Robin Williams’s death is a viral shock wave spreading around the globe. The day the sheriff made the announcement, my brain heard his name and rejected it. Hearing the strange words, “Robin Williams has died” registered as foreign and I couldn’t absorb them. I told myself on a gut level, “I don’t live in a world where Robin Williams doesn’t exist” to avoid feeling the sudden pain that would engulf my heart.
Sadness did creep in, but I kept it to myself. As a measure of self-protection, I tried to detach from the onslaught I knew would come on Facebook and Social Media, knowing that would make the feelings worse. Engaging in Facebook when something terrible happens is like being a human stir stick in a pool of emotions bouncing off posts of sadness and despair.
The world lives in the 24-hour news cycle, information comes at an instant, and when something tragic happens it magnifies what we are already dealing with. I watched as friends poured their hearts out on Facebook, but I was unable to say anything worthy or encouraging. Robin Williams’s massive personality speaks for itself. The lack of his presence in this world brings a very palpable void.
The Power of Facebook
There was an instant Facebook Effect when the news broke. Several of my friends who suffer from Depression felt the weight of his death and symptoms emerged. Other friends were more action oriented, posting articles and stories from bloggers raising awareness about Depression and mental health.
How long will the awareness last? After only two days, another friend was upset over all the attention on Robin Williams when there were equally pressing challenges to face everyday, like lives lost in war.Her question was, "By putting too much emphasis on him weren’t we minimizing their loss?"
Facebook is a very tricky place. It is a virtual world where we let a fraction of our psyche out, to face the world, and speak on our behalf. We share the good news. The bad news. Photos of life. Media clips. Selfies. Although, many a Facebook account holder finds the need to sensor these posts, and their own thoughts, so as not to create an environment of mistrust or anger, those who don't censor are very, very courageous.
Sometimes out of darkness comes goodness and hope. One thing I saw as an observer of the posts about Robin’s death was everyone asking these positive thought provoking questions, “What would it have been like if someone was able to reach out to him and say something special? Would he have lived? Would we have him for a little while longer? What would have made the difference?”
A friend had posted that she was going on a Facebook hiatus. She’d found it was addictive, her Facebook behaviors were controlling her life, and she wanted to take a break from it. That power, along with the viral nature of the ALS Bucket Challenge, got me thinking about social change, crucial issues like Depression, and Facebook’s real impact.
I like inspiring people. Obviously the loss of someone like Robin Williams is tragic, but could his passing create change? Maybe one person could start a small ripple, that rolled into a larger wave of goodness. If someone like myself could create an idea worth spreading, an idea that would let people know someone cared about them, it could turn something sad into a seed of change.
I know he would be asking himself the same question because he cared about people and he was a game changer.
The power of Facebook is the ability to connect with people in your life you can't see in person, many times since childhood. It’s about sharing the goodness in your life, sometimes the sadness, and having a friend there to support you, through the great times and even through overwhelming circumstances. That’s what friends are for. So why not use Facebook, instead of feeling like a human stir stick, as a human champion?
Starting a Wave of Love - 365 Days of Friends
A couple of days ago, my friend Lady Ja, from Atlanta sent me a note on Facebook. I asked her about her birthday and she surprised me by sending a YouTube link of her special day. What I saw her in video held me captive. It was like watching a Social Psychology experiment. Ja had done an amazing selfless act for her birthday. She took to the streets and gave out balloons and flowers to people passing by.
I watched with rapt attention and saw a woman light up and cry, another walk away disgusted, and many more smile with a vibrant colored flower in their hand. She did a simple gesture for her birthday; she gave out love. People drove by her and honked. By in large, they were all smiling. What could I give away that would make my own birthday, coming tomorrow, a special one? Not one about receiving, but giving.
So, I’ve decided. I’m starting a wave. All this contemplation and watching the good and bad of Facebook unfold has convinced me, like my friend Ja, I want to make Facebook a place of good and give something back. Since I love inspiration, I will post an inspiring note about one friend each day of the year. Currently, I have 579 friends, so I am blessed with posting two fabulous friends per day.
This wave will allow me to rejoice in all the awesome qualities I see in my friends all year long. Maybe my note will make them smile. They might not see these beautiful, sometimes hidden, unique and special quirks about themselves so I will make my comments interesting, fun, and above all, meaningful and filled with joy.
This is my way of following one Friend’s positive influence during a time of intense loss and sadness. That is what makes Facebook friends great. We can spread ideas, support one another, and create change. I challenge you to create your own wave today because life is about the joy. The heartache. It’s about the journey, and although we should mourn those who we have lost (also rejoice in their life), it is also about the living.