I recently read an article by journalist Mya Guarnieri on the Slate website entitled, “My Mom Joined Twitter and it Brought Us Closer.” Guarnieri writes that she learned valuable things about her mother’s life through reading the tweets her mother posted on Twitter. It gave me a good feeling to read that Guarnieri was able to connect with her mother by reading her tweets. The argument against technology like Twitter and Facebook is that it makes life less personal and detaches us from each other. In Ms. Guarnieri’s case, the exact opposite happened.
In January of this year my family honored my father’s life with the ceremonial unveiling of his headstone. As is customary, the unveiling took place one year after his passing. One topic we reflected upon at the small service was the many things we learned about my father after he passed away. For example, he kept a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star from one of his cousins that we found while cleaning out his house. Reading the official letter from the military to the family about how his cousin died in action in Europe during WWII was quite chilling. Additionally, while going through his files we found paperwork that showed my mother’s real name was not Lila, but rather Lilliana. That was surreal to find out! I had gone my entire life without knowing any of these things.
Why didn’t he share these things (or my mother for that matter)? Would he have tweeted these truly fascinating tidbits of information if he had a Twitter account? You never know. In his late 70s he did have a Facebook account, but didn’t really use it. Thinking about this makes me wonder how much more there is to learn about my parents’ lives. Throughout the last years of my father’s life I spent much time with him and asked him many questions about his career and experiences. He always responded with enthusiasm when I asked, but would never really initiate a conversation on that level.
As a historian, these types of things are important to me. Connecting to the past helps makes sense of the present. I’m grateful I was able to connect with and learn about my father by spending time with him and asking him questions about his life. Maybe if we were both on Twitter I could have learned more…