So, I’ve discovered another reason for my wrinkles. It’s this facial expression right here:
This, my friends, is the face I make—a whole, whole lot—when I’m dumb enough to peruse the comments sections of politically charged Facebook posts.
It comes with a sound effect, too. It’s a short, gaspy, between-the-teeth intake of air… sort of like the one you make when you get up at 3 am because your stupid dogs have to pee and you run your big toe into the corner post of your bed and you can’t yell any obscenities because you don’t want to wake your partner. (And maybe also because you’d rather your kid not yell DAAAAAMMMMMMIIIIIIITTTT when he runs into a slide pole during recess the next day. And maybe also because Jesus probably doesn’t approve of out-loud obscenities.)
So, yeah. This scrunched-up, I’m-about-to-get-a-flu-shot-and-I-know-it’s-going-to-burn face happens (in no particular order):
- when privileged people question the existence of privilege.
- when white people tell People of Color how they should feel about, or respond to, their experiences with racism.
- when people suggest rape culture isn’t a thing.
- when middle- or upper-class people offer simple solutions to poverty (which often begin with, “Well, if they would just [insert idea that makes perfect sense to people of privilege but is largely unavailable to under-resourced or marginalized people]…”)
- when people assume someone’s differences are wrong or when people make fun of that which they don’t understand, such as the LGBTQIA community.
- when conservative evangelicals declare that one can either be a democrat or a Christian, but not both.
- when any of the following words are applied toward any human being on any “side” of any argument: ridiculous, idiotic, stupid, retarded (don’t even get me started), worthless, or gay (unless the person to whom they’re referring is actually gay and it’s not being used as an insult). Incidentally, I also struggle with labeling people as racist, sexist, and homophobic—but only because I think those are learned attitudes and behaviors, not core character traits. Plenty of people will disagree with me, and that’s all right. Having this perspective is a sort of coping strategy for me; it allows me to deal with people’s ugliness while also remembering they are people of inherent, sacred worth. It’s not easy with some personalities (I’m looking at you, Trump), but it helps me keep judgment at bay. Usually. I’m still working on it.
- when people write things that are simply naive, and I’m certain what they meant to say is different from what they actually said, and I wish I could jump in and rescue them before any of of the above labels are applied to them.
So, I—and my poor, wrinkled face—have an idea. How about if we impose a two-minute waiting period for social media posts/responses? Like, take 120 seconds to ask ourselves some questions:
- Am I being overly harsh or judgmental?
- Will my words hurt or further marginalize a particular group of people?
- Am I putting people in a box, working from a stereotype, or too broadly applying an observation?
- What’s the purpose behind my post? Is it to offer an alternative perspective? Or is to get a, “Damn straight!” from people who already agree with me?
- Have I tried to see this from another point of view? Have I had a face-to-face conversation with someone who thinks differently than I do about this? If so, did I try to find points of connection, or was I just building my case?
- Have I reminded myself that just because it’s not my experience doesn’t mean it’s not a real experience?
- (Here’s a good one…) Have I confirmed that what I’m sharing or commenting on is actually, ya know, true?
- Would I be okay saying this to or in front of Jesus (or your moral compass of choice)?
- Better yet, would I be okay saying this to or in front of my grandmother (or your favorite, cookie-baking, elderly person of choice)?
- Is this worth a response? Or should I be like Bill?
Seriously, y’all. Social media is becoming a wasteland of hostility. Let’s be different, okay? My face thanks you.