On Being Human

Yesterday I ran into an old friend who has dealt with great loss in her life over the last couple of years.

I’d pulled my car up next to her vehicle after randomly spotting her while driving down the road.

While I tried to remain casual, having not seen her since the horrific event she’d lived through, it was hard for either of us to hold back tears.

We chatted for a bit, then, because she needed to freshen up for dinner, we said goodbyes and I pulled away.

I left my old, hurting friend thinking of all the wrong things I’d said in our conversation.

Then I proceeded to beat myself up for the rest of the night about what a terrible human I am.

Before you feel any self-pity for me, please know that I’m not asking for it. I’m merely sharing what it’s like to be human.

Being human is hard. I don’t say this jokingly. Think about the issues humans have faced over the course of history.

Famine, plagues, weather catastrophes, land changes, invasions, war, death, to name a few.

We had to learn to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, communicate with each other, write, build things, build cultures.

Then, we felt we needed to protect all that we worked for. Otherwise, the aforementioned threats could overcome us.

But they never have, have they?

Have you noticed this?

No matter what humanity has faced, we’ve overcome.

Bruised and broken, scathed and scarred, yes. But still, we’ve overcome.

At least, that is, until the advent of social media.

Social media is a mixed bag, right? A plethora of good but with a whole lotta bad stirred into the sauce.

I wonder sometimes if the people who created social media truly understood the potential it had to change the course of the world.

I’m guessing they didn’t. How could they have? How could they have guessed that connecting all of humanity together in a web of fake news, filtered pictures, and false advertising could cause so much interest, yet so much insurrection?

Thinking back to the beginning of Facebook, I remember that all we did was write a simple sentence about our day.

Toni is...thinking about what I’m going to cook for dinner tonight.

Soon we found that the thrill of a like made our day just a little brighter. We started including pictures, the kinds we used to put on family blogs, pictures that made our family seem just a little better than other families.

The likes grew, and so did our egos.

That was hard enough, I think. Watching my wealthier friends live their best life in Disney twice a year didn’t exactly ruin my own life, but it didn’t make me any happier, either.

But pretty soon, we felt we needed to share more. Our opinions on everything from which casserole we preferred to what we thought about last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County became the ideal postings to social media.

We would tear celebrities apart, politicians apart.

Wasn’t too long on social media before we started tearing each other apart.

The draw of a world wide web is that I don’t have to stare you in the face to stab you in the back. I don’t even have to be standing near you.

We don’t have to live in the same state or even the same country for me to make you feel like you are the worst human being on the face of the earth.

Many of us, like myself, chose in the last couple of American political elections to remove ourselves from the conversation. I got off of social media for years, and I was much happier for it.

Unfortunately, much like the telephone in the mid-20th century or cable television in the later years, social media has become one of the only places to find information in the new millennium.

Again, who knew?

If I’m being honest, I felt subhuman not having a social media account. Even my own family would fail to tell me things because they forgot that I wasn’t on social media and couldn’t see what was happening.

Sadly, some of my cousins and friends I love don’t feel the need to visit in person. Why would they? We have a front door view of each other’s lives via social media.

The same goes for old high school classmates and friends. Honestly, there are people I’d rather not see, but whom I’m forced to because they’re friends of a friend on social media.

Speaking of friends, the dear friend I mentioned earlier hasn’t technically been a friend for quite some time.

Once our daughters grew apart and I got off social media, we lost touch. A common occurrence nowadays.

Maybe that’s just life. Maybe are things come and go. Maybe humans are cyclical creatures, ebbing and flowing against a tide that is part-fate, part-choice.

I don’t know. I’m getting used to saying that about a lot of things these days.

And I can’t help but think that being human should be more about the mystery than the certainty, more about the giving than the having, more about the love than the indifference.

We should be more willing to say I don’t know. Now, more than ever, we should be more okay with just letting things go than with needing desperately to be right.

We should be more intentional about helping, not hurting.

And we should just be okay with being human.

We should know that we’re going to mess up conversations, interactions, moments.

We’re imperfect.

Besides, being human is hard. We’ve had centuries here on Earth to prove it.

Hopefully, we’ll have centuries more to practice.

See you soon,


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