I sat at my keyboard, staring at the blue Facebook icon.
Should I post it or not?
Earlier this week, I was thrilled when my daughter—a senior in college who is graduating next month—let me know she was being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in our country.
Rebecca has worked hard for this honor. She’s a nearly straight-A student who started a brand new club on her campus and worked as an intern in her campus career center for the last year and a half. She’s more than earned it.
As soon as she told me, of course, I called my husband, who came out of a meeting just to hear. I then emailed her grandparents, aunt, and uncles. I wanted to share my excitement with the world.
But I also didn’t.
Let’s face it: Putting my daughter’s news on Facebook would be a big, big brag. It could be interpreted as “too much” of a brag. And I didn’t want to offend anyone.
I have friends whose children are struggling. I have friends whose children are in different places than mine are right now. I’ve been where they are—when my kids are going through hard times or not making the best choices or just living their lives like most of us do on a daily basis, with nothing particularly exciting happening. Plenty of times, I have nothing to report about them or things that happen that frankly, I don’t want to report. Like car accidents they caused or tests they failed or schools they didn’t get into. I’ve been there and will be there again.
But still, I was very excited about Rebecca’s acceptance into this honor society and kind of blown away to be honest. I had not been the best student. Neither had been my husband. We were average kids who went to average colleges and have done average things. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that, because that is life in a nutshell—the usual weekdays and nights in the cycle of work and relaxation, dinners out with family and friends on weekends, the occasional promotion or raise or family event to pepper the predictable years as they lay out before us.
Being average is OK. At the same time, I think most of us think our kids are something special and on the path to doing great things. Most will turn out like us—living average lives with the occasional spark of excitement in their otherwise regular worlds. And that’s the way it should be. But when we brag about their more remarkable accomplishments on social media, is that OK?
I’ve struggled with this issue for a long time. I really like it when my friends share their kids’ accomplishments with me, whether on social media or personally, via email or any other way. Do I sometimes feel a pang of jealousy? Absolutely. But do I rejoice for them and get excited for them at the same time? Even more absolutely, and that feeling goes way, way further for me than the tiny notch of jealousy I might feel on occasion.
I asked a friend what she would do, whether bragging on Facebook about this was really OK.
“I don’t only want to be your friend in bad times,” she said. “I tell all my friends that. I want to hear the great stuff too.”
I’d like to think this friend of mine is typical of the people in my life. My Facebook friends run the gamut from people I’ve never met but who have been following my writing career to high school friends I haven’t seen in 30 years to people in town whom I see regularly at events and functions to family members to best friends who know my everyday life and struggles—the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of them have struggles too. Some of those struggles I know about; others I don’t.
I do know that Facebook adds a whitewash to many of our lives—people don’t generally share all the trials and tribulations of their own and their children’s day-to-day life. (OK, there is an exception to every rule. I have a few Facebook friends who post every horrible thing that ever happens to them. It makes me feel like I’m peering way too far into their homes.)
So, I asked myself again, did my writing friends need to know this? Did acquaintances need to know this? Did people in town need to know this? Still, I wrestled with myself on the other side, there’s something easy about posting the news once, instead of contacting people individually to let them know and then feeling I left someone out. (I have a friend who refuses to do Facebook. I’m constantly forgetting to tell her stuff because I put it on Facebook and then think everyone already knows.) And I thought the vast majority of people would be happy for my daughter—as I was for them and their kids when good things happened to them.
I poised my hands over the keyboard. I wrote and read. I thought, but not quite as hard. I hit Post.