Day 46: The Backstory

I'm still kind of on my "facebook isn't reality" kick.  I was thinking about it again last night because Mike and I were talking about a story I posted on my wall.  He commented that he didn't remember the story being quite so funny in real life.  And he was right.  It wasn't funny at all.

The written word is an incredibly powerful tool.  It affords us the opportunity to tell the story we want to tell, sometimes completely altering the reality of the situation.  And facebook is an incredible place to practice this art.  For example, here is a retelling of a story that I recently posted on facebook.

Me: (Sitting at restaurant as fajitas are served on skillet) "Girls, do not touch this plate, it will burn your skin off."
Shannay: (appropriately in aww and horror of something that could burn your skin off) "It will burn my skin off?"
Me: (very serious) "Yes, it will."

Long period of appropriate silence as the girls stare at and think about something that would burn your skin off.

Shannay: "Mama?"
Me: "Yes, baby?"
Shannay: "What's skin?"


Even as I reread this retelling I am laughing.  Everyone who commented on facebook commented about how funny it was.  The way that I put the story together in writing, my word choice, the emotion I injected, the dramatic pause in just the right places all worked together to make this a very funny story.

The reality of this story wasn't actually funny.  As our food was served, we were  quite frustrated that the waitress placed the cold plates of condiments in front of Mike and me, but chose to place the burning hot skillet of fajitas in front of our two 3 year olds.  What insued was a flurry of movement by Mike and I to keep the girls from burning themselves.  In the midst of this flurry of movement was a very agitated me saying in a very agitated tone, "Girls, do NOT touch this plate.  It will burn your skin off!'

I'm certain I frightened them, but not nearly enough to keep them from reaching out at least once, causing Mike and I to flip out!  In the midst of the rearranging of the food, Mike said, "Really Carol?  It will burn their skin off?  Did you have to be that dramatic?  You had to go there huh?  You couldn't just say it would burn them?"

As Mike and I were having our, er . . . . "intense fellowship" over my word choice, the girls were staring at the steaming plate of fajitas.  As I continued to discuss why I chose to say "burn your skin off" instead of just saying "burn you" Shannay said,

"Excuse me, Mama . . . ."  "Excuse me, Mama . . ."  "Excuse me, Mama . . ."

Finally I stopped arguing with Mike and said, "Yes, baby?"  and she said, "What's skin?"

Mike and I both looked at each other.  Mike's look totally said, "See.  You didn't need to say skin. She doesn't even know what skin is!"  And my look said, "See, you don't need to get all upset because I said skin because she doesn't even know what skin is!"

Now, the way I put the story together in the first place (on facebook) is a completely accurate retelling of the story.  I did not rearrange the details in any way.  But I left out the backstory.  And the backstory is important to the truth.

And that's my point.  Regardless of what is written on facebook, most of us are not privileged to the backstory.  So we form "truths" based on what we read, but in reality the truth could look very different.

All that to say, facebook is a great thing.  It has so many incredible uses.  It has the power to do such good.  But it also has the power to do harm.  And that's a lot of power.  So we must be wise, not only in what we write, but in what we read and in what we believe about what we read.

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