Life + Love, Life Stories

Facebook Memories reminds me of the past-me I’d rather forget

I seriously don't need to be reminded that I used 2 type like dis when I was n high skool.

Of all the changes Facebook has made since I joined in 2006, I hate Facebook Memories the most.

Long ago, I decided that Twitter was my favorite platform (I’m very smug about my timeline because it is excellent. Seriously, go follow the people I follow). I continue to log into Facebook for two main reasons: I occasionally handle social media at work, and I stalk my family and friends’ profiles for new photos of their frustratingly cute babies.

However, almost every time I log in, I’m faced with some ridiculous thing that I willingly posted for my entire friend group to see when I was a teenager. I then spend the next 10 minutes cringing and hoping that no one remembers that I used to be the worst.

When I pitched this post, my editor said something that really stuck with me: it’s difficult to focus on trying to be a better person, when Facebook is constantly reminding me of what I used to be like. And I think that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling.

Maybe it ultimately doesn't matter to anyone but me. Click To Tweet

In the past few years (and much to the credit of some of those great folks I follow on Twitter), I’m both becoming a person that I like more and am learning how to like myself, even when I’m imperfect and problematic and insecure. But it’s hard not to feel embarrassed by my decade-old Facebook statuses.

It's difficult trying to be a better person when Facebook is constantly reminding me. Click To Tweet

It’s not just because I used 2 type like dis when I was n high skool. The self-deprecating humor and mean-spirited jokes that I used to peddle in my Facebook statuses aren’t who I am anymore.

I’m a little bit more mature, I’m more private, and I’m more conscious of what is hurtful or damaging to others. Even though I know I’m being too hard on myself by expecting posts from eight or 10 years ago to reflect the kind of person I am today, I cannot help but feel that weird kind of residual embarrassment that makes me want to climb out of my skin and then shower.

FB Memories is embarrassing, and it's not just because I used 2 type like dis. Click To Tweet

I can understand why the folks at Facebook would think that Facebook Memories would be a hit among users.

People love to reminisce about the good old days. It’s the reason why #TBT is one of the longest-running, cross-platform hashtags online, and according to my freshman year Psychology 101 class, it’s why advertisers frequently play on the selling power of nostalgia. We’re supposed to look back at happier times, chuckle at our adorable foolishness and naivety, or whatever, and then go out and buy that mid-size sedan.

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But here’s the problem: we carefully curate our own #TBT posts, sharing photos that we think are cute or endearingly awkward. These are memories we want to relish and share, not random statuses we posted on this day, 10 years ago.

Most of my Facebook Memories are not the kinds of things I would choose to dig up when I’m craving rose-colored memories to get me through the day. Instead, they are pulled from (often inane) things I willfully shared with the world years and years ago, without my explicit say-so. I’m just grateful that they only show up on my current timeline AFTER I’ve approved them, because frankly, 26-year-old me would probably hate 16-year-old me.  

To be fair, 30-year-old me will probably hate 26-year-old me and so on and so forth, and as a person who has been writing things for publication on the Internet since I was 18, I’m pretty used to wishing that I could scrub the web clean of everything published under my byline before 2012.

I’ve been on Facebook since I was 16, having joined as a high school sophomore in 2006. It was the first time that the social network allowed high school students to join and although I’d already been on Tagged (a throwback if there ever was one) and MySpace, Facebook was a different animal. I had to “friend” people before they could fully see my page. On the other sites, I had an open (and heavily curated) profile and regularly received messages from assumed teens that I didn’t know. Instead, Facebook accomplished exactly what Mark Zuckerberg wanted (at least, according to “The Social Network”): it became an extension of my regular school life.

I didn’t worry about the fact it was online for the world to see. It felt “private.”

It was also very consuming. My friends saved up to buy digital cameras because this was 2006 and our Motorola Razr’s basically took daguerreotypes. Every photo we snapped was taken with Facebook in mind, because if you didn’t post photos on FB, did it even happen? 

I'm used to wishing that I could scrub the web clean of everything published before 2012. Click To Tweet

I remember getting excited whenever I got a new message and agonizing over my response. I remember obsessively adding as many people as possible to up my friend account (a decision I regularly regret now when a virtual stranger pop up on my timeline, reminding me just how reckless I was as an Internet-using teen). 

My queasiness about what I posted first started when one of my uncles added me on Facebook. Suddenly, I stopped cursing on my page and thought more carefully about what I should be sharing with the public.

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Twitter became my outlet and I was basically the embodiment of this meme for years:

Except the Twitter Me was less “socially aware and tweeting about justice and equality” and more “sharing profanity-riddled rants about my least favorite CVS in D.C.” I was kind of funny, at times, and I definitely enjoyed posting what I wanted without worrying that I might offend someone or share too much about my personal life, but I’m older now and more careful about what I put out into the digital world.

However, that’s become a problem of its own. I delete more tweets than any controversial celebrity you can name. I go through long spells where I only retweet people and save all of my jokes, analysis and commentary for my friends, fearful of giving too much of myself online. I spend so much time thinking about what to not tweet that I seriously wonder how much of that time I could be spending doing something more productive, like pitching articles, for instance.

My queasiness about what I posted started when my uncle added me on Facebook. Click To Tweet

The bottom line is that I grew up right at the start of the social media age. The things I’d readily posted in my journal were suddenly the things that I watered down and shared with unseen faces on the other side of the screen. The jokes I made with my friends were status fodder. This is a first-world problem if there ever was one, but at some point, I felt like I was losing myself by sharing too much, and then, as I began to be more judicious about what I was posting, I started to become neurotic about that.

Since the option of not having a social media presences doesn’t exist for someone who wants to write for a living, I’m looking to strike a balance. I’ve figured out how to be myself in real life and now I’m searching for that same self online.

Maybe I should stop worrying so much about what my Facebook presence used to look like and focus on how much I’ve grown in the past eight years.

Maybe it ultimately doesn’t matter to anyone but me.

Maybe I really am way too hard on myself.

Lauren McEwen

Lauren McEwen

Lauren McEwen is a freelance writer based in the Atlanta area. She has written about everything from pop culture to gender to business. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Madame Noire, The Baltimore Sun, Bitch Magazine, Ebony.com and Comic Book Resources. Although she likes a ton of things, her three true loves are cheese, Harry Potter, and Beyonce. She also really enjoys horror movies and music with lyrics that would make an upstanding citizen cringe.

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