This firework heart photo perfectly represents how I feel about Facebook today. I am watching in awe as the wild ass alchemy that transpires there transmutes fire into magnificent love.
The last year and a half has been tough on social media. Many of us have fled to the innocence of Instagram which is largely shielded from the political heat. It’s the land of tropical sunsets, smoothie bowls, flowers and puppies — or whatever heart drug you seek. Twitter is where the warrior types continue braving the front lines. I can only dip in briefly, and mostly to seek out familiar hilarious faces. So, yeah, I stay a good distance from the action.
Facebook can feel like the front lines too, erupting into screams and explosions. I often see posts of friends saying they need to sign off indefinitely to protect their hearts and sanity. I don’t think most people come to Facebook, though, in search of the danger zones. When it starts feeling that way, though, people do their best to buoy each other up, rather than tear each other down.
I may be unique, but I don’t think am. Facebook has been mostly a soft landing spot for most of its users I think. But I have been lucky, I haven’t been bashed for my beliefs, as one friend was recently. She posted about Mark Salling’s suicide because she had known him. It was heart-wrenching, personal, and not in any way a defense of his trespasses, and yet she was attacked. Repeatedly. She’s a tough cookie, but it knocked her down, the vitriol. As it would me.
I had something happen the same night that was tepid in comparison, yet I was also thrown. Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin had alerted her peeps via Facebook that anyone who hadn’t watched the State of the Union might want to turn on the TV to catch the Kennedy response. As soon as I started watching it, I wanted to spread the word so I posted too, for all those who had purposely missed the SOTU as I had. I posted that beautiful stuff was happening and they should see it. A Trump supporter friend responded that I should come watch the recording of the speech at her house, and not listen to liberal pundits picking and choosing what to cover. I bristled. Other friends bristled too, wondering why such an apparently angry post had landed on my feed. It’s not the norm on my page.
I handled it. She apologized. But I realized in that moment that what I love most about Facebook is — in its most idyllic form — we listen, we witness, and we help each other carry the loads in our hearts.
You can count on your friends to be there when you lose your dad, when your community is shattered by fire, flood and devastating mudslides that killed people that, yes, you even knew. We all rally to each other’s sides for these momentous occasions to help carry the burden in some way, a virtual hand reaching out to touch another, a hug from afar, a kind word to take away the pain even for one fleeting moment.
Today, a friend happened to be alerted by her dogs that there was danger in the park across the street from her house. Indeed there was a life and death situation: a man had collapsed and was receiving CPR. He was the 8th grade coach from the local school. Frantic attempts to revive him failed. As the EMT’s slowly took him away on the gurney, a small blanket they were using fell to the ground. After the ambulance left, my friend picked it up, a physical remnant reflecting the heaviness in her heart. She reminded us, as Facebook posts of those gone far too soon often do, of how precious life is.
No matter what its flaws, I am grateful to Facebook for creating a space where we can help hold each other’s hearts. I’m grateful that my Facebook orbit — which I admit I curate (no bullies allowed) — is a place where lots of love happens.
And, oh my god birthdays! Doesn’t it feel like the firework heart above when someone has a birthday? You get to be part of that joyous heart fire. And, when it’s your birthday, an explosion of love all for you!
Today I’m calling it Heartbook because I’m acutely aware of how much it has touched my own, and how in these particularly heated times, it proves to be a reminder that we are all just a bunch of hearts bumping into each other. Those hearts can be full of pain or joy, but they always benefit from being heard and held.