An American journalist was beheaded in Iraq. The execution video was posted to several news websites. Some took it down shortly after posting, because perhaps they realized we can be horrified by a story without having to actually see the moment a man’s life is taken. In a different part of the world today, hundreds of people continued to rally for peace or justice or whichever cause they’re taking up following a officer-involved shooting that left a young man dead in the middle of a Missouri street. All over the country people filled buckets with ice water and dumped them on their heads while their friends recorded the reaction. They challenged more friends to do the same, and if they’re doing it right, to donate.
This morning I woke up in my own bed. My dog was curled up in the curve of my waist. That’s her favorite place to sleep. I got up and put some food in her bowl, then unloaded the dishwasher while she loudly crunched kibble. She finished her food before I was done unloading. I made her wait until the last bowl was stacked on a shelf before I took her outside. It was already warm at 7:00 AM. It’s Summer in South Carolina. I didn’t have anything unusual to do this morning. It was all just typical weekday motions. I fumbled through my early morning routine until the first cup of coffee set in. Then I turned on the news to see what was happening in my world.
It was nothing like the world I could physically feel around me. I live a pretty easy life. Sometimes I worry a little about money. Sometimes I worry that my dog gets lonely while she’s home alone. Often I worry about my brother who has a hard time keeping his path straight. But I never live in fear that someone is going to bomb my home, or capture me and cut my head off. I don’t wonder if the police in my community would do their best to protect me if something were about to happen. I don’t have a disease that slowly paralyzes my body while my mind is still alive and aware.
My life is good, and like a lot of my generation it’s often documented on social media. This morning I logged in to my various accounts to see that in their own corners of the world, many people were complaining about the ice bucket challenge videos filling their feeds.
Now here’s my question: how much of your life are you spending worrying about trivial things other people are doing, saying, or thinking?
I quickly became overwhelmed by the number of people I saw on Facebook and Twitter who were annoyed by the way other people were using their social media accounts. A lot of folks are tired of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos on the Facebook timeline, and have no qualms about posting those gripes. This fascinates me. Things go viral all the time. Remember the planking craze of 2012? It had no link to charitable contributions, yet those pictures were posted all over the web. It’s the nature of the internet. We love to see ourselves on it. We love to show what we’re doing right now. Things pick up and spread quickly. Sometimes those things are annoying and seemingly pointless, other times they’re meant to raise awareness or money for a cause. This time, we have a viral trend that is actually doing something. It’s really raising money. The people in charge of funding research for ALS have pointed out the success of the viral campaign. So, maybe your facebook timeline is not as full of grumpy politics as usual, maybe you’re not seeing as many snarky SomeECards, maybe your timeline is doing something — actually doing something. Maybe there’s a little bit of news that can make us feel good for a few minutes. Maybe our world needs that right now.
What I realized while sitting here frustrated by the complaints was this — there’s a whole world of news I should be worried about, and I’m wasting time getting upset because people are choosing to use Facebook to complain about how other people use it. In short, I’m no better than them. I’m wasting energy I could be using to actually do something about the atrocities of our world.
I signed up for Facebook as soon as I got my first college acceptance letter. That was 8.5 years ago. I signed up for twitter my junior year of college during an internship at a tv station. I’ve enjoyed both for work and play. They’ve evolved over the years. I mostly use twitter for snark, sports, and news. I use Facebook to share these posts, keep in touch with people I don’t see as often as I’d like, and post on the station’s page for work. Some of these things are necessary, others are not. The bottom line is this: if I really wanted to go off the social media grid, I probably could. I don’t want that. I like knowing what each of you is up to. I like when you brag about the things you’ve accomplished at work, or how cute your kids are. I like when you bring my attention to a cause that I might like to support. I like to see what is going on in your lives, even if you’re filtering out the bad stuff to make yourself look better.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is this, thank you for sharing whatever part of you that you’d like to share on social media. I’m going to continue to do the same.
But keep in mind, if the way I post on Facebook or Twitter ever makes you angry, just block me.
If it upsets you more than a violent terrorist group’s videotaped murder of a journalist, block me.
If it infuriates you more than the fact that it is 2014 and there is racially motivated rioting making a Midwest town look like a Middle East war zone, block me.
If it shakes up your emotions more than the idea of getting an incurable disease, block me.
If my use of social media ever makes you feel that disgruntled, then by all means, block me. Really.
I probably haven’t seen you since high school anyway, right? 🙂