Social Media and the Presentation of Joy

There’s a line from a Portlandia episode that I find myself quoting a lot: “Everybody on the Internet, they’re not having as great a time as you think they are.” I feel that this is never more true than at the holidays. Pictures of beautiful trees and perfectly foamed lattes and boots in the fresh snow may make you feel as though you’re inadequate, but they are poised vignettes. Instagram and Pinterest and Twitter are all true and false at the same time; social media is the cat in Schrodinger’s box. Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything. We present and represent ourselves in a way that we want to be viewed. We show you the best parts of ourselves and our lives. But there are things we don’t talk about.

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of our dog’s death.  Albus Percival Wulfric Brody Dumbledog (Albie) was put down December 23, 2014. In case I had forgotten- I hadn’t, I think of him everyday- Facebook Memories is kindly replaying the whole heartbreaking saga for me. After years of my son begging for a dog, we adopted Albie. He was his and my first dog. We ignored and tried to talk away all signs of trouble: he was aggressive, untrainable, too big to be controlled, refused to come when called. We moved from New York to Washington with the big guy in the back seat. We built him a fence as soon as we closed on the house so he could run freely and wild. We loved him. I loved him like I didn’t know you could love a pet, he was like a second child to me. But when he bit our son in the face, requiring stitches, we were forced to put him down. I remember crying so hard in the ER because I knew that we wouldn’t be able to keep him. “Your son will be ok,” the nurse said. “But my dog…”  Best case scenario, I hoped we could rehome him. Worst case, well that was what happened. In the end, even humane centers wouldn’t take him. In the end, we all stayed in the room when he took his last breath. We held him. We held each other. We cried. We were angry. At Albie, at ourselves- we still are. We miss him every day. He is never forgotten. My husband said the other day, “There aren’t too many things I wouldn’t give up to have Albie back. But that short list is all the reasons why he couldn’t stay.”  Truer words, man.

Loss of any loved one is hard, but at the holidays it’s harder. How do we celebrate the good times (come on) when we feel like something or someone is missing? How do we see others’ joy and not let our own sadness overwhelm everyone? There’s a saying, “be kind for everyone is fighting a battle you don’t know” and I think that’s probably true. The holidays are about more than gifts and food (although those are awesome), and now more than ever- not just because of the holidays, but also because of the political state of the world- we should remember to be kind. Hug your kids and pets a little tighter. Smile at the people on the street. Whatever joy and love you have in your world, pay that forward. And remember not to let other people make you feel like what you have and what you offer is not enough. You are enough. You are more than enough, on the internet and in real life.

Happy Holidays to you all.

In loving memory of Albie, the most doggingest dog who ever dogged.

**slightly edited and reworded from my original blog post at Eliot’s House.

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