Every day, I usually do a quick scroll though Facebook because: it has become a second inbox, it’s how I remember birthdays, and it allows me to stay connected to my family, friends, and students from around the world.
On this particular occasion, I was having a giggle over the above image. Was it 100% accurate? Of course not, but I gave it a thumbs up. Then I saw the last comment, “As a Virgo, this isn’t accurate at all…” And I thought, what a killjoy. Obviously the post was supposed to be funny (and not at anyone’s expense I might add).
I continued to scroll then stopped at an expat in China sharing a photo of a train filled with mask wearers with the caption, “This is how one of the largest countries in the world contains the virus!” Good god. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was essentially bragging over the cooperation of Chinese people, something as a foreigner, he has nothing to do with.
This isn’t the first post I’ve seen along these lines either. We love our “grass is greener” fantasies. I have them too, but I somehow always end up getting burned by them. [Expats like to do this with their passport country depending on whether or not it serves them. Heck, travelers do too, but that’s one of the reasons why we travel, right? to get out of our comfort zones and see how the other half lives.]
Currently, there are 3.5 million Americans who have COVID. That’s insane and scary, and people’s health are being compromised in ways we’re not even fully aware of, and they’re dying.
Me face-bragging about my circumstances in a low-COVID cases city doesn’t feel right. It shouts ‘Naninanibooboo, I’m doin fine!’ which is not something to announce because life can change at the drop of a cough or an ill-fated moment. While I understand the photo, it reflects an insensitivity that is considered normal these days.
Of course, we all know people like this, the killjoy, the braggart, the foaming-mouth political fanatic, the preacher. But generally, we aren’t exposed to all these characters at once. I think that’s why social is so heartbreaking at times; in the span of a few seconds or minutes, you can be hit with highs and lows, smiles and sarcasm, video clips on breathtaking joys, then unspeakable violence. No wonder everyone’s losing their minds…
Sometimes it feels like social media posts are either: a) entertaining/funny, b) I have all the answers, or c) My life is better than yours (kudos if you can offer all three). And most of us haven’t quite figured out how to share useful news, probably because there’s so little of it.
Practical jokes don’t go over too well on FB either. Ever been on the receiving end of one? I have, and it’s not funny. Although, I get it. It’s new territory, but how long are we going to use that as an excuse? I keep waiting for an adult to show up and tell everyone to behave. I mean, think about it, the best FB groups or forums are run by folks who mediate and vigilantly cull the crap . We need leaders, big and small.
When I was growing up, “I’m a student of life” was a rather popular saying. The idea being you are simply here to learn, you know nothing, or very little, teach me, dear Life, I’m a humble creature in your hands. Yeah, it’s a nice motto, but it got old. It felt incomplete. It wasn’t until I had a big down-on-my-knees moment that I realized, hey, we’re all teachers too.
You don’t have to be in a classroom to teach. If I watch a driver cut through a gas station, guess what? someone else is going to do the same damn thing in order to avoid waiting at the red light. Graffiti in one area of town invites other graffiti to show up. Watching other folks donate money, makes you feel like donating money. Yawns aren’t the only contagious action, so are behaviors and words.
But how do we return to policing each other? Should we? I remember when it was perfectly okay for a different parent to say, “Hey, that’s not nice” when we kids were acting out of line. These days, that well-meaning behavior is grounds for a lawsuit. We’ve been conditioned to “mind our own business” or get in trouble, and look the other way when something wrong is happening.
Maybe though the problem is too much policing. Too much finger-wagging. Or maybe everyone’s values are too different now. It seems like the world has flipped from “I’m a student” to “I’m a teacher” mentality. Ideally, we should try to remember that we are both.
As we double down on tribalism, filter our social feeds, we’re ironically shrinking our worldview in the Age of Information. We’re also being heavily censored around the globe by the powers-that-be, and isn’t it strange that something meant to connect us is unraveling humanity?
When I first started to write this, I wanted to look at our behavior on social (because I’m perfect and you’re not), but then I realized the way we inhale information almost seems like the kind of conditioning you’d do to torture someone. Same goes for the daily doom and gloom reports.
Then I remembered my old epiphany of “we’re all teachers” and now I’m wondering what the heck are we supposed to do about all this. How do we look out for ourselves and others? Has social become a form of self-harm? Should we PM friends and say, “Are you okay? You seem really angry these days” or is that just a bomb that needs to be left to defuse on its own?
Should we be talking more or less?
A high school friend posted how he didn’t wear his mask out of defiance/freedom to a local grocery store, but this was followed up by friends who said kindly, please wear it, we care about you. And now he’s been posting about getting and wearing designer masks.
Another childhood friend took an interesting approach when she asked for clarification and thoughts over policing. She carefully worded it. No one liked it but she got plenty of engagement, lots of discussion about people’s experiences with the police.
Perhaps social media is pushing us to socially, mentally, and spiritually develop faster than ever before. Again, one of the ironies of technology, we don’t have to talk face to face, but we’ve got to figure out how to communicate with the same sensitivity and clarity. It’s an adult-free world wide web filled with plenty of adult-content.
Or perhaps we’re learning, and we’ll figure it out. Because it’s not just what’s happening to us, it’s what we’re doing to each other, too. It’s just going to take time, right?
What to you think? Is social media self harm or much ado about nothing? What should our roles be?