Like many of us, Heather Pierce recently found herself in one of those not-my-better-self moments, aided and abetted by social media. Here’s her Perspective on what she did about it.
After buying a few new placemats and couch pillows during a recent trip to IKEA, my partner and I headed out to the parking garage. We noticed a couple in the loading zone, futilely trying to fit a two-part sectional couch into the back of their small SUV. The cushions were already packed in the front (including the driver seat) and one piece of the couch was tucked neatly inside the hatchback. They clearly were trying to find a way to reverse-Jenga the other piece in.
Knowing that we had a pickup truck that would easily hold this remaining piece, I would like to say we approached them with an offer to help. But I can’t. I’m ashamed to admit my first instinct was to somehow capture the amusing predicament to post online. What photo and clever caption would get the best reactions on Facebook or Instagram? We stood watching for almost 10 minutes, chuckling from afar as the couple puzzled over their plan. Finally, and thankfully, my pre-social-media humanity kicked in.
We asked them where they lived – not too far from us in San Jose, as it turns out – and offered to load their couch into our truck. It took a moment for them to register and trust the offer, but relief quickly took over – as I think their alternate plan was to leave the wife to keep watch over the couch in the parking garage while the husband made the hour-plus roundtrip down 101 and back. So we followed them home. After we unloaded the couch from our truck, my partner shook the man’s hand and I hugged the woman whom I’d never seen before and likely never will again. It felt good to help someone in a moment of need, and that warm feeling stayed with me the rest of the day. But something gnawed at me too.
As I fell asleep that night, I thought about my first instinct in the moment and how social media has changed me. Have I unknowingly allowed myself to become a distant observer in my own life— commenting and reacting through the lens of a digital filter instead of being fully present and engaging in real-time with real people in real ways? I hope to do better.