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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.