Social Distortion

I’m not spitting mad anymore. Now, I vacillate between amusement, dismay, happiness and more dismay.

I am happy with the outcome of Tuesday’s election. That’s about as much as you’ll see or hear me “gloat”. As I stated in my last post — everybody has a story that shapes their world view. Our stories are shaped by our families, our friends and our own experiences. And, these are quite likely to change as our lives progress. I had a conversation with someone recently who had never considered my position on the issue of health care simply because she had never been in my position — having a child with a complex medical history and making job decisions based on health insurance. At 24 and being a recent college graduate, there’s no way she could ever know the sleepless nights that a parent has wondering how to pay medical bills that aren’t covered because you’ve already reached your insurance cap. But, I appreciate that she acknowledged that and admitted that it shed a different light on her previous views. We had a civil, rational conversation in which minds were not changed but we treated each other with respect.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of my interactions lately. Several of the blogs I read blame social media for the post-election ugliness that we are seeing (from all sides). We forget that there are actual people with actual feelings on the other side of our computer screen or smart phone. Even when we know those people personally and have an affection for them outside of this social media context, we forget that very often, they can see what we do and say, even if it’s not directly to them. And, hard as we try not to let it, it changes our relationships.

The day after the election, I posted this on my Facebook timeline:

I even tried to temper it with some humor…adding that I do draw the line at  baseball.  But, I still began to see my feed fill up with things that I can only describe as hateful.  And, then I go down this scary path of asking myself if I really can uphold this noble wisdom from Thomas Jefferson.

Social media tends to blur the lines of friendship, in my opinion.  In some cases, we think we know people better than we perhaps do, because we get peeks into their personal lives on a regular basis.  In other cases, we see different sides of people that we may not see in our regular interactions.  Both can have their pros and cons.  The biggest con that I’ve seen and experienced is that it tends to make people say and do things that they might not normally say and do in your actual presence.

I tend to use a lot of sarcasm and humor on Facebook.  I do this because 1) I tend to be sort of sarcastic in “real life” and 2) I am keenly aware of the incredibly diverse group of people that make up my friends list on Facebook.  By most people’s standards, I’m pretty much an open book.  I don’t mind if the Washington Post tells you which articles I read and I am not too squeamish about the pictures I post or personal information I give because I do it knowing that it’s there forever.  I have a list of people (mostly kids, including my own) that don’t seen certain status updates.  Before I hit post on any status update, I consider it from a variety of different standpoints because, as I stated before, I have a wide variety of friends who don’t always know where I am coming from.  And, I’ve had people ask…which is wonderful.  It gives me a chance to share my story with them and to also learn more about theirs.  And, I’ve never considered religion, politics or philosophy as a reason not to have somebody in my Facebook feed.

Until now.

In my “real life”, I tend to surround myself with people who I like and have fun with.  In a lot of cases, they are people who I align with politically.  In a lot of cases, they aren’t.  In some cases, they are people I align with from a religious standpoint (although I hate that word…. “religious”) and in far more many cases, they aren’t.  In some cases, they are people who’ve come into my life under a set of specific circumstances while in others, they are lifelong friends.  Whatever the case may be, they are people who I love for a variety of different reasons and every one of them drives me crazy from time to time (much less than the number of times I drive them crazy, I am sure), but I still love and cherish them because I have a relationship with them that is built on respect and admiration and authentic kindness.

The question is what to do with it?  The answer can’t be to just hide or un-friend them all.  It can’t be to limit my interactions to only those people whom I described above, because then nobody else would ever enter that circle.  I’ve been able to deepen relationships as well as get to know new friends in ways that might not have otherwise been possible without a platform like Facebook.  The wit and humor and wisdom from others isn’t worth giving up.  I guess I’m left with taking the advice I always give to my 13 year old:  “Just ignore them”.

The other day, I said “don’t be a jerk”.  Now, I’m just asking that you be kind.  Consider your words carefully because in the same way they can lift people up, they can also be very hurtful.

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