Even Lincoln Needed Likes

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Recently I came across an interesting tidbit about Abraham Lincoln.

There’s a collection at the Library of Congress of the contents of Lincoln’s pockets on the day that he was assassinated. Naturally, I had to read all about the handkerchief, a couple pair of spectacles, a sleeve button, and even more items. But what struck me most was the eight newspaper clippings that were found in his wallet.

And not clippings about the war, which was what I expected; these clippings contained “complimentary remarks about him written during his campaign for reelection to the Presidency.”

“Wow,” I said, sitting at the table, reading the paper out loud to Youngest Junior Hall who happened to be within earshot. “How odd is that?”

He usually doesn’t pay any attention to my interesting tidbits, but this time he responded. “I guess Lincoln wanted to remind himself that people appreciated him. Kind of like “Likes”, you know?”

I think Junior Hall was on to something. Over a hundred and fifty years before social media came along, there was the President of the United States needing validation. Granted, those were dark days in 1865 and Lincoln was unpopular with half the country but still, it’s something to think about, this human need we have for approval. I can’t help wondering if, on particularly hard days, Lincoln opened his wallet and pulled out a clipping to read. Maybe he was able to carry on with the difficult tasks at hand, knowing that someone had written kind words about him; someone, at least, liked him.

I bring this up today because so many writers have a love/hate relationship with social media, myself included. I recognize the need to promote, for me, for my brand, and for my work, but it wears me out sometimes, getting through all the chatter, the firestorm threads, the back-and-forth vitriol that might start with a seemingly innocuous remark. And I worry that I might say the wrong thing and ultimately, I wonder if social media is worth all the time and trouble.

But also recently, I jumped in with a bang for a Twitter pitch contest—(Google “pitch contests for writers 2020” to find both adult and kidlit opportunities)—and though I didn’t have a publisher or agent “heart” my pitch, I did get a handful of perfect strangers complimenting my manuscripts. And in a business full of rejection, that validation felt pretty swell.

And that made me think about Facebook, and how when I share news, I invariably get an outpouring of support, whether the news is good or not-so-good. So I suppose the bottom line here is that social media can be and mostly is a positive force, in both my personal and professional life. But like Lincoln, I try to stick to the complimentary stuff, the social media that makes me feel appreciated, supported, and liked. Maybe that's the trick to the value of social media traffic: stay in the positive lane.

Oh! And one more thing! Instead of falling into a rabbit hole of wacky videos and/or toxic arguments out there on the interwebs, check out the Library of Congress website. It’s so much more than books (though it’s quite a whopping collection!)

There are free images, blogs to read, teacher resources, and fascinating photos, plus music and other recordings to immerse yourself in. The Library of Congress is a dream come true, whether you’re a serious researcher or just a person looking for interesting tidbits. And it’s free!

And while you’re perusing the LOC, check out Abraham Lincoln’s collection from his pockets. He was just like us, Lincoln. A regular guy who needed a “Like” now and then.

~Cathy C. Hall


Pat Wahler said...

Loved reading this, Cathy! Consider the "like" button pressed.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I'm with Pat. I liked this post.

An hour and a half away is the Lincoln Presidential Museum. It is an incredible place. Your post gave me a nugget about Lincoln that I'd never heard of.

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