Tag Archives: Facebook

A Time for Reflection

Like much of those in America, including possibly the winner himself, the results of the 2016 Presidential election came as a huge shock to me. So sure of the result was I, that when questioned why I would take children to an election party given that results don’t finish coming in until after midnight, I rolled my eyes and said “Oh, by 8, maybe 8.30, we’ll know. I mean, we won’t know, but it will be obvious”. I was anticipating the vote for Hillary to be such a landslide that in my wilder dreams I almost saw Texas as a swing state. I nearly made a T-shirt that said “Spoiler alert: Hillary wins”.

In the end, I was half right. By 8-8.30 I did indeed know. I can’t remember the exact time my heart stopped hoping, but at a certain point it was clear that the majority of the swing states were leaning red, and in other states Trump’s margin was greater than expected. Together, it was clearly an indication of what was to come. At 9-ish I said to friends “I don’t want to get in the car and drive home, because I know that when I get out of the car it will be a done deal”. But in the end keeping my children up far too late, and clinging on, and staying up 2 hours’ after we got home was in vain. Trump won.

Trump won. And I am afraid. And after the tears, for me, came the time for quieter introspection. How? I needed to understand two major “hows”:

1. While I respect that there were a multitude of reasons for voting Trump, many of which reflect values that I hold dear (but choose to manifest differently), how did an open misogynist, who mocked disabilities, who acted a racist to an almost caricature level, and who made hatred-inspired division a cornerstone of his campaign, win? I understand how he got some votes e.g the pro-life vote, but how did he win?

2. How did I so totally and utterly not see it coming? How did the Democratic Party and associated media not see it coming?

The answers to these are many layered and complex. They are being debated in the media now, and they will be written about for years to come. I am not Political Science savvy-enough to add to the experts, but for now I am recognizing that the DNP did not listen to their followers who actually echoed the same sentiments as the Trump followers.

I was not a Bernie Sanders fan. I liked his ideals, but I felt they were too extreme for the US at the present time, and his past record in the legislature (or more to the point, his lack of record) told me that he would not work well within the system to compromise and make change happen. I saw stagnation. But it seems I was an outsider in wanting someone more proven, more acceptable to other politicians, more used to working with the other side and deploying their army of machinations to achieve a compromise goal. I think the people overwhelmingly wanted Bernie the outsider and consistently overlooked his negatives – even some of the same negatives theory through at Hillary. And in the end, The DNP looked around at the American public overwhelmingly asking for an outsider, and put in place: the ultimate insider.

That’s just the start of what will surely be characterized in history as a catalogue of mistakes. But it is not even really where my thoughts were; they were more at the grass roots level (albeit how this reflects DNP actions) and with personal guilt. Why did Trump win? The difference this year seems to be because he exploited divisions while mobilizing a group of people that liberals all but ignore: non-college educated (I refuse to say “uneducated” like the divisive media), often rural, whites. He spoke to them, and he spoke for them. But surely, he could only get them to vote for such a heinous character but making the division between him and the other candidate strong. He must have made that wound so deep. And thinking about this, when I did some soul searching I realized that as an enlightened, tolerance-preaching all-loving liberal I was as guilty of contributing to these divisions as anyone.

Did I have any interest in America’s other  whites? No. Did I care about disenfranchised whites? Oh, I read about the African American experience, and the Transgender experience, and the Refugee experience and so on. I lapped it up! I shared articles, I spouted about how enlighten I was because I could never really appreciate what it was like to be one of these minorities, but I could appreciate the environment they were in and how terrible my white straight privilege was! Oh, now I saw the light indeed. Now I was so much a better person indeed. Enlightened. Accepting. So open minded. So liberal. How did even manage to see when my halo was so bright.

But what about others? How could I not read about others who were disenfranchised? Is it that I had no access to such literature? No. Immediately I can think of two occasions where people directly tried to engage me on this issue. I  posted about white privileged and two people directly said to me “I don’t think African Americans do have a disadvantage compared to me”. Of course, we all know my response. It’s the classic white liberal response: You’re wrong! And not only are you wrong, you want to be wrong. You don’t like the changing status quo my pompous ass concluded. Whether here is any veracity to those statements or not, yet problem to me is not what was said or through, but what was not. I cannot remember a single time I engaged with a disenfranchised white and said “tell me about your troubles”. “Tell me about how you feel marginalized”. “Let me listen to you”.

Why? I don’t think I am generally someone who doesn’t try to to see other people’s point of view, or who carries a self-righteous rightness about them. So why now? Why couldn’t I listen to family members and friends, of all people. Thinking long and hard about why I have changed to be like this, I have drawn the conclusion that a large part of it stems from living on Facebook for me. At the time of the election, I got almost 100% of my “news” from Facebook recommendations and click fests, and lived in that Facebook bubble where (and I forget what the name of it is), FaceBook shows you posts and media articles that reflect your previous interests and likes. How could this not entrench my views further? Everyday I logged on to have my views reaffirmed and deepened. Every day others logged on to have the same to their different views. How could this not create a chasm? Clearly this is only a problem when you get your information exclusively in this manner, but I am ashamed to say that I did. And now I think about it: that’s incredibly dangerous. Surely, it has to be incredibly dangerous to encourage oneself to narrow your world view? And to keep reaffirming your underlying opinions rather than evolving and challenging them. And often, let’s face it: doing all this with sound bites and memes. I nearly started a running series on this blog about liberal memes that annoyed me because so they so entirely missed the non-liberal point of view. Yet I still willingly exposed myself to them day after day.

Against this background of realizing that Facebook was not doing my world view any good, things started to get heated in my feed. I watched comment after comment get leaped on, and yelled at, even though the original intent was not to incite. The divisions deepened and became personal.

I am honest and true to my beliefs, but I express them differently depending on the views of the audience. I talk about them in person subtly and with nuance (I hope). I take care not to hurt people if they disagree with me. I try to listen. But it is very difficult to do this on Facebook. It tends to be quick status updates, memes and headlines. You speak to everyone at once, and in the same way. You can’t gauge  those non verbal cues as to how someone is being affected by your words. But you do get all those self affirming likes and shares! It just wasn’t good for me.

I don’t know when much of my interpersonal discourse moved from real life to Facebook, but embarrassingly, it did. Some months ago I stopped making political posts and stuck to baby pictures and selfies. But it creeps in. A picture of Caroline in a (bi-partisan) election hat started flurry of passionate debate – by accident it seems (although I did tag it #imwithher). (#imstillwithher). That wans’t the only example. Being careful with what I posted on my own page probably deepened my resentment of the so-perceived “others”, rather than leading to discourse and learning.

So, it’s time for a break. I had thought about it before, but never managed to pull the trigger on deactivating my account. It makes me quite sad – there are so many people I am only in touch with through Facebook and I have enjoyed my friendships there. I have been to a wedding and had a marvelous friend come and stay with me because of it. I have reconnected with an old “sister” (“” because she is not family buy blood, just by love and experience). But I need a break. I seem unable to control my usage and use it only positively so Facebook is gone.

I’m sad that I have lost messenger as I deactivated Facebook, and I worry about lost friendships. But I am hoping that I can still connect with people here, and through emails and text messages. I’m not quite a hermit / dinosaur yet.

*********************************************************

The above is just a snapshot of what is going through my mind. It’s worth saying that I recognize:

*There were many reasons for voting for Trump other than “white disenfranchisement” to include for example, his pro-life stance, and his business acumen.

*I don’t hate Trump supporters. I don’t just “tolerate” them. I love many of them, and I recognize and understand their reasons for voting Trump where I have heard them. In the same breath, I don’t dismiss articles which say, for example, that racism can be just about actions as about beliefs and voting for an open racist with racist policies can be seen as a racist act. I have trouble reconciling a lot of this in my head.

*A lot of my decision just reflect a need to hide away from the ugliness in the world for a while. It’s not helpful, but I need to be able to distance myself.

*Many felt Hillary was just a truly non optional alternative. I loved her, but they saw entitlement, dishonesty, murder and warmongering. She lost a lot of her vote because of this.

*Many (the majority?) of people are able to use Facebook in an entirely constructive way. I am not one of them at their moment. You would probably be horrified if you knew quite how much time I spent on there. This is a personal decision that does not reflect what I think of Facebook and its users in general.

*The extreme right seem to be gaining traction all over the world (including Europe and Australia). This is a world patterns right now which probably has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with the fallout of several wars and economic depressions.

*At times I sounds like I am really beating myself up. I am very sad at the moment. It is hard to put into words what watching a man who was vocal racist, who said women should be punished for abortions, who promised to enact racist policies and undo some of the greatest social progress this country has seen in decades, and who has no political experience to temper his actions, what it has done to me to see this man be put in power. What it has done to me to see literal hate spewed forth and not only be legitimized but supported. If I played any part in this, if I even contributed to underlying movements that in some allowed this to gain momentum, if I was even prepresentative of the problem rather than part of it, I take that very seriously and will demand dramatic changes of myself. Change must happen. A man such as Trump much not be allowed to be the face of a Nation.

*Coming off Facebook is not the most helpful thing I can do. I know this. I have already been researching organizations and making lists of what I can feasibly contribute to, both financially and by giving my time or expertise, to counteract racism, and promote gender equality. Good will come of this.

Advertisements

Internet friends


“When one door closes, another opens” – Alexander Graeme Bell.

Is it weird that I have ‘internet friends’? As in, people I interact with and feel an attachment to, but have never met? I mean, I have an ‘internet husband’ I guess (in that we met online and I was attached to him before I ever met him… not that I still have not met him 😉 ), so are internet friends the next step? Maybe… And, while I realize this whole story my make me sound distinctly odd, today I ‘lost’ one friend but gained another.

Losing Caitlyn.

In 2010 when I took up running, I began following a blog called ‘Healthy Tipping Point‘ because it had lots of good running and exercise and healthy eating tips, without being too overly preachy or extreme. It was written by Caitlyn Boyle, the woman who started Operation Beautiful.  Reading blogs is weird – they can contain so much personal information that you start to identify with someone, even though you have never met them. I remember in 2011 when Caitlyn announced she was pregnant, I was insanely jealous and I think reading her bump updates tipped me over the edge to want to try for Samuel instead of waiting for the year we originally planned. Then because we were pregnant ‘together’ (ahem) I would read Caitlyn’s blog as a ‘heads-up’ about what was coming… then she birthed her son and I followed all her posts on being a new parents and figuring that malarky out, while figuring it out myself. And so on… then she had a daughter… she sent me her maternity swimsuit which I used a lot while pregnant with Caroline (it was about the only form of exercise I could stomach after the hyperemesis). Once, she even responded to one of my comments personally (fan girl moment!).

Anyway – if that didn’t make me sound weird and stalker-ish enough, this might: she recently decided to completely stop blogging and I actually felt very sad. How weird is that? I guess I can best liken it to when you finish a fiction book and are all sad that characters won’t be in your life anymore? Know what I mean? But yes, I was actually really sad. I wanted to call my husband and tell him of my great woe, but since he doesn’t even fully understand why I get sad when real live friends leave Houston, I decided to leave that one lest he have me committed…

But, on the same day, another door opened.

Gaining Las.

Las (you can find her here) is someone I have been interacting with for over a year – but never met. It started with reading her blog when a mutual friend shared a post once (so be warned if I read your blog… I may start to think of us as friends 😉 ). Then said friend shared her FaceBook status update asking if anyone could help her find a baby cocoon for impending newborn, as the lady who was supposed to make her one had gone into early labor and wouldn’t be making it, and her newborn shoot was imminent. I love loom knitting, so I offered to do it (I made a cute hat to boot… I’ll ask Las if I can post a better picture, but as her son is in it, I need permission!).

image

I dropped off the cocoon at her house and added her on Facebook and never thought about it again. Then soon after her son was born, Las got sick (learned of this through FB) and so I dropped around a frozen mac n cheese, since I was making one for Wes. We ended up talking on Facebook often over parenting issues, anyway. I have offered to write a post for her blog (which I will do!), and donated money to a few causes that are close to her heart. It got to the stage where I felt I knew her but we’d never met… until today.

All the lovlies

All the lovlies

I confessed to Las (on Facebook… always on FaceBook) that between having a newborn, being sick, having a sick toddler, having a sick newborn and trying to keep up with work, I was close to a letdown (OK, I may have had a meltdown…). Around she came with the greatest gift of all: homemade food. I can’t tell you how much junk food we have been eating and how very, very sick of it I am (I pretty much stopped eating meals and loved off pretzels and cheese strings). OK, maybe the greatest gift of all was some adult company for a few hours, and a playmate for Sam… but a ginger cake, a date crumble, a tray of lasagne, a slow cooked chicken and a bag of pulled pork comes pretty close. Now I have fresh food to eat and someone has come over and not died at the sight of our house (which is in the worst state!) and life is looking a lot better indeed. It’s just a huge weight off my mind to have food, and healthy body healthy mind rings true for me – I feel much better after my lunch of a bagel and fresh chicken, than I usually do after a pile of chocolate and crisps.

So… internet friends. Is this weird? Or is this a ‘thing’ now? Either way, it’s pretty awesome, especially when you are traveling academic whose 2 kids doesn’t let her get out too much.

Internet friends. You win some, you lose some (sorry, I couldn’t resist)..

 

 

Thinking about a social media break

I am a big fan of Facebook. Recently I was challenged to write 3 things I was grateful for, for 7 days. On day 4 I wrote that I was grateful for Facebook as it helped me keep in touch with so many friends near and far. It helps distant family feel close to Sam, and it helps me reconnect with friends when I see them as if we had never been apart. I am not ignorant to the fact that several amazing presents have come my way on the back of Facebook comments.

So, while I do miss actual snail mail, with the tendency to include photos and cool things (and I love my friend Frances’ idea to reinstate the writing of actual proper letter, [and she even goes so far as to get them in the mail]) I am aware of all the benefits of social media. That being said, I am also aware of a growing downside to social media for me. It’s not the classic ‘comparing my outtakes to every else’s highlights real’ (which I managed to work through and overcome that a while ago) but more, the time sink. I have realized that given 20 or so minutes to myself  (which actually is all I seem to find to myself of late) I will choose to zone out in Facebook, even if it several times a day. I wonder if I could be doing something more productive during that time – relaxing, and a hobby, but more productive? Sewing, blogging, baking, walking all jump to mind. Anything other than scrolling through my newsfeed. I have lamented the neglected state of this blog and have missed writing it, but wondered when I would find the time – then I realized all together I probably spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, or facebook-originated click bait.

When I started to think about taking a break, I realized a second down side of social media to me – it’s kind of an information overload for me. I am a member of enough groups and media websites and that I get offered about 200 articles a day on Science, parenting, politics etc; but the thing is: most of them are terribly written. Even ifl Science has been winding me up with the inability to write accurately about a very simple Scientific concept: heritability. If ifl Science describes an 80% heritability as “80% of cases are due to genes” when actually it means that 80% of the population under study’s liability is due to genes, and thus potentially no single case could entirely due to genes, let alone 80% of cases…. I digress, if I can stop smile errors in areas of Science I know, what else is it describing inaccurately to me? Would I not be better off reading articles on PubMed? Along the same lines, do I need to read endless anti-vax articles which make me depressed or enraged depending on the time of day and amount of coffee I have had? Or more stupid, uniformed and inaccurate  comments from The Food Babe? Even more damaging for me: do I need to read parenting articles from pseudo scientists that make me defensive and insecure about a process I am actually entirely comfortable and and at ease with?

When I had a friend who left Facebook because she got depressed about other people’s lives looking so much ‘better’ than hers, I understood, but took the view that I don’t use social media in that way. I don’t use it to compare my life. I used it sensibly. But now, 2 hours + day of mindless scrolling later I wonder if I actually do? It is a great way to stay in touch with people, but perhaps I should confine it to that?

I have two stores that stick in my mind… One is of a friend who describes her birth as “my water broke at night… I went into hospital… after a couple of hours I found I didn’t have to wait for an epidural! I got mine immediately… slept through the night… woke up… waited for my OB and had a baby”. The other is of a friend who casually mentioned she was grateful for doing sleep training with their 8 week old. These stories interested me because both of these decisions: epidural and sleep training I arrived at after WEEKS of agonizing and hundreds of internet articles telling me that both would ruin my child and indicated that I was somehow less of a devoted parent. My two friends had reached these two decisions easily, and seemed oblivious to “the great debates” surrounding them. Ultimately they made the same decisions as me, but without the heartache. And ultimately, if they had made those decisions or the opposite, I am pretty sure they, their children and their families would have been just grand. It occurred to me that both these friends barely use facebook. They post the odd update, stay in touch… but are not the (dare I say) addict I am.

It really got me thinking that perhaps I needed to step away not just from the information overload, but from the uniformed information overload.

I am resolved not to break from Facebook, but to limit my time with it. Maybe a morning scroll in bed, a quick look in my lunch break. Maybe I don’t even need to be on every day?  I have toyed with taking a clean break for a while, but I would feel bad that my family would not see so many of Sam’s pictures. I am hoping that a break will still help stop me sharing everything via Facebook and gets me back to writing a few more blog posts . I am also hoping my stress from silly click bait is reduced.

What about you? Do you find social media positive or negative? Do you think it hold you back and uses up too much of your time, or have you got it where you like it?