Monday, November 23, 2015

Outrage

I haven't been on social media in a while. I've been almost completely off Twitter, and I've been avoiding Facebook pretty strongly as well. Part of this has been due to being very busy with the whole money/work/house thing. But honestly, I started avoiding those places before that, and I didn't even realize it.

I try very hard to be a good person. Like, I'm an asshole. I'm sometimes inconsiderate. I'm sometimes cranky. I frequently would prefer to do the easy thing instead of the thing that I know is better to do. For example: last night I made macaroni and cheese for a food day at work and soup for dinner. And when I was done, even though I knew I should, I didn't clean anything up. I just left all my trash and dirty pots and pans on the stovetop and the counters because I needed to unload the dishwasher before I could reload it and I was tired and just wanted to eat, watch TV with my wife, and go to bed.

I recognize these flaws in my character and I try to work against them. I try to be a good person, to stay informed, and to do the right thing.

What does this have to do with social media? I'm glad you asked, rhetorical representation of a potential reader that I'm using to continue the forward momentum of my blog post.

Social media has been a huge influence on how I interact and think about the world. If it weren't for Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, Livejournals, and even--to a lesser extent--Facebook, I wouldn't think the way I do. It introduced me to and shaped how I think about race, gender, sexuality, class, and a multitude of other issues. I'm not perfect, but social media has taught me tools to at least attempt to be more thoughtful when I consider a subject, and since I'm a white straight male living in a predominantly white area in the US, that's something that I needed to learn.

Once I learned about these types of issues, I couldn't turn a blind eye and pretend that I didn't know this stuff. No matter how much I loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, I can never look at it the same now that I understand the context of Einhorn's outing as the former Ray Finkle and how that plays into a long and nasty history and heritage of shaming trans folks for embracing who they are.

All that is to say that while I'm grateful to social media because it keeps me informed on a multitude of things I think are important, it also started feeling more and more like I was being crushed under a giant stone.

Or maybe a better metaphor: my mental well being was like a stone in a river--every day the constant stream of news about things being broken was eroding away at me.

There's two prominent sides when people talk about outrage:

1. There's too much outrage on the internet.

and

2. There's so much to be outraged about.

Generally, I think that people that complain about "outrage culture" are being disingenuous. It often feels like the people that are the most vocal about there being "too much outrage" are people who were caught being assholes and don't want to own up to the fact that they were being assholes. Sexist jokes, racist jokes, or just plain being mean.

That said, it's exhausting. I would get on Twitter and see people that I generally respect posting about yet another shitty thing happening, and I would think: "God, just one day can we not?" But then that makes me an asshole, you know? Because I'm a white dude. If I don't want to think about racism or sexism, I don't have to. It very minimally affects me in my daily life. There are people who don't have the option not to think about those issues.

So I get caught in a loop of obsessively reading and trying to stay up to date with every instance of shittiness because I feel like it's my duty to be extra vigilant because of my privilege. But I also kind of start to hate everything.

I don't know how to be on social media and not follow those people that talk about these important things. If I don't, I feel like I'm trying to bury my head in the sand. If I do, I get depressed and start to feel like I'm drowning.

Even writing this post is a conflicted activity to me. What right do I have to complain about how any of this makes me feel? This is very much making other people's problems my problems and somewhat making these issues about me. I get that. That is part of the problem.

If you're the type of person that cares about these types of issues, how do you find balance between staying informed and masochistically bearing witness to the horrors of the world like some sort of social-media based version of The Giver?

Anyway, don't worry, I'll post something funny soon. This has just been on my mind a lot lately.