I write to you from the deep heart of Vacation Bible School, and as such I’m whooped! I had a whole post planned out yesterday, about how I’m getting older but don’t feel super old yet and then I kind of fell asleep on my couch, thus creating an argument against myself. Whoopsies!
After I woke up from that deep and not as fulfilling as I would have liked nap, I opened my phone and got on twitter. It probably surprises none of you to know that this was a mistake. I was met by a tremendous amount of anger and vitriol and bickering. A good deal of the bickering was political, which isn’t exactly surprising however disappointing. But even beyond that, people were just being nasty to each other.
I tried to zero in on what everyone was doing on this little social media platform. Why is everyone so mad? I mean, there are to be sure legitimate reasons to express outrage. The situation on our border, particularly with children being separated from their families and made to live in unspeakable conditions. Reading about the situation down there has made me more angry than I can put in to words, usually resulting in pacing the hallways of my office, and at least in my mind that anger is warranted regardless of politics. But then I got to thinking too, that tweeting about the situation on the border, no matter which side you are on about it, is unlikely to change much of anything at all. At best, it just shows everyone what side of a rather polarizing debate that I am quite sure we will look back on with shame.
And that’s what I think a lot of folks are trying to do on twitter. They’re trying to loudly put on the jersey of the team they support. Who’s on my team with me? Who agrees with me? Who’s on my side? Where do I belong? And probably more insidiously, who’s not on my team? Who are the enemies? Who is on the outside, and what can we blame them for?
Now again, this isn’t to make light of the issues at hand. Immigration is a serious issue, but tweeting about it isn’t going to bring about much change. Racism is a serious issue, and a Facebook post is unlikely to change any minds. All these social media platforms allow us to do with issues like these is to draw a circle of exclusion, to figure out who’s with us, and who isn’t.
So, perhaps two things we ought to consider:
Maybe instead of that tweet, go and do something that will move the needle. If immigration is a real concern for you, donate some real dollars to a relief effort. Write your representatives and senators and beg them for legislation to change. Of course (and obviously) vote. Each of those things has 10 times the impact any tweet will have.
Instead of drawing circles to keep people out, what does it look like to be the person who invites people in? What does it look like to be the person who seeks out those with whom you disagree to have a serious discussion? What does it look like to want to learn about the fears (key word) that drive those with whom you disagree? What would it look like to find better ways to manage those fears? What if instead of keeping people out, we tried to bring people in?
I know this is harder than it sounds. I know that this can come off as too simple. But I think it’s a better way forward than just shouting at each other digitally. We need to be better than that. Maybe these little principals can help.