Dear Facebook Circle: Could You Do Me A Favor?

facebook-meme

I love that you’re all here. I’ve intentionally set my page to “public” with the idea of welcoming people from all over the world with their varying opinions and perspectives, and I appreciate the diversity. I enjoy the stories you tell, pictures you post, articles you share, events you holler about, even the animal videos (I LOVE the animal videos!). I also appreciate civil thought-provocation by way of opinion pieces shared; I occasionally engage in respectful debate (though less so these days… it’s so circuitous!), and I do think it’s essential to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us.

But it’s a delicate balance, a pendulum swing between “being informed” and “being bombarded”; between “having an opinion” vs. “being an a-hole about it.” And that balance often gets out of whack and in need of fine-turning. And while, in the spirit of self-preservation and mental health, I encourage you to turn off the TV, step away from relentless news, and stop reading everything written on the disasters of the day, I also think there are some simple adjustments we can make, even in how we engage with each other on social platforms such as Facebook.

So can we try this? For the sake of NOT being part of the toxic noise about things over which we have no control, I make these few simple requests, in no particular order:

  1. If I, say, post a piece celebrating a 1%er donating money to an important cause, supporting a good law, or pushing for a raise in the minimum wage, could you do me a favor and refrain from snarkiness about how much MORE that person could’ve donated, what else he spends his money on, why he’s an idiot, or how come he didn’t do more? He donated. He helped. He put effort toward something good. Excellent. It’s being acknowledged. Let’s leave it at that.
  1. If a piece is posted about, say, positive efforts being made on the ebola front, please don’t respond by then sharing every single fear-stirring article about who else has been infected, how many have died, how no one is safe, etc. Read Frank Bruni’s article, Scarier Than Ebola to put things in proper perspective and go get a flu shot… or your kids vaccinated. You’re not going to get ebola. Neither are your children. The media is already working overtime to pump this evolving story into a lather; how about we “rise above” on our social media pages and stay focused on the positive, the real, the actual? If you think immersing yourself in the negative, particularly regarding issues of health and welfare, has any social, physical, mental, or emotional benefit, odds are you don’t feel good a lot of the time. I urge you to turn your thoughts to healthier perspectives. It works, I swear.
  1. I beg you, please reconsider posting ANYTHING further about what an idiot Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, or any of that particular cabal are. We ALREADY KNOW. It really, truly IS better to ignore people of their ilk. Unless they’re physically setting fire to a room, standing with a knife at someone’s neck, or flying to Russia to “negotiate” with Putin (and would we put that past Palin?), they are nothing but gaseous air intended to prick public response. And when you post and share stories about them, you are doing exactly what they want you to do! Publicize them! Make them viral! Get them more attention!! They need that like vampires need moonlight and blood. So starve ’em out. Ignore them. Unless it’s Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert skewering them, unless you’re taking actual steps to shut them down, stop feeding the beast. I’ve taken a vow to never again write, read, or share anything about any of them…. will you join me?
  1. I get why people are mad at the police. I’ve been mighty mad at the police a few times myself, as anyone who reads my columns can attest. But in every case involving “bad cops,” including my own, it involves SOME bad cops. Only some. Not all. Not every cop is a corrupt, racist, psychotic sociopath. MOST are good people working at an incredibly, ridiculously dangerous job that has got to be draining to the heart and soul of any human being. So posting a relentless string of “bad cop” stories is, like posting bad Muslim stories, an act of propaganda. It focuses attention on a certain element, a small percentage, the extremist edge, of a much larger group, and stirs up negative feelings intended to spill onto ALL of that group. Please stop. It’s not helping; it’s fomenting. Unless you’re authentically participating in some tangible, physical action towards righting wrongs or promoting the advancement of deeply needed awareness-raising related to our racial divides, you’re only creating more divides. Don’t be that guy in the town square endlessly waving pamphlets about what’s wrong with the world. Either sign up for a community action group or focus on who and what’s improving the situation.
  1. Let’s acknowledge this plain and simple fact: the Middle East is a quagmire. Part of why I loved The Honorable Woman was its stunning authenticity in showing just how much of a quagmire, even for those most invested and most desirous of peace. None of us here on Facebook, other than potentially having ethnic ties and certainly our opinions, have hands-on involvement in that situation, so how about we do what we can to not contribute further to the quagmire? Abstention from posting incendiary, fear-mongering, rage inducing, propagandizing pieces would be a good start. Because it doesn’t help. Amazingly intelligent and peace-focused statespeople the world over have struggled to find solutions to this relentless situation, a situation that encompasses nuances, enigmas, ancient wounds, historical precedence, and arcane, ethnic influences that we here on Facebook are not privy to. We’re not going to solve it on social media so how about we at least try to not throw verbal grenades into the public theatre? Promoting peace can be as simple as not promoting dissention.
  1. And lastly, and certainly on a lighter note, if I post a review of something I like, a ramble about my day at the beach; share a well-written piece about the President, or exhibit my opinion about something relative to my worldview, could you do me the favor of not immediately following with a comment in disagreement? It’s not that I mind opposing views, but there’s a time, a place, and certainly worthier topics than, say, the state in which I live or a film I happen to like, with which to argue. There seems an almost knee-jerk response from some to immediately, and likely without much thought, jump on to register an opposing views as if it were their moral duty. I call it the Ego of Opposition. Know this: it’s not required. And when it’s in service to the most mundane of issues, it only serves to make you seem unfriendly, curmudgeonly, negative, egotistical and passive aggressive. So how about this: I won’t go to your page to assert my disagreement to your review of Gone Girl; I won’t jump on your thread to knock down your lovely remembrance of a place you visited that I don’t like; I won’t argue politics (because we all know that’s a rabbit hole), and if you post something incendiary that I think promotes fear or hate, I may refute but I’ll do so with reason and civility. Anything else I’ll take it to my own page. I’d appreciate it if you do the same.

I realize some of you will disagree with this list (of course! 🙂 ) Some of you believe there’s merit in posting about every bad thing in the world, spending time on social media debating (aka: screaming at each other); some of you even believe we’re obligated as good citizens to participate in these ways or we’re not engaged, informed, or involved. Okay. That’s your opinion.

Mine? This world can be a difficult place, surely it is for many, but most of us here in this Facebook circle are the fortunate ones who get to make decisions about how we live in it. And in all my years as a writer, a journalist, an observer of life, and a member of the human race, I have not seen one good thing evolve out of mindless opposition, knee-jerk contrariness, or the fanning and focusing of negativity. We have the power to promote positive action, and we should; we have the obligation to take positive action, and we must; but we also have the ability — the need — to use our words more wisely, more judiciously; more compassionately. I’d like to encourage that. Thanks.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Advertisements

Cultural Noise: Remember When It Was Quieter? It Still Is…

View from our deck

I just got back from a working vacation in parts of the northwestern USA that are so gorgeously bucolic and blessedly detached from the grind of urban life that one can’t help but be reminded of just how noisy things out there have gotten… and how quiet they can still be!

It is a noisy world we live in, isn’t it? Particularly when so many insist on being permanently tethered to news and media, with TV sets blaring all day, smart phones ever at the ready, the Internet in all its tabloid permutations bleating a litany of tragedies and travesties from one end of the globe to the other, those of us not living in war torn squalor, profound poverty, gangland violence, or insidious oppression, can almost feel guilty for our relatively unscathed lives. And even if we refrain from such misguided tendencies, we’re still spending too much of our time fending off anxiety, fear, worry, or seething commentary from the worst amongst us, discovering that just laying one’s head on the pillow is a trigger for loud, internal late night chatter.

I’ve seen more and more posts on social media from people bemoaning the vitriol and hissing ignorance of so many who have  somehow become “experts” on issues of the Middle East or the Ukraine. I’ve read head-shaking online conversations in which someone’s expression of gratitude for a good life is attacked by trolls who’ve decided expressing gratitude shows lack of compassion for the suffering (because trolls know all about compassion, right?). I’ve talked to people who are SO convinced that horror and dread is around every corner based on endless ticker-tape reporting of horror and dread worldwide, they can barely acknowledge a beautiful moment without waiting for the axe to fall.

Foggy Lighthouse_sm

NOISE. Noise couched in news. Noise that is so relentless that we begin to feel that war, violence, hate and poverty are all there is to the world… and that’s simply not true. It is, simply, all we hear about. Which creates the delusion of “darkness descending everywhere.” It’s not and we cannot immerse ourselves in every tragedy, every war, every historical feud, every horrifying injustice, without taking a toll on our mental and emotional health. Doing so is as unbalanced as eating nothing but dirt and expecting to be healthy.

We are now and forever so connected to the collective noise of the world-at-large that QUIET and SERENITY are almost an unfathomable concepts. But think about it: we didn’t used to have all this chatter around us. We used to be able to watch an hour or two of news, then get on with the business of living our lives. Now “living our lives” is composed of never-ending bouts of watching, reading, commenting, fearing, yelling, trolling, posting, defending, attacking and deleting, to the point that serenity and detachment is a lost art. We can blame the culture, blame the Internet, blame new technology, but it’s all about us. We have the power to turn it off and go find that lost art.

Do. Get it back. It’s essential. And it’s there to be had; you deserve to  — but WAIT, you yell! How selfish am I if I revel in my own good fortune, enjoy my own peace and serenity while people elsewhere are living in literal hell? I can’t put my head in the sand!! I have to be engaged, involved, immersed in the world around me, so I can be a good citizen or, hey, even just have enough information to be able to scream and yell on social media with other marginally informed people!!

Right. As my therapist used to say: “and is that working for you?” No.

Here’s the thing, and I’ve said this before… many times: Screaming and yelling at each other on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit is NOT activism. It’s screaming and yelling at each other. Spending countless hours watching and listening to profoundly biased anchors on cable news and talk radio is NOT getting informed; it’s being propagandized to. Stockpiling weapons, joining militia groups, being “anti-government” and stashing duct tape is NOT being pro-active; it’s being fear-based and paranoiac. Wringing hands and lying sleepless at night roiled in anxiety after endless articles on the very worst of people and the most catastrophic of life events is NOT being informed and involved; it’s being oversaturated and toxified. None, not one, of these things does one bit of good for the children in the Middle East, the Eastern Europeans in their battles with Russia, the starving children of Africa or elsewhere, or the beleaguered young women in repressive countries. None.

Sunrise On Whitefish_sm

I don’t know why any of us land where we do on this planet, how we end up in the families we do; why some of us are born in war-torn regions and others have parents with endless wealth. Depending on what you believe it’s either all random, dumb luck, or some kind of spiritual path set in motion in another realm. But whatever it is, you living in Van Nuys, California with a good job, a healthy family, a decent marriage and the chance to get out of town from time to time are NOT obligated to feel guilty, or not enjoy your abundance, because someone in Gaza is being blasted to hell by rockets. None of us knows why any of us ends up on the paths we do, but denying and negating your own is not the answer.

The answer is twofold. First: if you are so compelled, and it would be good if you were, do what you can for those for whom you feel concern by allotting appropriate attention and energy to sending money, volunteering, writing meaningful articles, doing honest due diligence upon which to base opinions, educating others, raising your consciousness, and promoting and exemplifying tolerance, peace, and sanity.

Then, when you’re done with all that, there’s the second step: go live and enjoy your good life with gratitude, acceptance, kindness and compassion. If every single person who could do that did, the positive energy swirling around this planet would surely raise the bar of humanity a notch or two… of this I’m convinced.

47a. The Blue Canoe

So in following my own prescription, my family and I take every opportunity to go to wherever we can to find stillness and beauty. To revel in peace, nature, and serenity –  “But I can’t afford it,” you holler. “Lucky you, but not everyone has that kind of time or opportunity,” you admonish.

That doesn’t hold water. Because no matter where you live or what your budget might be, every person can find some place of solitude, some corner of nature and beauty where they can lower the anxiety and feel the quiet that exists away from chattering humanity and its machines. I had a creekside oasis in my childhood hometown where I could ride my bike to climb into a tree and sing show tunes surrounded by long grass and dandelions (for some reason “Shall We Dance?” was a favorite! :). A friend of mine used to find her spot in a big city park where a grove of trees surrounded a bench where there was surprisingly little traffic, human or automotive, to disturb the sound of squirrels and swaying branches. Another friend makes it a pilgrimage to drive to the beach at every opportunity; another, to hike the Hollywood trails; yet another to prioritize funds to get out of town at least once or twice a year.

Whatever you have to do, whatever you can afford to do, find your quiet. It exists out there. I promise. It takes a willingness to detach from our addictive, mechanical informantst but, trust me… it’s worth it. There’s a beautiful, quiet, peaceful world out there just waiting to be heard.

All photographs by LDW.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.