Shortly after meeting Tyler Auck at a Rotary meeting, I wrote a column recounting his amazing life story. If you have not heard Tyler and Dan Donlin tell how their lives have intersected and led to friendship, here is a link to their story.
Then, I did what we all do these days, I sent him a Facebook friend request, which he kindly accepted.
It turns out Tyler is an outstanding landscape designer and gardener who routinely shares photos of his handiwork. For several weeks now I have enjoyed Tyler’s beautiful flower garden and his recently completed fountain.
Earlier this week, I jokingly commented on a picture of a stunningly gorgeous flower: “Now you are just showing off.” Tyler’s comment could not have been more illustrative of an important point.
Tyler said, “Isn’t that what Facebook is for. You should see all the weeds I crop out of the pictures and all the flowers I slaughter because I don’t know what I’m doing.” That is a powerful truth we all need to understand, in the age of social media.
Facebook is a great way to share our lives and experiences, especially with friends and family who live far away. Facebook allows my wife and me to share in the lives of our children and grandchildren who live in the eastern U.S. and who we may not see for several months between visits.
Tyler is right, Facebook allows us to live in a bit of a make-believe world where we can “edit” and “crop” our world to be whatever we want it to be, or more importantly, whatever we want others to believe it to be.
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In our Facebook world we’re all happy, eat delicious meals, have only beautiful friends and families, always say the wittiest things, and take vacations that would make Robin Leach ("Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous") envious.
It’s a way to be seen as we want to be seen, not necessarily as we really are. Facebook allows us to manage our image, not that we are under any obligation to share every aspect of our lives on Facebook.
I’m afraid the real danger is that we may come to believe the make-believe image is real.
Like Tyler’s flower beds, all our lives have “weeds,” though we do our best to crop or edit them out. Out of sight, out of mind perhaps, but never forgotten, and always there waiting to be dealt with.
Tyler, unlike me, and probably unlike most of you, exposes the “weeds” of his life when he and Dan share their personal stories.
Perhaps that’s why I’m even more appreciative of Tyler’s flower-sharing pictures, specifically because I understand the weedy ground from which they come, and the effort and care it requires.
I understand how gardening works, that it is hard work. I understand the love and nurturing that go into it. I don’t need to see Tyler’s weeds to know they exist.
But I’ll admit, I feel more deeply connected to Tyler’s flowers because I know the soil and the nurture that grows them.
Understand, this is not a “Facebook is evil” column. Rather, this is a call to make real friends, to build real friendships even if we expose the weeds because in that exposure we will have greater appreciation for the beauty of the person.
Gary Adkisson is publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.