Sunday, September 25, 2016

263. A letter

I wrote this email to a friend of mine. Somebody I have a ton of respect for, who also has differing political views than me.
I read something a while ago, I can't remember where, but it asked, "How many people do you talk to who are different from you?" I think this person was referencing politics. I realized that I don't talk to many people who have differing opinions than me. Most of my friends are white, middle-class, left-leaning folk who are sensible, smart people. I tend to avoid politics with my extended family, and I've filtered out most political posts on Facebook. You're one of my few friends who I know leans right in a political sense.

A lot of my liberal friends have been posting anti-Trump articles with accompanied by passionate polemics. While I tend to agree with most of them, I try to think, who are you really doing this for? Your liberal friends probably agree with you, and your conservative friends have probably filtered you out. As my cousin is fond of saying, "Nobody changed their minds because of Facebook."

I'm not here to try and sway your vote. I don't know who you're voting for, but I trust you came to it through thoughtful analysis and reflection. I'm here to pick your brain about what you think about this election season, and more importantly, the dialogue around it.

I read this article by Andrew Sullivan, a conservative Catholic blogger. It's really stuck with me. It's called, "I used to be a human being. An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too." I would highly recommend it. I read over it a few times (something I almost never do.)

I recently went on a hiatus from Twitter, and I'm starting to take note of how many times I log on to Facebook in a day. (It was eight times on Thursday.) I swore off Twitter for a while after the whole Hillary Clinton pneumonia thing. I didn't need the opinions of thousands of people who weren't doctors. I didn't need the opinions of people who criticized the opinions of people who weren't doctors. I didn't need the THIS. I didn't need the WHAT IS HAPPENING. I didn't need a pot flowing over of takes. I just needed to get away. I don't miss it.

Social media has made us think that all our opinions are validated. We will find our takes validated in some corner on the internet. And then if we put it out to the world along with a "SEE. THIS SO MUCH THIS." I don't think this is healthy. And I don't think that's good for democracy.

I think this creates a deficit of empathy. We're so loud we forget that other people have pain. A blogger I follow wrote something a while back where he, paraphrasing here, said that we live in a world where your pain is not valid because it's not my pain. I can't remember what he was referencing, but that stuck with me.

A few months back, after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, I wrote something on Facebook about remembering that it was a person who died. That didn't necessarily mean everyone had to write flowing tributes to the man, but saying nothing was an option too. (As the old saying goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say...")  A few people bit back on that, saying that I had to check my privilege as a white guy. I wasn't saying that I agreed with any of his decisions. But he was a public figure, with a family, who contributed a lot to American legal knowledge. (He was also BFF with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.) It made me question, are liberals really the compassionate ones? We like to think we are, until we meet someone who has a different opinion than us.

So I've started to step back a little bit. I'm trying to let those little whispers of wisdom in when I see an opportunity. I log off, shut up, and a step back. I've felt a little better so far. I'm still informed, I'm still in contact with my friends, and I'm far less anxious about things. I've learned that not being active on social media does not equal apathy. You just continue living your life in less documented ways. And that's all right.

Hope all is well and I hope we can chat some more over lunch.

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