December 12, 2016

How to Survive the “Facebook Flashback.”


“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” ~ Arthur M. Schlesinger

Has this happened to you? You are minding your own business, maybe even finding real happiness in your new life, and then suddenly Facebook goes all “Christmas Carol” and provides you with glimpses of your past. The Facebook Flashback strikes again.

I was staying in my new lane—feeling good about the changes in my life—and then whack, I am hit with images of my past. Why do I post so many pictures?! 

I wonder how this Facebook algorithm works—do they somehow know when I am feeling centered and comfortable in my new skin? Are they saying, “Don’t get too cocky in your new life. Let us show you how happy you were in your past.” 

Sometimes I just swipe these flashbacks away on sight. I can tell the flashback is from my “happily married” days and who wants to go back there?

But today I tried a new approach—the yoga technique of witnessing the pictures. Just taking them in unemotionally, like a third-party observer.

Goodness, I was so bloated then—likely a sign of poor food and beverage choices. And the smiles—mine was so tight and my ex wasn’t smiling at all. And I actually posted a picture of my coping strategy at the time: red wine in a Hampton Inn styrofoam cup with a Hershey chocolate bar on top. Ugh, embarrassing.

When I take this third-party view of the flashback I have to wonder: Why do I feel bad about these pictures?

I am happier, healthier and more centered today than I was in those pictures and it’s all because I exited a situation that was unhealthy for me. And if I hadn’t been in so much pain then, I would never have pursued over 500 hours of yoga teacher and therapy training in one year in response. Training that completely changed me—for the better. 

I started to wonder where else in my life this unemotional witnessing technique could be helpful. 

Facebook provides another flashback opportunity: “The Year in Review,” complete with a little smiley sun taking you through all your pictures from 2016. It also tells you how many items you “liked” on Facebook. Which for me comes with considerable guilt as it seems I was not as appreciative of my friend’s posts. Sorry.

But when I witness the year in review, there is no need to be unemotional. Somehow Facebook has found pictures from the happiest moments I had with my closest friends and family. How do they manage that?

The Year in Review also shows me how far I have come in the year since my divorce. One of my friends said recently, “Look at all you have accomplished since you dropped that baggage.” (Please note that the baggage was my ex, not some random Samsonite roller board.) 

On Thanksgiving, a close friend’s mother died. At the viewing they showed a DVD of these old pictures from when everyone was young. Even though it was a terribly sad time, and some cried watching the pictures, the experience of re-living those memories was helpful and almost cathartic. Yoga philosophy says we are supposed to live in the moment, but without understanding the context of how we got here the value of the moment might be lost.

So now, armed with this witnessing technique, I finally have the strength to go through my marriage pictures so my children can have them when I am gone. Witnessing these pictures unemotionally, especially with the benefit of time to see any positive consequences, will help me process what has happened so I can better appreciate my present. 

As for these Facebook memory trips, another approach to stopping negative memory hijacks would be to refrain from posting on Facebook. Nah…

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It is the way it is. The way we cope with it makes the difference.”  ~ Virginia Satir




Author: Donna Yates Kling

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Travis May

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