Do you know who is just fine without me? Facebook. I’ve noticed over the last few months as I’ve distanced myself from it that Facebook is doing just fine whenever I do check in. What I’m going to say here might come off as attention-seeking whining, but since I want to finish at least one thought this summer, I’ll keep my goal within reach.
I am tired of polarizing, divisive posts on Facebook. I feel defeated when I watch these mini-mob mentalities flaring up in all corners of my newsfeed. I feel sick when I watch otherwise kind, respectful, thoughtful people attack, criticize, dismiss, and dogpile anyone whose view differs from their own. Everyone is angry, and they’re scouring the streets for someone to pound on.
Come to that brave soul’s rescue, and you get pounded too.
Suggest that there is a better way to address these concerns, and you are now “one of them.”
Ask an honest, level-headed question, and your efforts are received as threatening.
Some 15 years ago when I was a Children’s Intensive Care nurse, the kid across the hall from mine was there with a broken neck. His head had been kicked so many times by some schoolyard bullies that it was held on by skin, muscle, and his delicate spinal cord. He was maybe twelve.
I sometimes wonder if Facebook personas are doing the same thing to our relationships. Nothing left but the external, battered word “friend” and the last connection between intent and action. One more kick to that relationship and “friend” is the loose term around what used to be that intangible flow of energy and creation known as friendship.
Two reasons I find this behavior so concerning:
- It is completely unnecessary. I came to this conclusion after I ran a Facebook group for a couple years that was dedicated entirely to civil discourse. I invited friends and family whom I had seen regularly demonstrate interest in thoughtful, considerate discourse despite Facebook having become the place to make one’s stance known on every issue imaginable. I especially sought out those people who had patiently disagreed with me and taken the time to articulate their views when I was the one (often unwittingly) making polarizing, divisive statements. The group could have been better in many ways, but just creating a space for respectful disagreement brought life to the word “friend” instead of wearing it like the skin of an animal I’d killed when I mistook it for my nemesis.
- It has become an end unto itself. We all want meaning and purpose in our lives. We all want something that drives us. But when that purpose and drive draws on anything other than a desire to bring more good and more love into the world, the question becomes, “What am I creating instead?” It becomes a loop of anger feeding on defensiveness that never runs out of steam.
At school my kids learned this lovely acronym: “Before you speak [post/comment/share/send/hit reply/screenshot/copy and paste–whew!], THINK: Is what you’re going to say True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?” Even if the banner you want to draw people to seems noble, stop and THINK before sharing. Then be willing to lay aside your weapons and get honest with yourself. I have scrolled past many loaded questions, swallowed useless indignation, and written many apologies after having a talk with myself. I go back and say, “I wasn’t the person I want to be back there,” and then I work on maintaining those words with my future actions.
I don’t write nearly as much lately, and I realized that a lot of that came from this sagging, deflated hope I had named “Making a Difference in the World.” She was the flagship of my dreams because here at home, the difference I make is so imperceptible at times that I wonder if it would be better off without me in it, trying to transform it. But that faltering hope is often buoyed up again by getting present, curious, and intentional about my mothering.
But Facebook, when I give it my full attention, when I dig into its layers, when I go looking for something to excite me, oh how my newsfeed delivers. Then I’m in my defensive stance, ready to take a jab at the unseen enemy, believing it has morphed into the face of my friend or loved one. It’s not a real person I’m arguing with–it’s just the adversary of us all.
I am wrapping up to get my family going for the day (probably the first time I’ve done this over the summer because I have felt so defeated with my efforts to write that I just passively wait for the day to drag me into it), so a couple last thoughts.
Unconsciously I’ve drawn this conclusion that my voice makes no difference because the divisive, polarizing posts keep showing up in my feed. That belief was my own doing, and now that I know it, I can undo its hold on me. I take my voice where it challenges and inspires others. And I don’t measure its impact by the way others change but by how I change.
I also learned over the past few months that my voice has not gone silent. Just because I’m not opening up to the “world” like I used to doesn’t mean no one hears me. I suppose that my world is the people I interact with on purpose. Facebook is not the world just as this blog isn’t my voice. They are just substitutes for when I can’t sit down with you and have a chat like we used to.
The real you is who I love having in my world, but it doesn’t mean I want to interact with your Facebook persona.
When it comes to friendship, our words make our world. Choose them with care.
And forgive me when I have misspoken. Sometimes between the sender and the recipient, the message gets scrambled.
*From the song, “Not Today” by who else? Twenty One Pilots. Sorry if I quote them like scripture. They, too, provide layers of meaning and enjoyment for me. Kind of like a really good artichoke. If you can get past the spiny, fibrous areas, the gems inside are well worth venturing out from your comfort zone.