Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shhhhhh


I looked down at my phone and saw an old friend was calling. He and I had more of a text or Facebook message correspondence, so a phone call seemed a bit odd. Although, I had an inkling about what he may be calling about. After a deep breath, I swiped to answer. 

"Hey you!" I said.

"Heyyyy," he responded, "I had to call you... your comments on Kellie's post were incredible!"

"Ohh, heh.. thanks."

I knew it. My stupid Facebook outburst with a mutual ex-coworker of ours made it's way to his feed. Apparently it had really entertained him while I was going back and forth about whether or not I have some serious online rage issues. 

"First of all, she's a total idiot and secondly, THANK YOU for saying everything I was thinking!"

I sighed. My ego was swelling a bit from this friend thinking my tirade was amusing, but I was in full-on regret mode. 

"Ohh, I don't know... I feel kind of bad now."

"WHAT? Do not feel bad. She is so tone-deaf. I'm glad you pointed that out. What a dumb thing for her to post!"

"Yeah I know, but I should have seriously taken it down a couple notches. I feel like a dumbass."

A few hours earlier:

I was on Facebook at the office instead of working on some boring ass Ladder Plans. What are Ladder Plans, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Of course you didn't... let's proceed.

I see a post from a former co-worker. I should mention that this particular person had a tendency to post very annoying things that basically put her wealthy lifestyle on display; complaints about her housekeeper, seeking advice for St. Barts resorts, pictures of her baby son in Ralph Lauren outfits... shit like that. I'd usually just roll my eyes and roll on by her posts. Today, her post caused my finger to stop mid-scroll:

Just got off the phone with my manager and was offered a position that requires a move to some city in India for a couple of years. INDIA! Yeah, no thanks. No way (my son) is going to eat naan before eating a bagel!! Any jobs available in Paris or Milan? LOL! 

Okay... I'll admit that the actual post on its own wasn't terrible. Annoying AF which was par for the course, but not terrible. Then I read some of her friends comments:

Ew, no way. India is filthy.

NEVER!! Bill wanted to go there for vacation and I refused. I hate Indian food and I've heard it's so gross.

I had a friend move there and he hates it. Stay in America!! Keep your baby safe!

Not unless you enjoy diarrhea!

I looked to see if Kellie had refuted the xenophobic comments. Nope. Nada. She liked all of them and even threw in an LOL to a few. 

After a couple of deep breaths I started typing:

I understand that a move to India is not for everyone, but let's not say insulting things about the country considering there are people, like me, who take offense to such insensitive comments. 

Okay... that wasn't bad, I thought. Gets the point across but doesn't take any cheap shots at anyone. I felt good about it. 

Well, what ensued over the next couple of hours escalated into a full Facebook fight. Her friends dug in and defended their xenophobic comments. Other friends chimed in and defended the India-haters. I even think Kellie's grandmother commented in all caps saying that Kellie was "THE SWEETEST SOUL AND IF YOU REALLY KNEW HER YOU WOULD NEVER ACCUSE HER OF SUCH THINGS." 

Oh man. I engaged and now Meemaw was yelling at me. None of their empty defenses changed my viewpoint, however. At the core of it all, I was pissed that Kellie couldn't even acknowledge that my feelings were at all valid. She just kept repeating herself and saying I was being too sensitive and she was "half joking" anyway. Her friends, she insisted, were the nicest people who certainly didn't mean to insult India. Soooo they accidentally insulted it? My responses went from polite to bitingly sarcastic and nasty. By the end of it all, I had accused her of being a typical white elitist and that it was laughable that she was in the Human Resources field considering her lack of human understanding, not to mention that her first action after being offered a job was to scoff at the notion of said job on "f*cking Facebook." I may have even threatened to warn her manager about her shitty unprofessional attitude.  

Yeah, I unfriended her right after that. I didn't regret that I had spoken up, but I had let it get to a point where I was saying things out of pure emotion rather than keeping it measured and at a level to keep some integrity. The message I had started out with got lost in a sea of insults that were satisfying at the time, but upon reflection, they were petty and ended up making me look rather unhinged. 

Back to the phone call:

"Well, I thought it was perfect. Don't waste your time beating yourself up. She needed to be called out," said my friend.

I smiled and reluctantly thanked him. The icky feeling in the pit of my stomach would remain for the next couple of days. Never again, I thought, never again will I allow myself to stoop so low and conduct myself in a way that negates the legitimacy of my beliefs. And especially not on Facebook.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That Facebook debacle happened over 9 years ago and yet it still informs my online behavior today. If I see some ignorant comments, I definitely scrutinize the who, the what and the why before I choose to engage. Most of the time I deem it isn't worth it... because it's Facebook or Twitter and really, debates on those sites may as well be in an echo chamber where everyone has their own deflector shields. 

In addition to deciding when I should speak up, I've also seen the necessary choice of keeping quiet, especially lately. My choice to stay quiet is not to take the path of inaction, however, in fact, my silence is to engage in something I feel is just as important: LISTENING.  

Believe me, I've seen those who have chosen silence because neutrality seems easier. I've been that idiot. I've also learned that posting on social media is not the only way to take action. Especially since I feel people use a Facebook post or Tweet as a social record of what they've said, not necessarily of what they've done. 

Since I'm an improviser, I'm in a community with much younger friends who have grown up in a post-internet world, so their interpretation of involvement is heavily measured by how often you post what you're doing. Not that I'm immune to that behavior just because I was born in the 1970s, mind you. My time spent on Facebook isn't something I particularly like to brag about. As I get older, though, I'm seeing the pitfalls of the medium and am being more selective about how I utilize these sites. 

The world's on fire... it's more than I can handle.
~Sarah McLachlan

I'm trying to handle it, oh am I ever. The current state of the world is by far the most divisive in my lifetime and while so much of it hurts my heart and brain, it's also forcing a lot of reflection. In yoga we learn that we are exactly where we should be at this moment in time. With that in mind, I've been in mental overdrive thinking about why I'm supposed to be here... in this moment, with all this strife about so many things. And as I was trying to listen to what the universe was telling me, I realized that listening and, in turn learning, is the answer after all.

After I saw a post from a friend equating silence to being a racist apologist, I sat back and thought about how she really meant social media silence. That if you hadn't chimed in on a post with your own comment, you'll be seen as siding with racists. This was in reference to a specific movement within the Denver improv community. When I read her post, I realized what an odd requirement we put on ourselves to only express our outrage or ally-ship on Facebook or other social media outlets. Personally, I'd rather show my action in other ways that don't include wasted time on flawed websites.

With all the issues at the brink (or in the midst) of exploding in our world right now, inaction is not an option. However, bulldozing into issues without the necessary knowledge cannot be the other option. I am listening with wide open ears and mind. Too often I see that comment box trigger finger strike only to show a person spew thoughts without any foundation of understanding an issue. That's the heart of what's broken in the world I see. Even within the communities with which I identify and agree, I see a lot of talking without understanding... reacting without learning... shouting loudly only to drown out the complexities of what we're going through.

I've done the Facebook fights and Twitter debates and you know what happens every time? Nothing except it ruins my mood and my internal shame tumor grows because I've wasted my time and energy. Sometimes you have to trudge through the shit tunnel that is social media in order to come out the other side a more enlightened person. I've learned a lot of what I don't want to be through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram... so I do value that. 

There are times to speak and times to listen. I'm in listening mode right now and when I feel it is time to use my voice, you will hear it loud, clear and informed. 
 


No comments:

Post a Comment