I subscribe to several daily news, business and tech email blasts to keep me informed for my "other life" as a columnist - and also because I'm interested in what's going on in the world. It helps me to be a better writer and a more interesting person.
This morning, to my horror, in an email blast that calls itself Business Insider "Tech Select," these were the first three stories:
Relegated to "other news" were stories about how Tesla is building batteries for use in buildings and how Facebook's Ad service affects businesses. But the first three stories were about teenagers (that's you, my dears) doing this viral challenge to have have plump lips with dangerous and painful results.
After my first thought, which was to be mad at the alleged grown ups at alleged "Tech Select" for the ridiculous way they are prioritizing "news", I started hearing the voice of this guy in my head:
That's Dad and me, the day I graduated from college. Sadly, Dad passed away in November 2013 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's, but I still hear the things he said to me, the advice he gave me, as clearly as if he were standing right next to me like he was in this photo.
And when I saw those headlines, I heard his voice saying something he so often asked me when I was a teenager: "If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?"
I'm sure many of my similarly aged friends heard something to that effect from one or the other of their parents, and were as sick of hearing it as I was.
But there is wisdom in them there cliches, my dears. Trust your Auntie Sarah on this.
I get it. You are trying to figure out your identity. You want to be heard. And there's so much pressure today to be SEEN.
I'm old. Or as my daughter would say, "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLD." We didn't have things like Instagram and Facebook and YouTube when I was a teen. Heck, we didn't even have the Internet. We didn't have cellphones. So we didn't have to worry about how many followers we had or how many likes we got, or if we could get our YouTube video to go viral, because there wasn't a YouTube and viral was something associated with a disease you didn't want to get.
But here's the thing. I was in a video that did go viral. This one. It's had over 1.1 million hits on YouTube.
Yet that conversation didn't go viral because my son and I went into the StoryCorps booth with the intention of creating something viral. We didn't even know it would be on NPR Morning Edition. We didn't even know that it would be turned into an animation. We didn't know, when we walked into that booth, that one day we would be on Good Morning America. We never thought for a moment that because of it we would be on our very first red carpet:
We certainly hadn't the slightest idea that one day we would be in the front row at the TED Conference when Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, and winner of the 2015 TED Prize, announced his Wish for the World.
All of those incredibly amazing experiences happened because my son and I went into the StoryCorps booth with the sole intention of having a genuine, honest conversation with each other - of making a loving, human connection. And we did that. Even if none of the other things had happened, we would have achieved what we set out to do.
The rest is gravy. Really exciting and wonderful gravy, and I am so grateful for all of the experiences we have come out of this. I also continue to be amazed by how this conversation connects with people from all over the world, no matter their nationality, race or religion.
That's what's important, my dears. Not having plump lips. Not looking like anyone else. Being the best YOU that you can be and making human connections.
So please, I beg you - the next time you think about doing one of these ridiculous challenges, just remember my dear old Dad and pick up a book instead. You'll thank me later. I promise.