Building personal connections through social media #ShareAwesome

Building personal connections through social media #ShareAwesome

My daughter doesn’t have a baby keepsake book, she has my blog. For the past decade, social media has been the family scrapbook, recording the bumps and bubbles along the way, with a bit of introspection here and there to frame, add context, and derive meaning from the stories.

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Five years ago we celebrated the 20-year reunion of my high school graduation. I wasn’t able to attend the gathering, but still, it gave me pause…  My friendships with many of my classmates are more robust and meaningful now that we live thousands of miles apart than the were when we saw each other every day in school. Social media helped us to leap-frog over superficial variables like social status, that extra 40 pounds, or even proximity, and we began to connect over conversations, shared values, and even our differences.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, social media played another role in my life. One of the devastating impacts of cancer is the way it isolates us from the rest of the world: long, dark hours holed up in the bedroom, too tired for company, yet still lonely. Social media allowed me to chat with others and keep up with my friends at my own pace. Facebook and my blog allowed me to maintain contact with the outside world, update loved ones on my condition, and even coordinate some of the help around the house I so desperately needed. Now that I have completed cancer treatment, I use social media to help and encourage others who are dealing with cancer and it’s lingering side-effects.

McKinley Family Alaska 1947

McKinley family after the move to Alaska. 1947 – My mom is the little one in braids, peeking out from under her grandfather’s elbow.

This wonderful interconnected age also helps me explore my family history. Old photos brought down from dusty attics can be scanned in and broadcast to family members around the world, and the comments return with fascinating stories. Collectively, my family’s understanding of our past is enriched as we each participate in sharing these photos and stories. And as they are recorded, in the blog and elsewhere, they will be a resource for future generations as well.

With all this awesome of social media and digital technology comes some responsibility. We need to be smart about what we share about ourselves and others.  National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. It’s all part of having a happy, healthy lifestyle. For you, your family, your friends, and the whole world – everyone benefits when you #ShareAwesome!

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Snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag!

Students who enter the #ShareAwesome contest between September 15 – November 30, 2014 will have a chance to win fantastic prizes, including tablets and a $2,500 scholarship!ShareAwesome Clever Gram

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

My 20 Year High School Reunion

My 20 Year High School Reunion

My 20 Year High School reunion is taking place in Palmer, Alaska this weekend, but I won’t be there. I was planning to go, in fact I was looking forward to this reunion.  I wanted to show off my daughter, and introduce my husband to the people who were such an important part of my past.

Palmer High School | Judy Schwartz Haley

It didn’t work out. Why doesn’t matter, although money was no small part of the consideration.

I find it interesting how my feelings in anticipation of this event changed over the past few years. Several years ago, when looking forward to the reunion it was all about comparison. I was anxious about seeing my classmates. I was lucky in love, but the tides had turned financially and I was no longer bringing in the big bucks. How would I stack up against my classmates and their achievements? I didn’t have a beautiful house, or a cabin on the lake, or money – or time – for vacations. How would I fare in the competition of “Who’s got the best life?”

Then MySpace happened, which was quickly followed by the even better Facebook. My classmates joined up one after another, hunting down other classmates and cajoling them to sign on as well. A circle of friends grew. We were interacting with each other in a way we never had before. Looks didn’t matter.  Those extra 40 pounds were irrelevant. As we shared baby pictures and survey results, built farms together and challenged each other to scrabble games and mafia wars, friendships reconnected and new ones grew irrespective of the cliques that existed during our high school days.

At our ten year reunion we showed up, showed off, exchanged email addresses, and promptly got back to our lives once the reunion was over. Few of us stayed in touch. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time and I’m glad I went. But I suspect this reunion will be different.

Palmer High School | Judy Schwartz Haley

This time we reconnected before the reunion. Over the past couple of years we’ve shared each other’s trials and triumphs. We’ve cared about each other in specific ways: hoping a job interview goes well, a healthy baby (or grandbaby), a big cross country move, and a cancer diagnosis. We stopped being a generalized and generic collective and, by interacting with each other through Facebook, became a collection of individuals. Competition matters less (unless you’re playing Scrabble against Liz), those 40 extra pounds matter less, the paycheck matters less, the living arrangements matter less.

What really matters is who you are when you sit down and start typing. Are you real? Do you give a shit? And, remember when…

So I’ll be thinking of you this weekend Palmer High School Class of ’89. And when you get back home, I’ll still be on Facebook, awaiting your updates, and photos, and maybe a cherry tree for my farm.


On a side note: What do you do with a 20+ year old woolen letter jacket? I know the streets are crowded with people who will desperately need a coat this winter, but this coat is so tied up in my identity (not to mention that my name is embroidered all over it), it doesn’t feel right to hand it over to just anyone. It still fits. Maybe I’ll wear it this winter and see if it makes me feel younger.

letter jacket | Judy Schwartz Haley

One year ago: The Hammock