that, for the most part, is a good thing.

We will gather and look at old pictures — in yearbooks, in photo albums, in stacks. These are pictures of a lost world. These are snapshots of young people who did not smile for anyone except those in the room.

Those young people are gone.