Yesterday I made my first lasagna.
First, I cooked down my own tomato sauce, then, I made spinach and ricotta filling and béchamel sauce. My arm got tired from stirring. The pasta stuck together. The whole process took over 4 hours and when it emerged from the oven crisp and melty, I was proud.
I took a photo. I wanted to tell the world about my lasagna. I wanted to share with everyone how, being in Europe, I had made it using an oven the size of a smallish microwave that currently lives on the floor of our kitchen. I went to tweet about it.
Then I stopped. I sat there for a while looking at what I’d written. “Your lasagna is not information that needs to be shared with the world,” I thought. Besides, you don’t even have a food blog. It isn’t your thing. My cursor blinked. “No. One. Cares,” it said.
For those who still aren’t quite comfortable with the idea of social media (I am one of those people), posting to the world what you ate has become the go-to example for what is wrong with new technology.
And for good reason. The food tweet is inherently unsharable, (at least until we get Smell-o-vision). There is also a kind of no-going -back feeling to tweeting about your dinner. If I tweet what I eat now, I might as well just start tweeting the entire lower level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs whenever they are met: Last night I had shelter; #Stillbreathing; glass of water.
Albert Einstein wrote that famous line, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Never mind that he was referring to the atomic bomb, for years that was how I felt about social media.
It was about connecting, but it seemed so fake, a world people constructed to build themselves up and make others feel inferior. The idea of connecting to people in a real way through Twitter seemed like a joke.
Until recently, I wasn’t even a blogger. I liked to think about what wrote long and hard before I put something out into the world. This was not because I was filled with lofty ideas, so much as it was a fear of messing up and putting something unretractable into the permanent and public record of the Internet.
Twitter in particular seemed like a very dangerous game of word roulette. That your career, your relationships, your life’s record could be altered -- for good or bad -- in a matter of hours by such a short string of characters and a world full of avatared strangers gave me the heebie jeebies.
But for all of my reluctance to participate, I’ve since found that Twitter is nothing if not human. In the case of social media, our technology has just exceeded our humility.
We are all so proud of ourselves these days for being grown-ups. If you’re young and have wifi, you didn’t just make a lasagna, you created a work of art. Social media allows people to bathe in their own accomplishments until their fingers get pruney. But truly, is that so bad?
I certainly find it annoying, but maybe that's just my own problem and something I should learn to adjust to. After all, I make a living partly from writing about my life, who am I to judge others for merely tweeting about theirs?
My mom used to cook things from scratch and refinish furniture and do all of the things that now get fetishized with blog posts, tweets and tilt and shift photography, without getting any credit for them. Was she better off? Or would she, as a single mom, have felt more connected to people if she could have shared it on something like Twitter?
It is damn hard to be a grown up, why not make it a little bit of fun? Twitter is a running tally of human foibles: our insecurities, prejudices, our incessant need for approval, but also of our wit and occasionally triumphs. You can read tweets for what they say literally or for what they say about people.
And so, I've decided that maybe it is OK for my dinner to be part of that enormous id-ridden jumble of humanity on the Internet. I’m certain it won't hurt anything. It is only lasagna.