Living in Washington Heights is a cultural shock for a tiny white girl from Connecticut. When I moved there a year ago (from the Upper East, no less), for the first time in my life (aside from the glorious six months I lived in Argentina) I was officially in the minority, as my neighborhood is largely Dominican, populated by families that have lived there for decades, permeating Latin flavor into everything from the food to the street parties. My neighbors are boisterous, outspoken and operating on a completely different wavelength than I ever will, which is likely why I find myself on the receiving end of some very interesting catcalls and conversations on a near-daily basis. The especially funny ones I’ll usually post to Facebook, for multiple reasons: to share the spirit of my neighborhood, to scare my mother who still can’t believe she “lets” me live there, and to see how many Likes I’ll get.
That’s both my dream and nightmare.
That’s right. I’ll admit it. I feel better about the absurdities in my life if I share them across social media and multiple people haphazardly click a button to reaffirm that my life is (a): funny; and (b): worth reading about on social media. Call me a narcissist all you want, but I’m writing a blog about myself so that should have been obvious. There’s a markedly different reaction in how I feel about something precious enough to share on social media if it gets three likes versus thirty; an Animal Farm-esque mentality of “10 likes good, 20 likes better!” I know I’m not alone in this, whether anyone else cares to admit it. People want the cute photo of their recent vacation, the artsy picture of snow and cronuts cross-posted to Instagram or the cute thing their cat did, to get double-digit likes at least. It’s not just a quantitative affirmation, either. The people that like the post are just as interesting as the amount of people that like the post. Exclusively family and weird high school not-even-really-acquaintances? Maybe it wasn’t actually that funny. But if my ex’s friends like my post? Total happy dance.
We’re all self-involved these days, sharing select aspects of our lives, painting a careful picture of Who We Are via status updates and #SELFIES. It could be seen as a bad thing, and to an extent it is, but my friend K said something once (okay he said it to my lovely friend M who told me) which has always inspired me to enjoy social media and all its positives. K said that we’re in almost a second Renaissance, a time where creativity and self-actualization are encouraged and revered. M is a wonderful photographer and cook, and uses those talents to share mouth-wateringly delicious looking photos of her latest culinary fete. My sister T is an adventurous, hilarious and active person, cracking jokes about her latest exploits while hiking and sharing photos from various superhero-themed 5Ks. Even my father shines on social media, posting about football and why everyone should go Paleo (he’s trendy). We have these quirks and traits that our inner circles have always known, but social media lets us share them with everyone now, giving your middle school crush or college roommate the chance to see who you are and who you might become.
There are obvious downsides to social media, like the hypothetical situation where you go online after too many drinks and accidentally like a picture of your ex-boyfriend and his friends and don’t realize it for a few minutes too many (HYPOTHETICALLY it’s not like I did that once or anything…). And there will always be people who overshare anything from cat photos (definitely not me) to wedding updates (actually not me). But when your only connection to certain people is what you choose to share online, it’s nice to have the affirmation that you’re sharing something worth a smile, a laugh, and maybe even a like.
(Aside: I apologize for all the parentheticals above…)
(Including that last one. But not this one. This one doesn’t care. End aside.)