In case you haven’t seen it pop up time and time again on your newsfeed, Facebook has a year in review app that tries to summarize your year by selecting photos of you from the past twelve months and presenting them in a sort of celebratory slide show with light and happy framing. For many, including several of my friends on the site, this is a fun way to look back on the year. For others, as this NPR story shows, it’s quite another story.
For me, obviously 2014 has been a big year. It found me at the lowest depth of misery, but it also found me climbing back out of that pit. On New Year’s Day I’ll have 300 days sober. That’s a hell of an accomplishment, but the feelings I have about my sobriety are more complicated than just being happy about it. I have found skillful ways to manage my anxiety, but they don’t always work. Over the holidays I’ve turned down invitations to hang out with friends because the bar scene is still tough for me. I could go on, but these are the kinds of things that a Facebook app can’t capture, but have been significant parts of my year.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook- it’s a convenient way to stay in touch and feel connected to family and friends who I don’t see very often or to share items of common interest. But let’s not kid ourselves either- most of us curate the content we post very carefully- the vacation photo with the beautiful background, the really cute picture of the kids/dog/cat, the night out with friends all smiles with our arms around each other and the selfie that captures us at just the right angle. I’m certainly guilty of it. Most of the time we’re all about making sure we put our best foot forward, we want to make each other think we’re all doing great. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s not a comprehensive picture of who we are.
If you look back on your year in review, what does it capture? Big events, kids, marriage, graduations, new jobs, new homes? Or small, mundane events- binge watching Netflix for an entire Saturday, the fight you just had with someone, the pressures of work that leave you with a pit in your stomach, the tears when you’ve been overwhelmed or hurt, the jealousies and schadenfreude? Our lives are big complicated messes for the most part with a healthy blend of the good, the bad and, if we’re being honest, the forgettable.
There are a lot of pictures on Facebook of me drinking, of me drunk. Usually they’re the pictures from the party or the bar, with family and friends. There really aren’t any of me drunk alone at home, passing out still dressed in work clothes on a weeknight. No pictures of me when I got home from the bar and opening another beer at home. There are no pictures of the bottle I kept in my room, that in the days following my suicide attempt I pulled out from under the pillow to hand to my father when he was taking all of the booze out of the house.
But how integral to my year was the act of handing him that bottle? There are no pictures of me nervously walking into Hutchings Psychiatric Center for the first time to meet my therapist. How big was that for me in 2014?
When I first browsed what Facebook put in my review last week I saw a few pictures of me drinking in January and February and then it skipped forward to April. I didn’t do much online in March. I decided in that moment I wasn’t going to share my Year in Review. There’s so much of our lives that isn’t neatly catalogued on Facebook. I want to share more with you.