In third grade, I loaned a quarter to Serena, the richest girl in my class.
She wanted it for a packet of Munchos from the vending machine.
When I say rich, I mean, rich. Serena’s family had, and has, their last name on the most famous buildings in the world. Buildings with observation decks, where people get engaged or try crazy climbing stunts or realize their best friend is the love of their life.
The next day, Serena asked me for another quarter. I gave it to her. The third day, I made sure to bring an extra quarter in case she asked. She did. I brought one for her every day for a week. “Hey Serena, Here’s your quarter.” I ran out of quarters from my little saved-allowance stash in a coin purse at home and asked my parents for more. When I told them what for, and who for, they laughed and said no. I cried, wondering, how am I going to look Serena in the eye and tell her I don’t have a quarter?” The thought was so humiliating, I wanted to stay home from school.
I remembered this dark period this morning, when I came across a friend’s post for the latest 7-day Facebook challenge.
You’ve seen this one, right? For 7 days, once a day, post a black-and-white photo, no people and no explanation. And then you tag someone you want to torture, I mean challenge, next.
My friend’s photo of the day was of some brick arches, maybe in Italy but maybe in Montclair, New Jersey. The caption said the same thing most say: “Day 3 — ugh, I’m already tired of this.”
I mentally clasped my hands together in prayer and thought, “I think this challenge may be dying out without me getting tagged. Thank you social media gods!”
But then, I got this thunderbolt of an idea: Wait. What if someone challenges me and I JUST DON’T DO IT?
What if I DON’T commit myself to a daily ritual I don’t want to participate in just because someone told me to?
Especially with this photo thing. The person tagging you already feels bad about it. If they’re a good person, anyway. It could be that they’re tagging you because they want you to suffer for 7 days, too. Either way, it’s not like they’re checking up on you to make sure you do it! And if they are, so what?
As for the rest of us who get it in our feed, we don’t care! “I can’t wait to see what she posts for days 5, 6 and 7,” said none of us. I applaud the thought behind it: let’s make Facebook a place for creativity instead of repostings of Trump’s babyish, world-ending tweets to Kim Jong Un. And great if you post a beautiful or funny or interesting picture. I loved my sister’s image of a finished toilet paper roll still on the spool. It said so much.
But most of us don’t stop to look at black and white photos unless we go to a museum to see, like, a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit of little French boys carrying baguettes. Admit it! Admit that black and white photos bore you, at least on social media. You can claim you love them, but we all know your eyes are saying, “Nah, what else.”
But this isn’t about the black and white.
It’s about the idea that we think we have to do something because someone told us to, or else all our friends will be…what — mad? Disappointed? Confirmed in their belief, “She can’t follow through on anything — here’s yet more proof!”?
What if we just said, “Nope. Not doing it.”
If you’re someone who needs permission, here it is: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THE CHALLENGE.
Or any challenge. Or any streak someone else commits you to.
No, friends, I’m not posting 7 black and white mystery photos. No, Serena, I don’t have a quarter.
Oh, that felt good.
Do you feel obligated to go along with things like this just because someone told you to?
Do you think everyone’s watching? And do you care?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.