Just a disclaimer - I'm weary. And I'm likely to make every single one of you irritated with me before I get to the end of this... so you've been warned.
The next time you want to post a meme or share an article or a personal post that expresses your opinion on a subject, here's some questions that might help us clean up our social media feeds a bit...
- Have I checked reputable sources to make sure this is true? No? Don't post it.
We don't need anyone, anywhere, for any reason, sharing any more blatant lies, slanted truths, biased crap. We've had enough to last a life time. No more. We say we hate the fake news, yet we are the reason they keep growing. We read it, we share it, we click on it, we help them succeed by spewing their false stories, simply because it supports our view. We watch our favorite news outlet, because they tell it to us like we want to hear it. We're perpetuating hate with this. Media follows money and popularity and ratings. If we stop tolerating it, stop feeding it, they will stop doing it.
- Do I personally know a real, live, human being that holds the opposing view and have I sat down and had a conversation with them about this topic? No? Don't post it.
It's easy to spout a whole host of things in ugly, sweeping generalizations when you don't know someone sitting on the other side. How many have posted something opposing the Women's March without having a personal conversation with someone you know that attended the March and asked them why they participated? How many that attended have had a personal conversation with someone you know that actively chose not to participate and asked them why? No? If we don't even know someone on "the other side" well enough to have a conversation on the topic, we really don't have any skin in the game, and could probably just be quiet.
- Have I evaluated how I would want someone that disagrees with me to speak on this topic? No? You should probably not hit "Share".
You right leaners, eight years ago, when Obama won, what were you saying on social media? What did you say about the Tea Party (and others) protesters? Did you support them? Where you silent? How does that compare to now that you're on the winning team? Would you like to have been heard by the other side? Did their gloating and celebration "win you over" or drive you further away? How did you feel when you were told to "get over it" and get behind the new guy?
You left leaners, eight years ago, when Obama won, how did you feel as you read post after post of ugly, untrue, racist memes and opinions about your candidate? I'll be the first to admit, our new president makes it easy to have negative things to say, and we should be defending the rights of those in the margins and standing next to those who are afraid - I'm not talking about that... but who are you helping when you mock his outward appearance, or his family or his supporters or when you quickly hit share on an article or meme that may or may not be true simply because it maligns him? Stick to the issues. Were you "won over" by people's hatred of your president eight years ago?
- Am I promoting a stereotype that likely doesn't represent the majority in this group? Yes? Maybe? Don't post it.
Not all, or even most, Trump supporters are racist, sexual predators.
Not all, or even most, of the protesters are unemployed, criminal anarchists.
Not all, or even most, of the participants on the women's march are vulgar, child-hating, men-hating women.
Not all, or even most, of the people opposed to Trump are sensitive little snowflakes that just can't cope with reality.
If you are a part of any of these groups, you hate being stereotyped by the worst of those among you, so why would you perpetuate that in others?
When you post snide comments about same-sex marriage, or welfare, or protests, or women's rights, or immigration, or pro Trump, or anti Trump, or faith issues, or politics, or gun rights, or the Affordable Care Act, or Obama or pro choice, or pro life, ... the list is endless really, ...but when you post them without actually knowing someone effected by them, or without having mature, adult conversations with people that sit on the other side of whatever aisle you're currently on, it's much easier to be ugly. When you know and love someone that disagrees with you? You think a lot harder. You work a lot harder.
When I see those awful comments?
I see the face of someone I care deeply about that is gay. They're not gonna "stop being gay" because of your meme.
I see the face of someone I care deeply about that has been sexually assaulted. Their pain and scars do not go away because someone has called them a "snowflake" that needs to realize that "locker room talk" is just a reality they need to toughen up and deal with. They also don't go away when your life experience of never having been assaulted or discriminated against seems to invalidate their experience.
I see the face of that Trump voter I love, and they are not the horrible, racist, uncaring, vile person you've painted them to be. They just are not.
I see the face of people I know that are in a minority class - and their feeds are packed full of reasons to feel marginalized, dismissed and afraid.
I see the face of someone I care deeply about that will lose their health care while we have our abstract fights. It's a mess - everyone knows that. What we have isn't working. We all know that.The answers won't be easy. Everyone knows that...but we're so busy "being right" (on all sides) that we forget that there are real live families who will be utterly devastated by stupid decisions, made in the heat of battle, by people with plenty of money and insurance, who just want to win.
I see people that sit opposite me on issues like abortion, but still wrestle in gut-wrenching ways with the ethics of it all. I will stand my moral ground on the sanctity of life for all of my life, but I can still stand next to someone that sees it differently and we can both agree that abortion is a horrible choice and find ways to work together to reduce it. We can all get behind reducing it, can't we? Are we so determined to be right, that we'll allow abortion rates to increase for a lack of willingness to work together?
I'm just weary, y'all. I want to just bow out. I want to close my social media accounts, crawl in a hole and stop talking to people. The ugliness polarizes and paralyzes - and honestly, there's too much important work to be done for us to feel that way, for us to treat each other this way. I want to see pictures of your babies again. I want to know what good movies you saw and what you had for dinner. I want to see your vacation pictures and your wedding pictures. I want to be able to pray for you when you've lost your mother, or your husband gets sick or you've lost your job. Those are the things I want to see on SOCIAL media.
Let's discuss the other stuff primarily in living rooms and coffee shops and town halls - with respect and dignity, while we look real people, with real feelings and real stories right in the eye. Very few of these people we are maligning are truly horrible. We're all a jumbled up mess of right and wrong opinions. We all have something to bring to the table. I'm not saying we shouldn't ever have some of those conversations on social media, but if we're NOT having them in real life, with people different from us, we probably should just be quiet about it on here. The problems are vast and multi-layered and complicated. It's much harder and scarier to do it this way, in real life - but I believe it's where things will change. Memes aren't going to fix it. Hateful rhetoric isn't going to bring anyone to "our" side.
Could we just stop?