This is one of those times I begin typing with no knowledge of where this is going to lead me. My thoughts have gone in every direction possible as I view the many sides of social interactions as a mobilizer and recruiter. I notice the change in me. I fear for the level of anger and anxiety emanating from my screen. I take a deep breath and dive…
The notion that we, as thinking humans, operate on a principled sense of right and wrong, hold on to our core values and never stray from our beliefs is a source of comfort. We have a need for trust and reassurance that not only are we right, but the company we keep is right and good as well. The older I get the more I realize, for me, it has become what are the things that are right and good as well as most important to me.
There is no denying the world as we know it has changed. The status quo is rejected. The fringe has utilized our main source of communication to infect, dilute, and control the narrative in a way we’ve never experienced before. There is no conversation we’ve not heard before. There’s no argument we cannot repeat for or against. It is a constant regurgitation dressed under a new avatar.
Our social interactions matter to us and those who follow us. Judgement is cast for a mere infraction of a simple retweet and a social death sentence to those who dare to reach across the isle. As melodramatic as it sounds, tens of thousands of clicks stand to validate this statement. Years ago, I recall listening to an interview with a daughter of a politician working and growing up in Washington back in the 60’s and 70’s. She told stories of weekend barbecues where republican and democrats would get the families together for a friendly Sunday afternoon. The children played together while the politicians would banter, discuss matters of policy and have a laugh. This anecdote stayed with me. Many of our congress men and women, no longer choose to move their families to Washington and return to their respective states on the weekends.
This mirrors our online socialization today. We log on, find our favorite person to hunt and off we go. Never stopping for a drink, a laugh, or even the slightest moment to ponder their well being.
Something changed in me as I gained a larger following. It isn’t even a large following when I look at many others just like me, but bigger than where I was for the first year. I was able to experience the full spectrum of social interactions online. I was loved, adored, piled on, threatened, ridiculed, blocked, muted, followed, retweeted, met incredible and awful people and mellowed out. I learned to detect predictability, hottest of takes and the art of bait. But the greatest change I experienced was the push I felt from my own political camp.
I never have and never will denounce my core values nor the social and political policies I believe and stand for. However, I was pushed. I felt what is probably a pin prick in comparison to others yet it left a mark. I was hurt and disapointed. I was angry. At times, even outraged.
I was that person that kept saying who cares about blue haired college feminists when you have Trump in charge! I never said that to my own people who only cared about online personalities. I laughed and ridiculed the many who picked the anti camp as I saw them as confused and delusional ignoramuses. It was all valid and invalid at once.
I have no hope for the right. It is their battle to settle. It’s their shame to carry and a stain to their reputation. My bone to pick is my camp; my people and my hope. As I write each and every sentence, I’m also paralyzed by the self awareness of the inevitable comparisons to certain personalities who have repeated these words before me. Yes, it is the predictability of our social interactions.
At the same time when a sense of abandonment was taking over, many hands were reached to me from unexpected camps. Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, right wingers, even ex fascists who no longer wish to participate in a cycle of hate. Why? I have no idea but listened. I welcomed their embrace and kind words. I did my best to answer questions and accept that some gaps will never be filled, and some principles will never be changed. I just saw people who are not me and myself who can only be what I am today and right now.
Social interactions matter. They are a force that move our minds and bodies. Sometimes just an inch to right or left, but pull or push hard enough, and you can move a nation to self destruct. Speak your truth. Employ your sense of justice and morality as you see fit but don’t forget to pick friends along the way. In the grand battle of right and wrong, the battle of purity is the first to be defeated and more often than not, by it’s own members.