I was asked to write an unsolicited rebuttal of something frequently witnessed on social media. These words and thoughts aren’t perfect, nor do I intend them to be.
Each time I see someone complaining about social media being too bright and shiny or unrealistic, I try to visit those people’s social media page(s).
As you can guess, when I visit the social media of the person mentioned above, it is difficult to find any posts which reveal the soul or character of the person – and almost all of the pictures are polished Kodak moments, with $10,000 smiles filled with perfect teeth. Most are devoid of crafted personal stories or substantive glimpses into their days as human beings. There’s never a picture of them enjoying a delicious bite of questionable food over a dimly-lit sink, wearing mismatched cat socks, or an admission of honest tomfoolery or klutziness. You’ll find an album of 178 wedding day photos, but none of the family on the day the judge finalizes the divorce. Nor will there be a copy of the mugshot of the husband for his second DWI. People rarely discuss their honest doubts or openly share the beliefs they hold which trouble them. Tears are always joyful and never from injustice, defeat is a happy lesson, and houses always pristinely decorated and sleek. (Even though we know you have a room, closet, garage or attic filled with some erratic craziness that you don’t like people seeing.)
I don’t know how to say this artfully or with aplomb, so I’ll just say it: most of these refrains are from people with double-car garages and more than one kind of coffee machine in their homes.
Life is messy, with moments of breath-taking beauty and also days of anguish.
….more house shoes than Versace and more plain spaghetti than vermicelli.
Somewhere between the extremes, though, is the balance of the two in which you live your life and upon which most of your memory rests.
Social media is based on the most democratic of ideas: each of us can share, interact, and express ourselves within the boundaries of the parameters we ourselves define.
Like so many other things, most of the flaws of social media are worsened by use, one comment, post, or picture at a time. We decide what kind of social media we want. I’m confused by complaints about social media when it is literally that person’s choice to reflect his or her preferences on their social media pages.
Social media isn’t a glossy magazine; it’s the flyer someone hands you on the sidewalk, one constantly adjusting to us. The difference is that all of us create its content.
If you don’t want to create or share, of course that is okay. Withhold your snark about the content other people choose to share or your opinion that it’s all shiny and unrealistic snapshots of other people.
If you seek a different way, light the way ahead and we will follow your lead.
I’m guessing that the posts complaining about the phoniness of social media will never abate, just as people will invariably watch “The Bachelor,” yet glibly tell you that they watched, and loved, the latest installment of “60 Minutes.”
The Brown / Hat Conundrum
As you comment to tell me that what I’ve said is stupid,
remember that you decided to waste a precious sliver of
your finite life to denigrate me or my opinion.
People angrily comment when they either recognize the
truth in a contrary opinion or they are insecure about
their own tenuous hold on the world. Lashing out at
another for expression is a self-accusation and an
acknowledgment that your beliefs don’t sustain scrutiny.
May you never…
I wrote this for a friend, who like so many of us, struggles with those who voluntarily and contrarily reside in a harsher world than we do. My apologies for the tone. I wrote it in one sitting, with my mind wide open.
1) Never tell someone that they weren’t bullied or that they are blowing it out of proportion. Fear sits in an invisible nest and those who inflict it often hide behind a smile and perfect teeth. Failure to protect those who need it is a hallmark of pathology.
2) Never tell someone that they weren’t sexually harassed or that most of the cases are blown out of proportion. It is incredible how many people have been abused or harassed and have never spoken of it.
3) Never tell a person sitting in a wheelchair or dealing with a disability that he or she has ignorant ideas about disability or how society can make their lives easier. We can endure a little discomfort if it makes another person’s life more manageable and dignified. In a rich society, we can also certainly afford a few dollars to magnify everyone’s ability to live a fuller life. Most of us sit in confusion as we hear people argue against such a fundamental idea.
4) Never attempt to tell a black person that slavery had its benefits, about the ‘real’ reasons the Civil War was fought – or that there are no lingering, pervasive effects of discrimination in modern society.
5) Never forget that many people endure hardship, suffering, and loss through no fault of their own. If you’re sitting in a house with granite countertops and most of the people surrounding you are similar to you in demographics, take a moment to give thanks rather than drag out the clichéd argument of merit or hard work. Many people do everything right and still suffer. If you are reading these words and think that just because you have granite countertops, that I’m referring to you, you are missing the point entirely. If you worked hard to get where you are, all good people will be glad for you. Your success is not the issue.
6) Never insist that a person chooses their sexuality. I didn’t choose mine. Did you? If this kind of issue is important to you, attacking a person for being gay is exactly the same mentality that allowed blacks to be bought and sold, attacked, and vilified. The greater your reluctance to accept this as true is inversely proportional to how likely it is that you didn’t learn this prejudice – you acquired it.
7) Never make an argument that a woman can’t or shouldn’t hold any position, office or authority that a man can. All qualifications exist independently of the letter on a birth certificate and should be judged accordingly.
8) Never forget that being right will not make your life easier if you are shouting it with a snarled lip or with a repetitious and malignant tone. Preach through practice and let your life shine as an undeniable example.
9) Never overlook that all human beings burn with the certainty that they have the right interpretation of religion. Most have become adept at citations, justifications, and all manner of argument to buttress the beliefs they hold. Most good people know that “Be kind” and “Do as little harm as possible” are key components of any religion and yet we violate these basic ideas from fear and pride. Religion which demands that we attack that of another fails to see the seed of its own demise.
10) Never stop reminding yourself that although we may have perfected some small part of our lives or society as a whole, there will always be major roadblocks and setbacks. We are all going to encounter people who are fearful or looking back to the past as their anchor. We blind ourselves to our own ignorance and perpetuate the cycle by making decisions in society which veer us off course.
Be who you are and live a good life in the best way you can.
If you feel like you need to shout in the face of disagreement, stop and consider.
If you feel the need to silence words which conflict with your own, pause.
Above religion, race, sex, creed or geography, fight for the side in which the lesser needs a hand.
The more you resist this truth, the greater your disappointment will be.
The internet is supposed to be inhabited by trolls. Many believe that Facebook is a place of mindless drivel. Longer posts involving reading are a waste of time, according to some people.
Recently, I wrote a story titled “Lady Bird 1962.” I didn’t write it for profit, perfection or pride. I have a list of several thousand thoughts, stories, and one-way deadends. Lady Bird flew around in my head until it became to be a real story in my own imagination.
A few of my friends read the story on my personal page.
Thousands of strangers read it when I posted it on my public Facebook page. Despite being seen by so many people, I didn’t get one negative comment or trollish snark. For those who shared it, I got to read how much the story meant to them personally, as if they were standing in the snow with Lady Bird, or looking at her through the prism of a windshield, decades ago.
This social media experiment we find ourselves in, the one which polarizes so many people, doesn’t have to be exclusively for public discourse. It can be, even if only infrequently, a means to create a connection to people.
The internet is a huge, vast space, much like the world around us.
No matter your pace, you’ll never reach the end of it, explore all of its mysteries or be able to pause sufficiently to breathe it all in.
Your time is precious, as is your attention, energy, and focus.
If you value the seconds stealing past you, you’ll wonder why it is that so many of us fixate on that which does not embellish our lives with wonder, interest, or happiness.
I assume if you take a slice of your finite life and spend it writing something angry or derogatory, it’s unlikely that anything I say will minimize the pain or frustration you’re feeling with either the world or the ideas on display.
There’s insufficient data to help me discover whether you’re having a bad day, chose ill-advised words or truly meant the words or tone used.
Rather than acknowledge it or waste your time or mine, I’ll hide, ignore or delete your interaction and focus my time and self more acutely. I treat any page I manage as my living room – and people interacting in my living room know what the expectations probably are, in part because they know who I am.
Each of us has a fluctuating ability to tolerate craziness, coarseness, discourtesy, and mayhem; what triggers us one day may pass unnoticed the next. I know full well that no one in their right mind wants me in their living room all the time, especially if I forget that the internet is a trillion living rooms, each inhabited by different people and inclinations.
Because the internet is so complex, wondrous and vast, we should treat it like a tv with a trillion channels. Change channels if you’re offended or find yourself focusing on how much you dislike the channel you’re on.
There’s no conspiracy, just a reminder to spend your time on worthwhile interactions – on pages and posts which give you pleasure.
Sometimes I make errors in judgment, as the written word often fails to capture nuance and subtlety. I apologize if I err and misunderstand your intentions.
Life is shorter than you can imagine.
It’s always my hope that if I misspeak, misstep or err that you’ll pause in your condemnation long enough for me to realize my error or make amends. Sometimes though, even good people reach an impasse in which neither appreciates the conundrum of their disagreement.
Let’s both enjoy time in the vast wilderness of the internet.
We don’t all need to play on the monkey bars together but it’s advisable to find fun and peace somewhere on the vast playground of the internet.
There’s sun for us all here, if we choose it.
(Just joking with the last picture…)
Another social media friend posted about the depressing content of his or her social media. There are only two possibilities: he or she is not using the tools at hand to curate it or their friends, follows and likes are less than stellar. There is no reasonable way that social media, containing billions of people and pages, all representing every corner of the world, are the culprits in the equation. Social media is a prism which reflects the world of users, the same world that already exists. It might not be the world we desire, but it’s the one which greets us and gives both our joy and sadness.
The world might be spinning off its axis, but it is the only one we have. Generations have come and gone, each sure of its superiority over the last.
Social media is us, warts and all, smiles and frowns, fake news and authentic, gossip and compassion. Our aversion to it reflects more toward our self-recognition as a species than to the means by which we communicate.
Social media and the internet present new challenges, yet they also present new opportunities, especially in regards to engaging with one another.
It’s bizarre to me that two people can use the same technology and have disparate experiences. Social media can be a buffet of 10 million similar tv channels – or it can be a room with 10 million doors and windows, all of which can be opened by you on a whim, all leading to new worlds.
If you have friends who don’t share your values, sense of humor or worldview, be friends with them in the world instead of social media. Or hide their posts. If you don’t engage with them, at some point you are going to need to ask why you need to keep their names on a list in social media. You can still go to reunions, work, or lunch, – and hug and smile warmly when you encounter one another in a live social space. People fighting this cause themselves a tremendous amount of needless frustration in life. Friends lists are one of the new ways to hoard in our modern world.
If you find yourself getting upset or angry at what friends posts, hide their posts if you can’t unfriend or unfollow them. It’s your social media experience so take the time to make it your own.
If you are following news sites and pages which fill you with something other than interest, wonder, creativity, or inspiration, stop following them. Click “unfollow,” or “show less.” Unlike them. Bookmark them and visit them when the mood strikes, actively, instead of passively. Seeing content only when you are interested or curious keeps both you and the content fresher.
There is no danger of an echo chamber, no more than in your real life. All the tools are the same, within reach, and easy to use. If you live a full life, you are going to be exposed to a variety of languages, cultures, and ideas, whether you have a cellphone or social media.
In the same way that it almost impossible for me to ever get bored, I can’t fathom how anyone with access to the largest communication and knowledge resource ever created can feel anything except wonder. If it bores you, I promise you that you are doing it wrong.
I’ve always shared; not pictures and stories which only require a click, but words, anecdotes and parts of myself. Much of it is probably tripe to you – but that’s how it is in the world, too. I’ve seen so many eyerolls in response to my stories or comments that I started to believe almost everyone had an undiagnosed ophthalmological condition. If 1 in 10 people engaged like I do, we’d either be woefully tedious or richly engaged.
As a small part of this social media project we all live in, I wonder how you can read through the mountain of craziness I’ve produced and come up for air with a “meh.”
The internet and its biggest component social media is a box. Whether it is to be filled with a surprise of daily delights or duty and drudgery depends on you.
Stop looking at the things which make you lesser. Strike that. Stop focusing on those things. Look toward those things which remind you of what it means to be alive and creative.
Because I’ve wearied of both trying to shorten this post and get it right, I’m going to do what I often do: put it out there and let anyone who finds anything of value read it. Others will snipe it, and perhaps rightly so.
I have a smiling friend from high school on social media who posts only clever anecdotes and innocent life commentaries on his own social media… Behind the curtain, though, I see his handiwork of prejudice and harm. Most of the time, he’s subtle, cleverly ensuring his remarks don’t go wide. The time I spent learning to follow the breadcrumbs with FOIA requests and ancestry leads me to the clues he’s left behind. Although he’s clever, he’s not patient. His impatience and intolerance draw him into diatribes he might otherwise avoid. I don’t actively follow his lashings. The news tends to draw him out, especially as tempers flare. It’s a sceanario I’ve seen play out a dozen times this past year.
Especially over the last year, I’ve had friends get caught in the crosshairs by “Robert,” as I’ll call him. They’ll struggle to understand why he’s turned on them or chosen them to blast, all the while keeping his own page clean of controversy. If they attempt commentary on his social media, he immediately lashes out at them for being childish or failing to understand the etiquette of social media. Robert is not the only one – there have been many. Once I explain to my friends that Robert’s goal is simple intimidation and to delete his comments, ignore him, or adopt his tactics back at him, most trollish behavior fades and they move along to new victims to intimidate. Weirdly enough, almost all of these people are white males and members of what I term the “Black Sock Mafia.”
Robert keeps his own space free of controversy and lashes out at anyone who brings up anything controversial, even if he first introduces an implied bit of hate. He visits other people’s spaces, though, and lectures all of them about how wrong they are, their ignorance, and how as a rich white man things have become really tough for him in this modern climate of minority over-sensitivity. Because his ego and identity are secret and invested in something he can’t easily admit in public, he faithfully learns the code and lingo of those who possess intellect and free time afforded by a privileged life. His words become his dagger and he jabs frequently, assuming no one is following his trail. He’s wrong. He’ll drop the veneer if he’s talking to people one-on-one and assumes they share his closeted prejudices. He will take a moment sometimes to bash those who use social media to discuss controversial topics; yet, paradoxically, he will visit other pages and relentlessly hammer the person on their personal space. He’s also one of those who visit news sites and groups to spew his fervent brand of prejudice.
Most such people who comment angrily on their friend’s social media invariably do the same on fringe new sites or groups. They need an outlet, especially one in which like-minded people can slap one another on the back and egg on their imaginary quest to make the world look like the faces they see in the mirror. If you are methodical, you can find the crumbs of their visits and tally them up for an accounting.
Robert and I share a friend I’ve known most of my life. Our mutual friend is oblivious to the racism in the heart of my high school social media friend. It seemed like the prejudice would be obvious to anyone observant but I’ve found this to be untrue for many social media users. One of these days, Robert will be in one of those instances like the tiki marchers in Charlottesville; it’s inevitable as he seethes in discomfort at being told “you’re wrong” by those around him, even if many don’t know or pretend to not know how deep his hatred goes.
So I wait, knowing that the backlash against racists and ignorance has him fuming. As many of us know, most racists have convinced themselves of their own practical prejudice; their prejudice is rooted in reality, or so they believe. Their fervor will eventually boil over.
I take note of instance after instance of those times when he simply cannot resist the temptation to insist that racism isn’t real and that minorities are their own worst enemy. He circumspectly runs across the line implying that other religions are somehow the center of a monetary conspiracy. Innuendo is his most frequent ammunition. It’s rare to find a case wherein a racist holds no beliefs regarding the other usual suspects in the minds of prejudice.
He would never pick up a tiki torch and march with those who proudly identify themselves as known racists. His brand is more insidious. He won’t hire minorities unless he must and he subtly steers claims of such prejudice back toward those questioning his increasingly visible motives. Any opportunity he can seize to belittle anyone of color is his for the taking.
The next-to-last paragraph was added after Charlottesville. The rest was a post I’ve rewritten a few times. I was right. Once the events of the weekned subsided, I saw that Robert couldn’t help himself. His anger became a fire that he insisted on unleashing. His racist brethren, albeit of a lesser intellectual stripe, had been revealed as debased human beings and his wrath became unleashed. But his own social media? Only rainbows, talks of wife and family, and details of his life, all presented in a new row of deceit.
Over the last year as Trump’s ascendency became pronounced, I’ve outed many racists to mutual social media users. They display the symptoms of being gaslighted – but once I let them in on the secret of the person accosting them, they are thankful and can sometimes even laught about it.
Knowing a person is racist is different than suspecting such a thing to be true. The label, once proven, grants us power over the racist. I almost always tell people of my discoveries privately because it’s no use starting a word war that will only escalate. People learn at their own pace if they ever learn at all. A very intelligent racist tends to have a long memory for grudges, too. I usually start by asking my friends if they generally trust their instincts about people. (Each of us sometimes speaks lazily or crosses a line – these instances don’t count as evidence of prejudice if they are singular or negligent in tenor.)
After observing people like Robert punch at a social media friend, I reach out and subtly point out that they are being gaslighted or treated like a lesser person. I use the list of logic defects to specify how they are being mistreated. Finally, I point out issues of common courtesy and respect. Most people get the message after a few such encounters and up their deamnds for the closet racist to go away if he can’t behave. There’s a ball of fire and smoke before people like Robert walk away. They need people to know that they have been wronged. Despite their constant nagging about victim behavior, they’ll play all the cards before finally shutting up.
If you have social media friends who do this to you, don’t ignore your instincts. You’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. We let these things pass out of courtesy, usually avoiding the reality that our collective pass at calling them out is only worsening the soundtrack of prejudice in their head.