Social media’s good side: It lets us share memories and renew ties | Opinion

·5 min read

I am no wiz when it comes to social media. Oh, I can manage to send a message on Facebook and get/send a message via Instagram. It’s the very basic stuff that my great-grandson Jaylen taught me before he was 10. He is 14 now. While I am a bit slower than most at becoming adept at this thing we call social media, I don’t take it as an insult when some people laugh at me because I am not as literate as they think I should be.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not against progress. Yet, while I like some of the changes progress has brought into my life, I tend to cling very much to some of the things from my past. For instance, I love, love, getting in touch with people from my past. I have friends dating back to when we were in the second grade. We are still in touch and the older we get, the more we cherish our years-long friendship. With this in mind, you can understand that I am one of those people who would still be using a flip phone, had it not been for my great-grandson.

Since first learning to text and use Facebook, I have become a semi-savvy social media user. I have also learned that a lot of people seem to take advantage, and use the medium in a negative way. Still, as much as we hear bad things about social media, there is also something good to be said about it.

Neighbors from long ago

Take for example this story:

About a month ago, I was scrolling (or is it called surfing) through my Facebook pages, when I came across a message from one of my friends that mentioned the name O Jean Smith. It seemed that a light came on inside my head, and fond memories from my early teenage years swirled around in my head. My family moved into the Liberty Square Housing Project at 1305 NW 65th St. when I was 13. Among our dear neighbors was the Smith family, who had a son, Arfonzo, and three little girls, who lived three apartments west of us. One little girl was Oppia (pronounced Opera) Jean (the middle sister). The others were Zerlean “Doll Baby” (the youngest of the three), and Vonnell.

I was so excited when I saw the name. Could this be someone from the same family I so loved to visit as a young teenager? I sent a message to my friend on Facebook, inquiring about O Jean Smith. She didn’t know if it was the same person. But as fate would have it, Smith saw the message, too, and sent a message back saying she was one and the same Oppia Jean Smith that I knew as a child.

The Smith family, our neighbors during our growing-up years.
The Smith family, our neighbors during our growing-up years.

Oh happy day! I sent a message to her, asking about her sisters and just catching up. After talking for a while, I told her how she was such a cute little girl and always acted like a “little lady” at 3 years old. I told her how her baby sister, Doll Baby, loved me so much she once tried to crawl down the sidewalk to our apartment.

I described their mom — Fannie Robertha Smith, a pretty, heavyset woman who had one of the most beautiful smiles and loved it when I visited them to play with her babies. I think my visits gave her a bit of relief because her children were all so close in age — stair steps, as we used to say. I remembered Mr. O. James Smith, a God-fearing man, who was a deacon in his church. I can still see him sitting on the front porch of their apartment, reading his Bible. “He was a deacon ‘til he died,” Smith told me.

The Smith family, with whom I grew up, as seen today.
The Smith family, with whom I grew up, as seen today.

Families over the years

Over the years, I have often thought about the neighbors we had back then. As families grew in size, they were often moved to a larger apartment in Liberty Square Housing Project. That is what happened to the Smiths. When they moved, another family moved into their former apartment. And when that family moved on, still another family moved in. Even with what seemed like a transient lifestyle in the projects, families got to know each other and lasting friendships were formed.

The Lawrences were such a family. When they moved right next door to us, Birdie Lawrence became a surrogate mother to me and my sewing teacher. I was so impressed at the pretty dresses she sewed for her two little girls Maiomi and Joyce, that I just knew sewing was my calling (by that time I had many callings). Ms. Birdie, as I called her, taught me with loving patience. She was happy to pass her skills on to me. And I loved her little girls like they were my little sisters.

I lived in the projects until I got married at 19, leaving my mom and brother Adam, there. My wedding was held at our tiny apartment, with the reception outside in the front yard. The wedding guests sat on rented chairs that were engraved on the back with the words, “Range Funeral Home”. Later the wedding party moved on to The Hampton House, where we continued the celebration.

I am amazed at how the will of God plays out in each of our lives. Recently when I spoke to Smith about having a reunion, she told me that she hadn’t been in close contact with her sisters for some time. “Maybe that’s why the Lord put us in touch with each other,” I said to her.

Now, thanks to Facebook, we have made plans to meet, share our memories of each other and bring each other up to date.

I’ll keep you posted.

Bea L. Hines can be reached at

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