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Social media keeps reminding us of the timeline that could have been

Social media keeps reminding us of the timeline that could have been


And that’s not necessarily a bad thing

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We are living in the universe in which Donald Trump won the presidency. But that’s a lot harder to accept any time I open Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Twitter. Because all three social media apps employ algorithms that surface older posts over new ones, based on a bunch of reasons, and looking at current feeds have left me feeling like I’m in a completely different universe. It’s one where people are excited to vote for the first female president, one where they came away from the polls brandishing stickers that proved they took part in a close election, but a historic one.

For Clinton supporters, or even just people who didn’t want Trump to win — I know that’s not all of you — that kind of thing is not a joyful experience:

Nailed it.

But shortly after I saw this tweet, I keyed into the response below it, from New York Times Magazine staff writer Jenna Wortham:

That got me. Adrienne LaFrance went a little deeper over at The Atlantic. She categorizes this funeral procession of “smiling ghost” posts in a way that imbues them with new power and great purpose:

Scroll past one and two more appear. For every status of mourning, there is another image of yesterday’s hope. They are wearing bright colors and big smiles. And I can’t stop looking at them. Partly because they won’t go away. And maybe they shouldn’t. There they are, staring directly into the camera, challenging us all to remember how things almost went differently, promising that someday they will.

LaFrance reminded me why I spent so much time late last night reflexively refreshing my social media stream in the first place. I was looking for that hope and optimism, thinking it would be hard to find.

Echoes of optimism that we’ll need going forward

This morning, for unintended reasons, it wasn’t. It was readily available, waiting for me, an echo of positivity. The world is still here. We are still here. And that hope is available to us. This is the timeline where Trump won, but those updates from the past are reminders of an alternate path. One we can still access.

So you can sign off, and you probably should for a while! I’m trying to. You can even turn off the algorithmic feed on Twitter, or set your Facebook News Feed to “Most Recent” if you don’t want to surface these posts anymore. (You’re out of luck if you want to do the same with Instagram.)

But I’d argue that you shouldn’t do that. Because when you do come back and see those faces again, you’ll remember the reasons we were optimistic in the first place. And if anything is certain after this election, it’s that we need that kind of energy going forward.