If you spend any time on Facebook or Pinterest you’ve likely seen a number of those clever cartoons—the ones that depict old-timey characters beside a mostly tongue-in-cheek phrase meant to elicit laughs and, of course, little thumb-up likes. Lately, I’ve noticed a relatively new addition to the virtual pictograms making the social media rounds. These are less tongue-in-cheek, more “inspirational”, and are quickly gaining momentum. The version I’m referring to typically feature a background image—a beach or the sun shining through an evergreen forest, for example—offset by a short sentiment that offers dime-store advice on how to live: Always smile back at little children. To ignore them is to destroy their belief that the world is good. There are variations, of course. Come to think of it, I seem to have an inordinate number of Facebook friends who post not-so-discreet comebacks seemingly aimed at the opposite end of a failed relationship: You had me at hello, lost me at goodbye, and everything in between was nothing, but a lie. So, too, are there the Stuart Smalley variety of motivational quotes: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
I’m not saying that no merit exists in inspirational quotes. It does. But I can’t help but wonder if this barrage of fluff is maybe softening the next generation a little too much. Yesterday, one of my friends posted one of those inspirational cartoons to her Facebook page. It read: Whatever makes you feel bad, leave it. Whatever makes you smile, keep it. Great advice, if you aspire to be like Justin Bieber, throwing a Twitter tantrum every time something doesn’t go exactly the way you want it to.
I don’t claim to currently possess all the wisdom I’ll ever have. But here in my mid-thirties, I can definitely look back and identify challenging times in my life. Are those the times that bring to mind warm fuzzy memories? Admittedly, no. Do I wish I would have simply checked out during those challenges that made me “feel bad?” Most assuredly not.
If each of us coasted through life, opting only to be present in the moments of ease we’d miss out on many an opportunity for growth. Were I to fill the Facebook feeds of my children with the messages I want to sink in, they’d find quotes on perseverance, dedication, and endurance. Less of the sunshine and perpetual rainbows that promote giving up when the going gets tough. Hard things, after all, grow us. Now there’s a sentiment worthy of a Pinterest pictogram.