One of the things I hate about social media as it exists at this moment in our cultural context is that when something Big happens in our country or in the world, those of us who are on Facebook, Twitter, etc. feel a compulsion, almost an obligation, to respond, and to respond on our personal timelines immediately. You start to feel that if something Big is happening, and you choose not to post about it then you aren't Doing Something or you aren't Caring enough. Unfortunately, what you see from many who post their support, chagrin, grief, whatever the response, is that they tend to come off seeming like they are jumping on the bandwagon, but often people don't really understand the issues, but, hey, posting about it is Doing Something. Because to not post anything will be interpreted by all the followers that we Don't Care.
Here is the thing, though, I think we need to be careful not to assume that just because someone who is active on social media isn't posting about the Big Thing, does NOT mean we aren't at home praying, watching the news, caring a great deal - we just choose not to jump too quickly to share an opinion or stance on the bandwagon of social media until we can suss out all the nuances and complexities. And even then, sometimes social media IS NOT THE PLACE for all of our reactions to be shared.
The longer I'm on Facebook and Twitter, the more I'm realizing they are hurting our ability to think deeply about serious issues. Most Big Things are not summed up in pithy soundbites. Most Big Things have many complexities and angles to them, and in order to understand them sometimes we have to move away from black and white, stark right and wrong snap judgments, to a place where we can hold two or more thoughts in tension at once. There usually isn't one totally good actor vs. one totally bad actor. Very often there are complex issues. And social media is tending to lead us to think we can soundbite our way through understanding and it is narrowing our abilities to have nuanced discussions, and that is also polarizing us into various camps that end up unable to understand each other or even able to assume the best of each other or find common ground with each other anymore.
That was all very vague, I know. the first part of this post isn't about one specific instance, but more my view from the perimeter as I have been on social media for more than 10 years now and as I've been watching how these things play out.
But now, more specifically, I am thinking about this most recent Big Thing, the Russia invading Ukraine thing, that we are all watching unfold before the world stage. Early on, I saw some amazingly stupid reactions on Twitter and Facebook and saw some colossally stupid hashtags in response to it all. My daughter was bemoaning how frustrating it is when the teenagers and influencers she sees on Instagram start hashtagging and posting and it's obvious they think they are so morally superior and Doing Something with their posts, yet they obviously don't really know what they are talking about at all. I agreed. Frustrating for real. And the sad thing to me is that people don't seem to want to go beyond the initial Do Something kind of reaction to think deeply and start to really understand the issues - of this or of whatever the next Big Thing may be. It is Enough to have made a post, preferably one that goes along with the popular narrative. Allie Beth Stuckey said the other day something along the lines of how liberal progressive white girl social media is the worst. I tend to agree with that - most of the stupidest of the stupid hashtags and responses I saw were from that quadrant, two of which left me just gobsmacked at how embarrassingly naive and ignorant they were, and I'm being vague on purpose. My point isn't to call out anyone, just to make an observation. And I am acutely aware that it is a bit hypocritical of me to post my qualms about the nature of social media discussion on....social media.
Anyway, now that I've got my rant out of the way, I did have some thoughts about the whole Russia invading Ukraine thing, but I'm not going to make the mistake of thinking my sharing this is Doing Anything, except that it helps me to hash out my thoughts in this space, and I am not going to assume I have any kind of solid grasp on what is a fluid and evolving situation. My son is pursuing a double major in Russian Language and Culture and History - where he tends to focus on European History, and he has been really helpful to me in trying to get some understanding of what is happening in our world. The thing is, that help is coming in the form of very long and complex conversations, because these things are not easily understood, and not easily explained in a sentence or two, and certainly not in a hashtag or soundbite.
I tend to process heavy things with music, and there are two songs that often come to mind when Big Things come across our attention and I'm trying to process them. The first one is this:
I like this one because, honestly, when I go to pray about things - and though right now it is Russia and Ukraine that are weighing heavily on my heart at the moment, there are also many other things going on in the world that I'm feeling heavy about as well (like what's been going in Canada, for one, wowza, and many other things, too) - often I just do not know how to pray, and my most urgent prayer is often, "Lord, have mercy." I am thankful that the Holy Spirit groans with groanings that are too deep for words and when I do not know how I ought to pray, He intercedes for me. The greatest comfort that exists is to know that God is sovereign, He knows what the need is and what the desired outcome is much better than I could ever imagine or put into words, and if He allows even this, He has a purpose in it, and I can pray for His mercy, and I especially pray for His people who are in the midst of turmoil today.
Next is this one:
I can't listen to this one without tears, because whenever there is turmoil in the world, children and the vulnerable will suffer most grievously. We are already seeing heartbreaking things from Ukraine, and it should hurt all of us who hate tyranny and the immorality of what is transpiring there.
So, I guess my thoughts I'm processing today, if I sum them up are:
1.) Maybe we would all be wise to be slow to hashtag respond and quicker to seek to understand the issues.
2.) For myself, I need to be slow to judge those who are quick to respond and assume the best - we really do care, maybe it isn't just for show.
3.) For all of us, don't assume that just because someone doesn't post about Important Things on Facebook that they Don't Care. Many of us are watching the news and caring and praying deeply, but, I know for me, I just don't choose to use my Facebook for it most of the time.
4.) Learn to think deeply about things. Don't just listen to the headlines of one news source or the hastags of so-called influencers. Look at complexities and realize people and motives are more complex and nuanced than hashtags, and ALL media outlets have biases, I do not know of any neutral sources, and, to be honest, there are very few trustworthy voices left these days. Learn to weed through bias and seek to understand. It will take work and time.
5.) Pray for Ukraine. That's never wrong to say, and for most of us it is very much the right and best thing we can do today.