When everything becomes “a thing”

Warning: I may sound old and scroogey and like a killjoy in this blog, and I would truly love to hear the thoughts and ideas of others around this topic.

With one son recently married and another very freshly engaged, the trend toward hyper experience in the realm of previously more routine life events has struck a chord. Weddings are certainly a good place to start given the multi-_illion dollar industry all around these celebrations – I am not sure which consonant/s to put into the blank – m, b or tr?

The escalation of expectations around such events seems to be rapidly increasing. My personal struggle with social media has been documented here several times. Its’ impact on how we do life certainly has a role in these escalations. The other night, I was scrolling through my facebook news feed and came across a friend who posted a picture of herself displaying the clever way she had been invited to be a bridesmaid. I turned to my daughter in law and said, “is this ‘a thing’ now?” She confirmed it.

A fellow mom and I were chatting last spring and she enlightened me on the new phenomena of “promposal”. Her son had asked a girl to prom but her friends informed him that he needed to step up his game and ask her in a much more creative way. Ultimately he caved to the pressure and re-asked her in a way that somehow involved spelling out an invitation on volleyballs, her sport of choice. I wonder what the expectations of these teens will become by the time they are ready to be married.

I understand why it is fun and practical to know the gender of a baby before they enter the world, but personally, an intentional decision not to know was part of the surprise and mystery and day dreaming that kept me going during the rougher days of pregnancy and childbirth. The pressure to creatively and sometimes in large group settings reveal the gender of an unborn child is increasing. Gender reveal parties and announcements have become “a thing”.

Within the wedding sphere, from proposal to engagement to asking your wedding party to save the date to the actual event, the pressure to be creative and “social media ready” seems to be quickly and progressively ramping up. Pinterest is a wonderful place to get ideas and spark imagination, yet it also can create unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction when the realities of budget, energy and some desire for life balance are realized.

I am curious about the source and direction of this trend. Is it technology, social media and the ability to constantly compare and contrast ourselves with the image that others choose to put out there? Is it somehow in the DNA of the wealthier segment of our American society – keeping up with the Joneses on a whole different level? Will this trend ever downshift or subside?

I think about friends who desire to go to prom or marry and have not. Of those who desperately want to be pregnant and called parent, but so far, can not. I completely understand why a friend who lost her child has chosen to leave the social media world all together.Yes, engagements, weddings , prom invites and pregnancies are times for celebration but I imagine that they often offer little heart stabs for those not yet partnered or pregnant or invited to be a part. These struggles and situations are not new, but somehow the constant barrage of technology and connectedness make it more daily, and sometimes hourly, in our face.

My fear is that all of this hype and comparison leaves many feeling less than, anxious, empty and at times profoundly disappointed in their own lives. At times, this is my response. Often when I desire to genuinely celebrate and be joyful with others, there is a social media performance component on my end or their end that seems to creep up and dull the joy. I start to think in facebook status updates rather than take time to savor and internalize the good news. The rapidity with which a profoundly life changing announcement becomes yesterday’s news somehow cheapens and minimizes many of life’s deepest occasions.

This is the technological world in which I and my children live. We can’t change it but we must navigate it. My personal time on social media offers a chance to stay engaged with many that I care about, but it can also become a bit like junk food to my soul. For me, it is elsewhere that true and deep and meaningful life is experienced.

What about you? Is this a generational divide? How do you feel about these things? Please share your thoughts and ideas around this topic. I hope we can have a conversation and learn from each other.

About inpursuitofatoolbox

I am a God lover, wife of Mark and mom to 5 incredible children. Our 3 sons came to us by birth and our 2 daughters came through adoption.

Posted on September 7, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m with you on this, friend. When little girls are going to massages and pedicures, having princess parties in full costume, then it escalates to higher and higher planes of expectations, disappointments, high hopes, followed by plunges of despair. Having fun, being creative, and making our kids feel special is wonderful, but social media advances all of this to a competitive sport, in my opinion. Life’s simpler pleasures are being lost in the shuffle, and it saddens me. When asked their favorite memories of growing up, I’ve been surprised when all of my four sons said having me read books such as The Hobbit to them, using all the different voices, while they did dishes was among their favorite moments. Kids will grow up whether they have pedicures or mom reading to them. Proms will be attended by simple invitations by “Aw, shucks!” inviters and shy “I’d love that!” responses or by airplanes with banners flying over. Engagements will happen at nice dinners or in baseball stadiums. Marriages will be celebrated in churches with a few flowers and cake and punch receptions or by celebrations that cost tens of thousands of dollars. I’m glad we have freedoms in Christ to process life in our own ways, be they simple or extravagant. But we definitely come down on the side of being just as happy with a family game of cards as a trip to Disney. That’s just how we roll!

  2. I have been thinking on this since you posted it!

    I have some thoughts.

    So… I think the thing for me on this is WHY someone is making someone “a thing”. Is it out of obligation- because now it is lame or not allowed to “just ask” someone to be a bridesmaid, or to prom? Is it because they feel a need to prove their creativity, coolness, etc. on social media? Is it because they feel a sense of perfectionism, or whoever they are asking is going to be disappointed if it isn’t impressive or cooler than their friends’ ask/proposal/invite?

    On the other hand:
    Some of these things, I see as a really fun way to just add some magic and sparkle to things that could be mundane. Dying eggs green on St. Patrick’s Day makes an ordinary breakfast special and fun. I heart-attacked some friends’ who have little kids houses last year on Valentine’s Day- just taped up some paper hearts from the Dollar Tree on their front porches for them to find when they woke up.
    I didn’t do particularly special asks for my wedding party, and most of the weddings I’ve been in they didn’t do anything particular to ask me. And that was totally fine. But one friend and her husband made us all little funny videos asking us in some way that was relevant to our friendship (in mine they were all, “Hey do you want to journal??!!!!!, and then they wrote in the journal “Will you be our bridesmaid?” and held it up to the camera :-)). I don’t think they did it because they thought they had to, I think they just had fun doing it.

    My close friend Kim is the QUEEN of making something small into “a thing”, and she LOVES it. Her five year old is life threateningly allergic to so many things it is hard for them to leave the house, and so she and her husband fight super hard for joy and making memories inside their home when they can’t do them in the normal ways. They celebrate President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, first days of the seasons, birthdays to the max…. it is a way for her to enjoy motherhood and “make some magic” on hard days, and make sure that her kids remember fun and “special things” even when they can’t go out for ice cream, to the zoo, etc.
    Her sister-in-law, inspired by her, wrote an awesome post about this view of “the Pinterest moms”: http://bethwoolsey.com/2014/08/about-those-pinterest-moms/

    A lot of times a little bit of extra effort or five minutes of forethought can bring something from boring to feeling special, and make something just feel more fun, more happy, more exciting. If it’s stressful, then that would defeat the purpose! But if it doesn’t really make a difference in time or money or effort… why not make it just a little more memorable? For me a lot of times honestly it’s been an anti-depressant decision to throw a spring tea party (yup did that) or mail a snail mail card to someone in town (yup)- just a way to make a day more joyful, for me and hopefully someone else.

    I think my personal feelings on it: the purpose of making something into “a thing”- should be for joy, and/or love (aka, if it makes the other person feel joy :-)). The goal should be to show that that person is worth your thinking beforehand, *****is worth you being intentional****. If it creates stress, grumpiness, exhaustion, resentment, then it obviously defeats the purpose. And when I find myself in that position, I should check my heart: ****Am I doing this because it will make that person feel like they are special to me, or because it will make this day feel more full of life and happier and not just like daily grind****? Or am I doing it because I want other people to notice that I rocked something or am impressive or really good at crafts/planning/forethought, or because I “have to” since everyone else does.

    A good rule of thumb: would I still do this if it wasn’t going to go on social media, and nobody knew about it 🙂

    In my personal experience: Ben proposed in a fairly mellow way. We spent a day together listening to Christmas music and eating brunch and cutting down a Christmas tree, and then when we got home I found he had made my favorite childhood dinner and put pictures of us all over. He had set the table with a Christmas plaid tablecloth, which is sort of an inside joke (I love plaid). It wasn’t expensive. It wasn’t even exceptionally creative (don’t tell him I said that). But it was VERY “us”- we had talked a ton about the importance of traiditons and about how excited we were to make Christmas magical for our family someday, and it included that, plus the pics and my favorite dinner, etc.
    What mattered to me is that I knew he had thought about what to do and picked something out on purpose; it was important enough to him to plan for. I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t done that, I think… not because of social media but because INTENTIONALITY is so meaningful to me.

    So. There are my novel’s worth of thoughts!
    In summary: if making things a thing is out of joy, sense of magic and fun, and desire to make someone feel special, then I am all for them.

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