Friday, August 17, 2012

The Redemption of Facebook

Sometimes I get tired of people. Sometimes I scream inside my head and despair. Sometimes I think that we are regressing as a species to some kind of grunting, knuckle dragging, nit-picking (and eating) people. Except in sweat pants.

I don't like to feel like this. I love people. I love the infinite variety of experiences, perspectives, oddities, ambitions. I love the idea of people just walking around doing their things and living inside their heads and loving intensely and being grossed out by things and getting tired, getting excited, getting angry, getting dressed, just living.

But sometimes the cacophony of humanity wears me out and I want them all to go quietly home and stay off the internet. That's usually when I go quietly home and stay off the internet. Those times that I feel like if I see one more picture of a chicken sandwich, one more article about parenting styles, one more grammatical error or misspelling, one more kitten picture, one more Mason jar, I will tip into a specific breed of rampaging madness that frightens children and small animals and is bad for the electronics.

But then...

Let me tell you a story.

I dated a guy my freshman year in college. He was large and handsome, had played football in high school, rode a motorcycle, did things like rock climbing and played sports for fun. In other words, so not my type. He wasn't a particularly bookish fellow but I really liked his motorcycle, so we went on a few dates. He was a nice guy, we were both immature, I was kind of a jerk, he was a jerk back, it ended badly. I ran into him again about three years later and we dated a little more. It ended badly again (not entirely my fault this time) and I haven't spoken to him since. No hard feelings, really. I have maintained over the years that he was really a nice guy, we were just woefully unsuited to each other and kind of idiots for not seeing that... twice.

Yesterday, in the midst of one of my "I am going to blow up the internet" moments, I was just logging off of Facebook when I noticed this guy's last name in a post by a mutual friend. I was sick to discover that My Motorcycle Guy's younger brother had just been in a horrible accident at work. Younger Brother's life was in the balance and prayers fervently requested. I monitored for the rest of the day and was both relieved to hear that he would make it, but crushed to learn that after three emergency surgeries, he would lose his leg four inches above the knee. I messaged our mutual friend and told him to tell Motorcycle hello for me and that I was praying for the whole family.

By yesterday evening, two separate friends had set up websites to raise money for Younger Brother's family. You see, he's self-employed and under-insured and has four small children and he has a long, long road to recovery ahead of him. By this morning, there were hundreds of messages from all over the world on the websites, thousands of dollars have been raised so far. There was an eloquent and moving piece written by Motorcycle about the incident, about his love for his younger brother, his gratitude for all the support, and his faith that they would all get through this. Yeah, I cried.

As I sat and stared in awe at this massive outpouring of love and prayer and financial resources for a person who found himself suddenly in need, I was humbled. So many of the messages to Younger Brother started with "I've never met you, but..." and then went on to chime in their support and encouragement. The words of my Motorcycle Guy - so sincere, so well-written, so thoroughly full of love and respect - brought tears of joy and relief. That he is a good guy, he is out there living his life, being a devoted husband and father and son and brother and living with strength and faith that just shone through his words.

I was humbled and restored. Sometimes I get so tired of people. I get tired of the constant yammering. But then when good people use the tools of social media well, I get to see that my cynicism is unwarranted. I get to witness the swelling of thousands of hearts, the giving of thousands of hands, the pouring out of rivers of encouragement and love. I get a small window into a funny little jagged piece of my past and can put it in its proper place; close that chapter with satisfaction and love. I can feel my own smallness in this ocean of goodness that quietly surrounds us. I can dissolve my petty criticism and despair in this ocean. I can let it buoy me up and fill my ears with its ringing beauty. I can look and see it stretch from horizon to horizon, endless, unspeakably vast, quiet, powerful and certain. I can remember why I love people so much.


  1. I literally read this two minutes after unfriending on Facebook an old co-worker from a long-ago job who is very sweet, but very politically conservative.

    Thanks for opening my eyes to a greater reality.

    But no, not re-friending her (unless somehow I get to vote on HER marriage too).

  2. How viscerally painful and hopeful! It is so good to be reminded that it is just a tool–this social media–like our hands, our feet, our mouths. It can be used in innumerable ways, just like our selves, words and money. Prayers for Motorcycle Guy and his family.

  3. I love these reminders. (:

    Prayers for Motocycle Guy and Younger Brother's family. ..

  4. Excellent timing. I have been avoiding The 'Book for a week or so now. I just need to learn to filter through the crap so I can see the gold that truly is there. Sending so much peace, love, and strength to Motorcycle Guy and Younger Brother...

  5. Wow, a totally different take on stalking your ex online... a welcomed one at that. Great post!

  6. I am sending prayers as well, and I am so grateful for the reminder that there is much good in the world. It's easy to forget sometimes.

  7. Our church leaders are often reminding us that there is much bad on the internet, but also the possibility of much good. There's so much more for us to filter these days, especially with kids. But, that kind of outpouring of support couldn't have happened 15 years ago.
    It's always a good day when our faith in people is restored.

  8. Very well said, TL (what don't you say well?). I had to laugh at the mason jar thing, because yes, they are everywhere.

    I have seen Facebook also do great things for people, bring me together with people I never thought I'd hear from again, etc. It is really great that way. I just wish I spent less time on it. ;)

  9. Hmmm, for some reason, The Facts of Life theme song just popped into my head: "You take the good, you take the bad..." I've loved the response boxes for MONTHS now and tonight I want to check all the boxes. ;)


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