By: Dr. Leah Katz, Guest Blogger
Image from tutorialspoint.com
Facebook. Love or hate it, it’s become an integral part of our daily lives and a major player in the social media revolution that’s enveloped much of the last decade. Personally, I’ve had a long and tortuous relationship with it. I was late to join in college, whining that it was just a way for people to check each other out and decide whom they wanted to hook up with that Saturday night. But after graduating from college it became a useful tool to stay in touch with people, network for jobs and internship opportunities, or garner advice about career and graduate school. As more and more people joined and you became friends with people from your past, it became, at least for me, maybe the best procrastination tool known to man. I used to call it the Facebook wormhole. I’d sign in at oh, say 9 pm, PROMISE myself I’d stalk people for fifteen minutes, and four hours later, I’ve accomplished nothing and was looking at baby pictures of some girl from high school’s sister whom I didn’t even know. It was now 1 am. And thus begun my love/hate relationship with it.
It is a distraction to say the least, and many argue it belies the inherent irony of all this connectedness rendering us less connected and in tune with the moments of our lives. People joke, “Hey how about instead of poking me or liking my status, you call me.” But the truth is in the intense busyness of our daily lives, the phone call isn’t likely to happen. The Facebook news feed scroll- the one that takes two minutes while you’re waiting on line at Starbucks- that realistically happens. I agree that our generation is somewhat less intimate when it comes to communication, but I also don’t see this changing at all, as much as our parents might want it to.
I have come to see Facebook and social media in general as having a huge, glistening, and beautiful silver lining- one that many people overlook. For me, despite a very logistically intense year as a first year medical resident, as more important people from my life joined and utilized Facebook, it allowed a connection- albeit via a news feed, which had not been present or possible before. My godmother who lives in Boston became active on Facebook. She was my biggest fan; Facebook gave me, her, and my sister a tangible way to feel like the beauty of daily connection and support was actually there. Should or could this have been via the phone the old fashioned way? Maybe. But let’s be real, daily phone chats just weren’t going to happen when I’m working 70 hours a week and everyone else is traveling, busy, and drained. When the Boston marathon bombings transpired right outside my godmother’s apartment, she was able to let all of her loved ones know she was OK; she later said that the outpouring of support via Facebook meant the world to her. That is a pretty exquisite thing to be able to say about a social media entity, isn’t it?
A lot of people gripe that there is only trash on Facebook these days. It’s people posting pictures of themselves looking hot, or trying to glorify their life as being way more amazing than it is. If that party is so much fun why are people posting pictures instead of just enjoying the party? But I think that is the other beauty to your news feed. People post about issues, friends, events, and feelings that matter to them. Never before has an appreciation for the moment been so apparent in my opinion. Yes, you may not want to see the 2,000 photos of your friend’s baby. But those 2,000 photos represent a degree of excitement, joy, and happiness; that is if nothing else, beautiful.
If intern year and dealing with death day in and day out have taught me anything, it’s that the moment is very important- especially those shared with those you love. I feel Facebook, ironically, brings your attention to the special things that happen daily in all our lives. After a night shift in early spring this year, I returned to a sleepy Manhattan with a beautiful sunrise. Manhattan was just waking up as I was going to sleep. I remember thinking; hey I want to remember this moment of intern year because I’ll never have this experience again. I snapped a picture of my street corner and uploaded to Facebook because documenting life has now become such a huge part of our generation’s experience and consciousness. I look back on that picture and I remember that morning in a way I may not have been able to had I not had the thought to capture it.
Similarly, I think social media helps us appreciate the time we have with those we care about. Is going out for drinks on Friday night with your closest friends the most amazing unbelievable thing to happen? Maybe not for someone looking at your profile. But for you and your friends in that moment, yes, it is. Spending time together is precious and savoring that moment with a picture or status only helps us appreciate the time we have together in my opinion- time that we so often take for granted, especially when we are young.
So while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be an utter distraction and annoyance at times, I think there is a lot of hidden beauty and truth in that news feed.
About Leah: Leah graduated from the Tulane School of Medicine one year ago and will begin training in Radiation Oncology this July. Leah enjoys the clinical, scientific, and humanistic sides of cancer care. She is Bikram yoga obsessed and in a love affair with NYC that is one year old and going strong.