What are you truly thankful for?
Each morning before my roommates and I go off to work, we sit at the dining table and chat. A few weeks ago, we noticed that we were being particularly negative, and these little morning meetings had transformed into gossip sessions.
Not wanting to become the type to discuss people rather than ideas, we decided that each day, we would mention something we’re thankful for -- that’s it. We don’t write a status update about our gratitude on Facebook, post daily to Instagram with a clever hashtag or even feel the need to share our thanks with anyone else, other than one another.
I really dislike the hashtag trends -- #30daysofgratitude or #100happydays -- attached to daily photos or status updates on social media expressing positive thoughts. If participating in these trends brings a person peace and makes him or her smile, then I wouldn’t want to take away from that.
However, in a society where we invest so much effort into curating our online selves, it seems impersonal and incredibly insincere.
I encourage others to spread the love. Instead of posting a new Instagram photo or tagging people in a post on Facebook, if you find yourself grateful for something in real life, react in real life.
If you’re grateful for your dog, give him an extra-long walk tonight. If you’re thankful to have family in your life, make a point to call your loved ones this week. If you count yourself lucky to have the friends you do, make dinner plans with them on Friday.
Don’t allow your Internet connection to take the place of one-on-one connections.
There are a few people I know who don’t have Facebook accounts. One of my friends states her reasoning for never signing up for an account so very simply:
"If I want to be your friend, I’ll be your friend. I don’t need a website for it."
Online life is vastly different from real life. Real life is all the time. You are your imperfect self, the person your true friends know. Online, you can moderate, edit, pick and choose what and when people view, all with the goal that they’ll see the “you” that you want them to see.
Essentially, you’re creating an online persona similar to your real self, but one that lacks the depth, flaws and unique qualities you have. We omit those things from our profiles to appear like a better version of ourselves, leaving out what makes us human.
We want to appear as perfect as possible to the people viewing our profiles, so the photos we upload or status updates we write are really intended for those who will see it. For most of us, "those who will see it" includes an array of people: close friends, family, significant others, exes, potential employers, coworkers, high school acquaintances, mentors... The list goes on.
When you post something to these websites to express gratitude, you’re not doing it for yourself, or for whatever or whomever is making you happy. You’re doing it to create an online life that you hope your large audience will find appealing, even though it’s not the real you.
Yes, you may very well be thankful for whatever it is you’re posting about, and that’s wonderful! Taking the time to count your blessings is humbling and an excellent daily ritual to have.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking your gratitude is best expressed on the Internet, however. Posting something online is the simplest, most basic way to show your appreciation. Anyone can do it; it takes up an insignificant amount of time and it’s simply not enough.
In my life, I’ve noticed two changes since I started verbalizing my own gratitude face-to-face with someone. First of all, it’s helped me appreciate both the big and small things. Some days I’m thankful that my boyfriend will be in town, and other days I’m thankful for my cat. Sometimes I’m grateful for the surgeon who repaired my achilles five years ago, and sometimes I’m simply grateful that the sun is shining.
Second, I’ve found that I’m psyched to hear what the people I care about are grateful for. It’s an exciting part of my morning to hear my roommates express their gratitude, and I look forward to that just as much as sharing whatever it is that’s making me feel blessed.
Of course, if I had to learn about what my roommates or friends are grateful for over the Internet, I wouldn’t feel the same. When we sit and chat in the mornings, the discussions are personal, and I know that my roommates are talking to me.
Online, the information is out there, but it’s not necessarily being shared with me; it’s just intended for a general audience that happens to include me. I’m not being talked to. I’m being talked at.
So go further. If you’re thankful for someone, let him or her know. If you’re thankful for something, take a moment to admire its beauty and wonder.
If you want to continue updating an online presence with photos and posts, then do it. Just remember that’s only the beginning, and it in no way replaces human interaction, kind words to those you love or taking a moment to reconnect with your surroundings.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It