Yesterday I was scanning my Facebook feed in the wake of yet another mass shooting here in the United States. There were two yesterday plus a lock-down at UNC Chapel Hill. A friend had posted the breaking news about San Bernardino and I saw a comment that said, “Great. Something else to blame the Republicans for.” As you might imagine, the conversation devolved from there into name-calling and political banter. Nobody gave pause to realize that at least 20 lives had been changed forever. Hypothesizing began about the suspects and the motives. No one seemed to mention that something like this, while always tragic, seems particularly tragic during the holiday season, just like Sandy Hook was.
Many people made posts asking why no one is doing anything about this. There were charges that Republicans are responsible for not limiting the NRA’s power. I’m sure gun rights people were going crazy (I’m not connected with very many of them).
I thought to myself how sad it is that we no longer seem to care about the people who have been killed. We just want to have our chance to have our say, to prove we were right, regardless of what side we’re on. That is when I had the realization that social media, though it can be such a power for good, has taken the spinal cord out of our country’s people. This applies to many people, regardless of religion, race, creed, political party, or beliefs. It has hypnotized us all.
How are we being hypnotized?
Perhaps my story will resonate with you, so I’ll start there.
A couple of years ago, I somehow got the notion that it was really important for me to make people aware of things. Understand, I have no power, no fame, no celebrity. I would get a fair amount of comments and/or “likes” on stuff I posted to Facebook. Somehow, in my brain, that made it seem like it was important that I post important things. “People are listening to me,” I thought. “I’ve got to say important stuff. I’ve got to use this power for good.” And I tried. I tried to promote organizations that needed help. I posted horrible things that politicians said to raise awareness. I pointed to this or that situation and said, “My God, someone should do something about this. Let’s raise awareness.”
I did not see at the time that in reality, I could do something – actually DO something – if I wanted to. I did not see it in part because if something I posted did well, I felt a sense of accomplishment. “I started a conversation,” I thought as I patted myself on the back. “I raised awareness. My part is done. I mean, what else can just little ole me really do? Besides, I have my own concerns.”
They say that social media is addictive because you get that instant gratification. You post something, you get a like, then another, then a comment! Could it go viral?? But this is also how we get brainwashed. Getting likes is replacing our sense of actual accomplishment.
Here’s the ice cold water in your face – perpetually posting about things online and digitally wringing your hands doesn’t do shit.Even if you are famous, you are not likely to change the hearts and minds of people who disagree with you. At least not online. And why is that? Because online part of our instant gratification is receiving verification that the way we think is the right way, and people who disagree with us are uneducated, uninformed, or just plain stupid. We have to prove we are right because that will change the world.
We’re hooked up to the Matrix
You know that scene in the first Matrix movie when Keanu Reeves is shown the true state of humanity? Everyone is plugged into the network and is asleep. That is how I envision us all now. We are hooked into the Facebook, into the Instagram, into the Twitter, and there we create the persona we want everyone to see. There, we are activists because we post a lot, and that’s what counts in the online world.
It’s time to unplug ourselves from that reality. That’s not to say that we should all quit social media platforms. I love Facebook. I’m still connected with people I’ve known my whole life thanks to that darned thing. I learn a lot online (sometimes). But this idea that “they should do something” needs to end. No, “they” don’t need to do something. WE need to do something. We need to do something real, in the real world.
The potential real actions we could take are innumerable, especially considering all of the problems we have to face.
If you want “them” to do something about gun control, check in with Gabby Giffords and her Americans for Responsible Solutions organization. Ask how you can help.
Write a letter to your congressman and senator every week. Every day.
Organize a march or marches against violence in your community.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or buy lots of socks and donate them to homeless shelters. Follow Invisible People to learn about real homeless people and then try to get to know the homeless in your own city. Tell their stories.
Run for political office.
I could go on and on.
One small thing, every day
Imagine if we all replaced each post we do with one really small act of kindness to move the needle forward. For example, I am horrified about what is happening because of Boko Haram. It’s not getting much publicity. I could post about that to “raise awareness” or I could find an organization that is working to protect women and girls and donate to them.
Instead of pleading with someone to do something about the environment, I could volunteer some weekend to clean up a park (I would clean up a beach if I lived near one).
Instead of asking who is going to do something to end violence and shout out against Republican Fascists or “Libertards” (a great term I learned yesterday), I would think about what I can do against this force of hatred. One thing, every day. In the real world.
Of course I realize the irony and hypocrisy of posting all of these thoughts here online and sharing them online. I hope that this sparks a good conversation. But what I really hope is that it sparks people to get up and MOVE. Anything you do in front of your computer screen pales in comparison to what you could do in “real life.”
Let’s break free and try to make the world that we want.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/malavoda/2789900134/ via Creative Commons