There is something I have been trying to grapple with ever since the kneeling football players kerfuffle. I engaged with great passion on the debate over this on Facebook. It upset me so much that I had to unfollow a number of people who kept posting things that I disagreed with because I just so.badly wanted to correct them.
And I really, truly did not want to argue. I hate to argue. I never, ever post anything for the purpose of arguing. I post it to share my enlightened thoughts, certain that if I do, people will see the just plain logic and common sense of it and say, “Oh! Now I see!” (You can feel free to laugh here.)
Only that never happens. I never convince them. They never convince me. We just get locked in a vicious circle of debate.
Since the football player issue, there have been even more opportunities to start getting into things. Any number of events sparked outrage and debate on the internet. I saw so many posts I saw on Facebook that made me think, “That is right! That is such good information! I really should share that so that everybody else can see it!” But for the most part, I refrained. I had begun to feel that my righteous anger was going nowhere, or nowhere good anyway, that somehow it was only getting in the way of what was really important. (I can just see some of my friends cringing at that statement. “What do you mean, Sharon? This stuff IS really important!” But read on, please.)
Then yesterday I read a post on Facebook by Nanea Hoffman that put into words what I was feeling, what I believe to be the truth. She spoke about her own involvement in all the events in the world, and the anger it had engendered in her life, just as it had in mine. She said she’d been engaged in it because she thought it would help somehow, that she was bearing witness. But “No,” she said. “There’s bearing witness and there’s outrage addiction. There’s getting stuck in the endless, weirdly satisfying cycle of ‘Oh my god, have you seen this latest bullshit?’ Like I’m some kind of citizen journalist and my job is to stay tuned to the bullshit scanner and immediately reshape, reTweet, rebroadcast because PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW.”
Isn’t that how we all feel when we post these things? “The world needs to know! If only I tell them they will understand, and things will change.” But the thing is, that doesn’t happen. I’m willing to bet it never happens. Nanea poetically referred to this as “shrieking and flinging poo into the void.” And yes, it is a void. “Did those actions, which felt like turning the pressure-release valve on my Instant Pot, have ANY significant impact other than to get the people who already agree with me to click the heart emoji? And the ones who disagree to probably unfollow?”
And this is the truth, guys. This is the absolute ever loving truth. I don’t know exactly what makes people decide to believe what they believe, but once they believe it, no amount of information, logic or persuasion changes their minds. Most of the time when I engaged in those long, passionate, well thought out debates, there came a point when the things being said to me showed clearly that my “opponent” was not even reading what I wrote! If they weren’t even reading what I said, how could I possibly change their minds? Hey, if I’m wrong, let me know! If your opinions about world events and politics has ever been changed by rants and debates people post on Facebook, let me know, because I think every last bit of my effort to convince people has been equivalent to “flinging poo into the void.” And sometimes when you are flinging poo, some of it comes back and hits you in the face. It’s unavoidable.
And the other thing is, nothing is going to change as the result of all this uproar. There are no elections on the matter of allowing the football players to kneel during the national anthem. The presidency and congress have already been voted on, and we have no choice but to live with it until there is another election. The courts don’t really care what we are posting on Facebook. And bottom line is, people who want to see what is going on will see. As Nanea said, “I’m not the current events alarm bell fairy. Probably neither are you, but I don’t know what your therapist would say.” I think my therapist, if I had one, would say that there is enough anxiety in my life, and enough anxiety in the world, without getting myself even more wound up. In order to keep sane, I need to stop setting fires and start smelling the flowers, so to speak.
More to the point, I think that these things are not central to the purposes of my life. I do not see myself as being here to be a revolutionary so much as a healer. I want to bring a message of hope to the hopeless, and you know, I don’t care a bit what their politics are. If they are hurting or grieving, if they are broken, if they are sick or hungry or thirsty, I want to reach out to them. But how can I do that if I have alienated half of them?
So rather than rant and rave, I need to focus on doing, on loving people, and rather than ranting and raving about what the government is or is not doing to or for them, to put my hands and heart out there and do what little itty bitty things I can do to help those I can. I don’t have money. I can’t even really support myself at this point. But I have two hands and I have a brain and I have a heart, and I pray constantly that the path would be made clear before me and that I would have the wisdom to walk it. Nanea said, “I don’t have to be Chicken Little. Y’all know the sky is falling. I take my actions. I share my ridiculous, lengthy thoughts.” Me, too, Nanea. Because this doesn’t mean remaining forever silent on the things I think are important. It just means not being in people’s faces.
I apologize to those I have hurt in any way. How about if we resolve to stop flinging poo, stop accusing and scoffing and carrying on about things beyond our power to change, and instead change the world through loving each other?
Before I go, Nanea has given me permission to share her post in whole, so here it is. You can find it on her Facebook page as well.
I came home from therapy the other day with instructions to practice what I preach about boundaries and kindness to self. Which I thought I was doing, but clearly my way was not effective because people with effective boundaries don’t have scary temper-splosions every single day and get so scared by them that when they call the therapist to talk about it, she clears a space in her schedule for you to come in right fucking now. So. I sat there and squinted at my life like I was an outsider and I noticed something: I was far too engaged in tragedy and fuckery I could not control because I thought it would somehow help. Bearing witness, right?
No. There’s bearing witness and then there’s outrage addiction (thank you for that phrase, Scott Stabile). There’s getting stuck in the endless, weirdly satisfying cycle of “Oh my god, have you seen this latest bullshit?!” Like I’m some kind of citizen journalist and my job is to stay tuned to the bullshit scanner and immediately reshape, reTweet, rebroadcast because PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW. The thing is, was I creating a space of sanity or was I shrieking and flinging poo into the void? Was any of it helping? did those actions, which felt like turning the pressure-release valve on my Instant Pot (you knew I’d have to work a reference in) have ANY significant impact other than to get the people who already agree with me to click the heart emoji? And the ones who disagree to probably unfollow? I’m not the current events alarm bells fairy. Probably neither are you, but I don’t know what your therapist would say.
So. Long story long, I installed Social Fixer and set it up to block all references to he who must not be names as well as other chest-beating, soap-boxy type keywords. Because I can’t disconnect from social media, nor do I want to. It’s not social media’s fault that I’ve done a shitty job with my boundaries. And as a person with chronic mental and physical issues, it is the window I peer through to the rest of the world and my drive and telling me to unplug is ableist — more on that some other time. BUT. I can control how I engage and what I consume. No more poo. It’s been amazing. Suddenly, I was seeing posts about families and delicious meals and kittens and writing and art and all the things that made me love the Internets in the first place. It made me realized how long it’s been since I felt that I can still go and get my news. I can periodically check in on the trash fire. But *I* decide when and how. And it’s made all the difference. I don’t have to be Chicken Little. Y’all know the sky is falling. I take my actions. I share my ridiculous, lengthy thoughts. I read about your kids’ birthdays and your book deal and that great cheesecake recipe. And I sit in the bright, clear patch I’ve made for myself.
By the way, I installed that Social Fixer myself. It works half well, because it doesn’t filter the memes and some of the other things, and it doesn’t work on mobile Facebook apps on your phone, but it’s pretty good. It tells you when it has filtered something out and why, so if you want to choose to look at it you can. But one tremendously great side benefit is that you can set it to filter out sponsored posts — you know, those ones that coerce you into spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need because they are just.so.cool and because it’s a post in a Facebook feed you may never have this chance again? Yeah. Bye bye temptation. If I needed your thing, I’d have it on my shopping list and I’d go looking for it myself.
And hey, guys, it is now after 11:00 in the morning. I have been up since 7:00 and I have yet to even look at Facebook! I’m going to try that as well, just cutting back, since ultimately I think Facebook just fuels the mental and emotional paralysis I have been suffering from. But that’s another matter entirely. Meanwhile, let’s go, live in peace, love one another, and do good whenever and wherever we can. Yes?
Love you guys!