We are constantly writing our own history by making choices, making mistakes, and making memories. Nothing has made me feel more conscious of this mundane phenomenon than Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. As many of my close friends know, I made a vow to myself when I was 13 years old to keep my life as interesting and as entertaining as a Bollywood movie. Now, as a [senior] in college at SMU, Facebook allows me to do a daily progress check.
On January 23rd, 2015, over a hundred women welcomed me to Gamma Phi Beta by showering me in affection and gold glitter. January 23rd, 2011, Emma and I went clubbing for the first time in my small town. It was not glamorous, it rained, and we will laughingly remember it forever. On January 23rd, 2010, I was trying to find somewhat attractive ski clothes that I wouldn’t freeze in for my high school’s annual Snow Trip. On January 23rd in 2016, however, I allow myself to forget my restaurant surroundings and flick through my iPhone, scrolling deeper and deeper into nostalgia.
Don’t get me wrong, there is something beautiful about pulling out old yearbooks and photo albums, gently turning the pages so as not to disturb the photographs that the heat melded together or that the frost unglued and left loose between the pages. We all have a part of us that loves to relive old memories, remember friendships that have since drifted, and slip into a skin that we’ve shed away. The past is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s that maroon–now threadbare–cardigan that my mom always tries to get me to throw out every time that I come home from college. It is what we each know to be our unwavering, unchangeable personal truth.
As we grow older and clink more 21st birthday glasses, we all joke about, yet dread, becoming “real adults.” Friends around the table start talking about their internship hunts, their confirmed after-college jobs, and, sooner or later, someone interrupts with, “Did you know that so-and-so proposed?” Suddenly, that desire to return to 2014, 2013, 2010, and even 2009 begins to haunt us. We crave the security of the past when it was still cute not to know what you wanted to do when you grew up, because there was still supposedly time left to grow up. We dig out our smartphones and race to Facebook’s virtual time machine, mentally throwing on that maroon cardigan that we wore for all of high school and smile, reassured that we’ve made time pause for a moment.
What we forget is that doubts, fears, and insecurities have always existed within our minds. Even those smiling, goofy, and braces aplenty faces of our friends in 2009 photos all still had their fair share of nerves and questions. Everyone had concerns over whether their SAT grades were high enough, whether that dress for Prom was actually going to look fabulous, or whether they should break up with their boyfriend tomorrow or after the Christmas holidays. No matter how fabulous the smile in those photos or the wittiness of that status, those same questions that plague you today in 2016 were always hidden there. They were just wearing a different colored cardigan.
On January 23rd, 2016, my friends Lizzy and Tiffany got into CPA grad school, Emma got into law school, and Neha confirmed that she’s moving to Austin for med school. The day’s page turns and Spencer returned to Boston after studying animals in the Amazon rainforest, Jack is preparing to study abroad in New Zealand, and Kayla is closing a successful first day of hosting auditions for our Sing Song production. The newsfeed looks to refresh and I have just about finished unpacking my bags from studying abroad in Paris for a semester. I am now beginning to welcome new Gamma Phi girls into our sorority house. It is now January 24th, 2016.
Facebook can’t yet show us photos or witty statuses about how these future adventures will turn out. We’re still dipping our pens in ink. We are about to write our every choice, mistake, and memory on the pages of our lives’ next chapters. We all want to make that 13-year-old version of ourselves proud. We all want to have lives worth making a Bollywood (or Hollywood) movie about. But, like all good things in life, we’ll have to wait at least a year before we can scroll back to “On this Day” and muse about whether everything played out exactly the way that we hoped that it would.
*Originally written for The SMU Odyssey on January 25th 2016, under the title “How Facebook Allows Us To Live In The Past and Forget the Future.”