“I’m so sick of reading about politics! I want to go back to the days when people posted pictures of their babies and what they ate.”
I’ve seen this sentiment posted on Facebook quite regularly ever since the election – you probably have, too. On the one hand, I get it: politics are complex in general, but this current political climate is especially depressing. Every day I wake up and read the news, I am increasingly convinced we have all been teleported into the plot of a dystopian novel. There are few places one can go nowadays and be completely isolated from news of what is happening in our world. Social media, for many, is a safe space: a place to detox from ”real life” and see what your friends are up to. A place to unwind.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with restricting your feed to only include updates about babies and cute cat videos. What I find problematic is the automatic silencing of those who share anything political, no matter how inclusive or articulately worded the post might be. Frustration at seeing the same thing over and over is understandable, but over time, “Why can’t we all just focus on happy things?” is not so much an exasperated request as it is a micro-aggression: a silencing tactic.
This attitude has potential to become oppressive because it attempts to shame those who feel that certain issues are just too important to keep to themselves.
I am one of those people: I don’t know how to stay silent about issues that are a direct threat to human rights. I am grateful for the advent of social media – Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs – because, as an introvert, these discussions in real-time don’t always work out well for me. I don’t like calling attention to myself if I don’t have to. I certainly don’t like face-to-face conflict. As a writer, I am far more intelligent and thoughtful on paper (or a screen) than I am verbally. My social media platform is a gift that allows me to use my voice for what I believe is a cause for good, even if the same five people are the only ones who read what I have to say.
I have a sweatshirt with a quote from Desmond Tutu on it: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.” My political posts (I swear on my life, I try to write in a way that invites discussion rather than arguments, and I’m trying to avoid posting out of pure anger) are my own brand of activism. I highly doubt that anyone’s mind has been changed about anything solely from a Facebook post, but words have the power to plant seeds no matter what form they take. That is all I aim to do.
At the risk of stereotyping, I have to comment on a pattern I’ve noticed, regarding the authors of the “Why can’t we just stick to cute puppies?” posts: more often than not, they tend to be white. They are, as far as I’m aware, middle class or above, with decent jobs and private healthcare. They do not belong to any minority groups. In other words, they are people who have nothing to fear from a Trump administration. The frightening changes that are taking place will have little to no effect on them personally.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be in that position. The posts I see that deal thoughtfully with politics, that express fear and ask questions, come from people with so-called “pre-existing conditions” that will no longer be treated if the ACA is repealed. They come from friends in same-sex marriages who fear being kicked out of their housing, having their relationships annulled, or losing custody of children who are not biologically theirs. They come from friends who are black and fear the consequences of having a neo nazi in Trump’s cabinet.
By all means, if you prefer your Facebook to be politics-free, that is your right. I would encourage you, however, to consider why it is that you don’t want to see such posts. Do they make you depressed and increase your anxiety? Totally understandable. Are you sick of seeing posts denigrating all Trump voters as being evil and stupid? By all means, hide those (I would too). But if your reasons have more to do with exasperation that so many people are likening themselves to Chicken Little, clucking on and on about how the sky is falling, then perhaps a bit of empathy is in order.
If nothing else, the “unfollow” button is always an option: a kinder alternative to “un-friending.”
Like this post? Check out Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic, now available on Amazon.