Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I'm (Part of) What's Wrong With Social Media: I Don't Apologize

Facebook was my gateway drug into the world of social media. I remember the day I opened my account. It was November 16, 2011: I had just gotten home from doing close to ten years in the Virginia Department of Corrections. I was surrounded by family and friends who worked as Sherpas guiding me through the nuisances of Facebook etiquette. 1) Don't post about politics. 2) Don't post about religion: unless you are posting about how awesome Jesus is. 3) Don't post about racism. Basically, I was advised to avoid posting about anything other than cats, babies, and food. 

I was so eager to get reacquainted with some of my old friends that I indiscriminately started sending and accepting friend requests. Within a few days I had over 500 "friends". This was awesome. What I didn't account for was how much some of us had changed over the years. After a while it was obvious some of our lives were in completely different places. This isn’t about being praise worthy or blame worthy. Life happened and we had different priorities. 

The overwhelming majority of my “friends” wanted Facebook to be a place where they could escape from the day to day grind of life. I didn’t know social media was supposed to be fun, and when I found out I didn’t care. All of this was happening so fast. 

I turned my Facebook into my public diary and started journaling. It was cathartic. I wrote what I felt and didn’t care about the consequences. There were days I felt incredibly blessed to be home and have a second chance at life; on those days, I wrote about my feelings. There were days when the world seemed like a flaming bag of crapsicles; on those days I wrote. I didn’t shy away from controversial issues. I was indifferent to the agreed upon rules that governed Facebook. This was seen, by some, as passive aggressive behavior. I lost a lot of those early "friends".

Our society conditions people to avoid “controversy”. We are taught to ignore bigotry, hatred, and incivility. Too many people have bought into the belief that society's ills can be fixed by ignoring them. There are people who believe their right to bliss shouldn’t be impeded by the raw nature of our world. They are wrong! They have every right to ingest or avoid any information they choose, but they don’t have a right to another’s silence. I don’t apologize for the (small) role I’ve played in ruining social media. I don’t apologize for writing about race, religion, class, culture, or politics. I don't apologize for my truth being abrasive against the thin skin of those who choose to run from the world around them. Maybe, If we hadn’t avoided talking about these issues for so long we might understand how they affect us?

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