The Powerful Impact of Social Media on Gen Xers

The Powerful Impact of Social Media on Gen Xers

Liz Pearl @ PK Press with permission from Alisa Clamen

Often, in the company of our adult children or other Millennials, we cringe at their obsessive scrolling through Snapchat and Instagram; and yet we too, are at times guilty. Of course we made every parenting effort to forbid texting at the dinner table and to avoid multitasking (aka scanning most recent snaps at red lights) while driving, and to keep other indiscreet social media overdosing at bay. And yet, the unexpected impact of social media on our own lives has been significant and at times, even profound.

This is a story (both heartbreaking and heartwarming) about how social media awakened a dormant relationship and engaged me, and literally thousands of others like me. A deeply emotional story evoking our rawest feelings and sense of friendship, community, grief, trauma and healing. And all of this humanity brought into focus through the lens of social media.

I first connected with Alisa Clamen on Facebook when our kids were teenagers. Through mutual friends, we began liking and commenting upon each other’s posts featuring our kids (same ages) and our travels (nature, hiking and food). I think for each of us, these revered subjects were the bulk of our posts, and we soon developed a new relationship based on these common interests. Definitely, I recall liking her posts of Jesse―pictured as an avid skier and dedicated fundraiser for Movember. Clearly, as his radiant smile implied, Jesse was an all-around great kid. Not camera shy.

Jesse: adorable, handsome and goofy!

Actually, our Facebook connection was a renewed friendship; in fact, we attended high school together way back in the day, in my cherished hometown‒Montreal; however, we had not been in touch since our graduation, more than three decades ago. I moved to Toronto, and life happened and the years passed.

Several years ago, some high school friends of ours joined forces and we decided to create a Facebook page, form a committee and plan for a long overdue high school reunion. The planning proceeded; the reunion weekend was memorable, nostalgic and fun. Unfortunately, Alisa, who was looking forward to joining, had to cancel. We all missed her and our other classmates who were not able to attend, for one reason or another.

Following the reunion weekend our high school’s Facebook page was buzzing with activity including pictures, updates, friendly greetings and mostly‒silly old jokes that only appeal to 50+ year-olds reflecting upon their faded teenage hood.

A year later, I noticed Alisa’s alarming post in my Facebook newsfeed. Her urgent plea for any information about her 22-year-old son Jesse Galganov who she had not heard from in several days‒while he was on a solo hiking trip on the Santa Cruz Trail in Peru, as part of an international backpacking trip prior to commencing medical school the following July. (Alisa and Jesse had a very close relationship with frequent communication, and she became concerned after not hearing from him several days into his South American – Cordillera Blanca—White Mountains trek.) This response is completely normal for any Gen X mother with a Millennial kid; and I identified immediately. We all did. My guard was up and I found myself regularly scanning the internet and my personal network for any new information. This absolutely could be any one of us. This is literally, a parent’s worst nightmare. A million unanswered questions feeding our collective angst. As we followed Alisa’s painful journey, our hearts opened and we began to feel Jesse, as if he was our own child. As the missing person’s case stretched on and on with next to no forthcoming information our hearts sank deeper and we desperately tried to support Alisa in any and every possible way. That is what friends and communities do. We prayed and hoped for a speedy resolution to this disturbing mystery.

Within weeks, the support of the immediate Montreal Jewish community extended to Toronto, throughout Canada, Israel, the US and beyond. The story went viral and the massive outpouring of community support was indeed a blessing to Alisa and her family. Relative to just over a decade ago, the exponential spread of news via social media is unimaginable. I don’t think our kids can fully grasp our world how we knew it—in the absence of this powerful interconnectedness.

Alisa and others close to her set-up several GO Fund Me https://ca.gofundme.com/helpfindjesse and other effective crowdfunding platforms to help fund the growing cost of the international investigation and ultimately a massive professional high-tech search project. And these hashtags, links and posts were reposted and retweeted frequently.

Most recently, Alisa has spearheaded some incredibly comprehensive fundraising campaigns including a local bazaar and an auction. The publicity and success of these events would not have been possible without the accessibility of social media. Of course almost all media attention—local, national and international, is potentially productive, in some way. As difficult as it was, Alisa gave many interviews. Facebook and Instagram and Twitter have been buzzing with updates on these local events and initiatives.

In October 2017 Alisa’s life changed dramatically and infinitely. She has lived through an indescribable roller-coaster of pain and grief and loss, and she has also been supported, loved and comforted by her dearest friends and family and also by many hundreds of caring and compassionate parents and people around the world. None of us can resolve this complex crisis and none of us can erase Alisa’s palpable heartache; but together, each one of us can contribute with a donation, a helping hand, a good deed, a prayer, a text, a message or an emoji or two.

We all offer Alisa our most sincere wishes for a resolution to this as yet unsolved investigation, as well as continued fortitude, resilience and healing in every possible way.  And as I have shared with Alisa again and again, with thanks to social media we are all right here with her, extending our virtual embrace every step of the way.

New Year’s Eve 2015

In the meantime, it’s a joy to see new pictures of Alisa’s smiling face slowly emerging in my FB news-feed. Her painful journey propels her forward to cherish life, in all of its glory. One day at a time. Smiling. Living. Loving.

What I find significant about this story, is that we have been able, to some extent, to follow along with Alisa and her life-altering journey. Of course we cannot see behind the scenes, we can only see glimpses, snapshots in time, and read posts and updates, and in that way, we remain connected to her, and to her compelling story.

Let’s remember to stop scrolling, and to look at and to listen to each other when we sit down together for family dinners. Really listen.

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