Warning: The following is a post that has been 3 days in the making. May be rambling, at times. May not make sense, at times. May not be related to advanced maternal adventures, per se.
But, most definitely the expression of genuine feelings.
I almost quit social media this past Sunday. I was emotional and genuinely bothered by a Facebook post that took me no more than 5 minutes to read. Those 5 minutes sent me down an almost all-consuming rabbit hole that pretty much lasted all day. I let that rabbit hole take me to a sad and angry place.
It all started with a post about the Covington Catholic HS kids and the Native American rally (you may have heard about it by now). At first glance, the picture I kept seeing, and the one circulating around social and regular media, it’s a teenage boy standing face-to-face with a Native American man. A group of more teenage boys are standing behind the boy while he is smiling at the man. Now, being the person whose harried life resulted in me not watching the video, I went straight to the comments to see what the hubbub was about (mistake # 1). What I then saw were comments about how terrible Catholics are, wondering how many of these boys had already committed rape and their parents paid for the abortions, smacking the smug look right off the boy’s face, and the like. More of these posts popped up throughout the morning, with more of the same comments and ideals. I went about my day, went to church, picked up my kids, and the like. Those posts and comments stuck with me though…I couldn’t quite shake them. As I got back on Facebook and read more throughout the day (which was mistake # 2), the negative rhetoric had ramped up – with news of threats to the boys and their families coming to light. As the evening wore on, however, the events were not quite shaping up to be what the earlier posts or news stories had conveyed.
I was sad about the Catholic negativity. No one (who knows me well) should be surprised by this. I am proudly, unabashedly, and unashamedly Catholic. I am raising Catholic children. I come from a Catholic family. I love my faith. I am my faith. My faith is what makes me, well…me. So, of course, I feel that first and hardest. However, I also realize that people are and have been seriously injured and affected by the Church and the results of actions/reactions of men who abused…men who covered up. Nothing that I can ever do or say can take that pain away, and I have never tried nor would ever try to rationalize it or excuse any of that. But, I digress. To paint broad strokes over a group of people because of the actions of a few is called prejudice and some of the comments I saw yesterday were the very definition of that. Comments by good people who I know would never tolerate prejudice against others. Comments by people I care about who condemn others for prejudicial words. But, since the group was Catholics? They were all in.
I was bothered by the picture of the boy(s) and the man, itself. But, also of what people thought the picture portrayed and the lightning-fast judgement it brought about. It certainly did LOOK like the boy was being smug. It LOOKED like he was being a jerk. It has been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but picture a picture can also capture a single moment in a series of a many microscopic moments. Think about it, using modern technology: if you have an iPhone and use the Live photo feature, you see how minute changes in facial expressions can be captured in a single photo. Then, using that Live feature, the idea is that you choose the “best” facial expression and keep that photo: the seemingly “best” representation of that moment – whatever that means to the people involved and their particular interests. We look at pictures, think we see reality, and then begin to form ideas and opinions about that “reality.“
“Awww…that family looks so happy!”
“Her life looks so perfect!”
“Whoa, that person looks scary!”
“Ohhh…he looks so smug!”
The problem with that kind of thinking is that unless we REALLY know the person/people in the picture; we don’t really know the person/people in the picture. We don’t know what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, what they may be going through, what’s in their hearts, or what their intentions are. Since social media is pretty much based on pictures and “face value,” it can be a slippery slope into feeling badly about ourselves, feeling badly about others, thinking we are not good enough, and/or thinking we are better than.
Lastly, I was mad…at myself for letting myself get wrapped up in it all. I wasted so much time (that I’ll never get back) reading these horrible posts, stewing over them, going back for updates, wondering if I should respond, deciding I was too mad/sad/bothered to respond, checking back for more updates, more stewing, more negative spiral, etc. etc. etc.
I almost quit social media. I almost quit because I was fed up with the negativity it can breed. With the mob-mentality it can create. With the way it’s contributed to the reduction of people to mere snippets for others to scroll over and judge with the touch of the screen. The way it keeps all of us from truly communicating and learning about each other. The next morning, after a decent night’s sleep and a clearer head; I thought some more about it all and remembered all the things I enjoy about social media: baby announcements, prayer requests and reminders, class reunions, reconnecting with old friends, connecting with new ones, daily inspiration and motivation, school updates, and more funny memes/gifs than I can count. I realized that just as much awfulness, nastiness, bitterness, and negativity social media can create; it can also be a powerful tool for spreading love, positivity, humor, kindness, generosity, community, and awareness. And, that’s what I am choosing to use it for. I hope others do too.
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
(a quote posted by my daughter’s Catholic high school on Facebook yesterday – glad I didn’t quit social media or I would have missed it).