Social Media, Fear, Change and Love

It has been a rough past few days.  Even though I thought I had thinned my social media friends to a group of more reasonable people, you still end up seeing the most ridiculous comments come up under friends’ threads in regards to the Syrian refugee situation.  And still there are others that you feel obligated to keep as friends, but at this point I just feel like I can’t do it anymore.  While I feel that it is important to not isolate myself intellectually, what I see through social media does not present me with intellectual diversity, only differing opinions.  Opinions not based on any evidence, but simply fear and rhetoric.  Is it important for me to know that such viewpoints exist?  Sure.  But I know they exist now, and I think it’s time to be done with it.  Let’s face it.  Social media just isn’t the place to change anybody’s mind.  There was one person whose opinion I influenced in my entire 7 years or so on Facebook.  I remember it fondly.  It was a beautiful moment.  Perhaps I hoped I could relive that moment again somehow, but either I’m utterly awful and changing people’s mind, or social media just isn’t the place to do it.  Or maybe it’s both.  Either way the result is the same.  My sanity and well-being is more important, because being bombarded with the kind of people there are out there just drains me of my strength. And I’m not talking about ISIS.  I expect evil to exist, but I also expect us to fight that anyway we can.  Not just with guns, but with the most powerful weapon we have against hate and that is compassion and love.  And I just don’t see enough of it right now.

A lot of the impetus for this e-mail came from reading an article this morning here about fear.  Something I knew, but I reminder of how fruitless the battle is on social media is no matter how many studies or facts you post, ultimately what you are fighting is fear.  People who don’t want Syrian refugees are afraid.  Whether that fear is unfounded or not, this is the culture we live in.  Politicians (especially on the GOP side) and the media love to make people afraid.  People who are afraid are easier to control, the less likely they are to think critically, and the less likely they are to use reason to get them out of that state of fear.  I must ask myself the question then if engaging someone in an issue directly isn’t working, how do I make people less afraid?  I can find no way to easily do that on social media, so I’ve decided that ultimately maybe it’s better that if social media is going to be relaxing and enjoyable than I just need to make it a community that I want to be in.  I’ve thought about dropping Facebook altogether, but with family far and wide, and good friends I want to stay in touch with I know that’s not realistic, but maybe it’s my own weakness, or maybe it’s just age, but I can’t keep getting bombarded with bigotry and hatred every time a tragic event happens and we have the compassionate reaction continues to get treated as the worst idea ever.

To those of you who are afraid.  I wish I could take that fear away.  I wish I could help you realize that statistically, the real things you should be afraid of in this world have nothing do with refugees fleeing for their lives, black people, or gay people.  I wish I could convince you that nobody is coming for your guns, nobody is persecuting you for being Christian, nobody is turning your children autistic or trying to poison you with vaccines, and the anthropogenic climate change is a real problem and not a liberal agenda by scientists.  I wish I could convince you that most people really do want to help you and that most people want to simply enjoy the same feelings of freedom and safety that you have even if you do live in too much fear to really enjoy the life you’ve been given.

Many of you who live in fear, live in a land of what ifs.    I wish I could ask you to ask a different set of what ifs too.  What if things actually get better if we help people?  What if by embracing the unknown it becomes known and we aren’t so afraid anymore?  What if instead of creating more enemies, you gain more friends.  What if defeating an enemy is actually done through compassion than hate?  What if those people who you dehumanize are not that different from you?  What if the difference in whether the outcome of a situation is good or bad, depends mostly on your attitude and that you can make things better simply facing a situation with courage, love, and humility, instead of running and hiding?  And since history teaches that empires often crumble, what I really wish is that you seriously sit down and ask the question what if that destitute Syrian refugee who once had all the comfort in the world but who is destitute, scared and has lost friends, family, and love ones was you?  Really think about it.  Really think about what kindness would mean to you at that point.  Really think about how desperate you might be to even have a remote chance of feeding your children.

And finally to those whose concern for the homeless and impoverished in our own nation have come to the fore.  Assuming you are not just making excuses, then bravo.  We have a lot of people who suffer here too.  We have growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class.  We have a high cost of tuition that prevents many people from getting educated unless they start off life in a great deal of debt.  We have a lack of sex education, we have a lack of social support for families who need more maternity and paternity leave.  We have disparity in public education K-12, and many states that lack funding, accurate historical textbooks, and are forced to not teach strongly supported scientific theories like evolution, the big bang and anthropogenic climate change.  We have a corrupt political system that favors money over serving the people.  We have incarcerated far too much of our population for minor crimes, and a tilted justice system against minorities that prevent them achieving the equal status that law guarantees them.  We have spent vast sums of money on foreign wars that haven’t seemed to make us feel any safer, and have most likely bred more harm in the world than we have helped.  And if this compassion that is overflowing in your heart for your fellow man or woman here in the U.S. I encourage to fight for it every day, not just on days where we talk about Syrian refugees being let into the country.  I encourage you to always be politically active and vote for those people who can bring about the change we need to help our own people.  I even have a presidential candidate just for you. 🙂

You live in a country that over time has helped many impoverished people from other countries.  You have helped women, blacks, and LGBT’s become more equal and gain more freedom.  These are all things to be proud of.  Compassion requires perseverance as well, so don’t ever think you are done.

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18 thoughts on “Social Media, Fear, Change and Love

  1. I agree with you and I wish more people would utilize their resources to become more informed. With that information I think people would become more politically active and socially propel the country forward. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Swarn, a very insightful post; coming from you… no surprise. 😉

    Regarding the impactfulness of Facebook (or other social media forms) toward any significant social enlightenment or change, that isn’t the format Zuckerberg and his executives intended. FB is and always has been primarily a cash-cow for Zuckerberg, its investors, and corporate advertisers. Essentially nothing more, but of course “they” won’t tell its billions of FB-members that; they want all of them to continue believing your personal projected voice/opinion is valuable amongst hundreds to thousands of other projected voices/opinions… in which very few people (if any) are actually listening and digesting anything. In reality, FB is merely an auditorium for a bunch of banging cymbals. 😉
    It is not an ideal format for critical-thinking and life-moving dialogue because the majority of those types don’t have time to spend in such a post-n-comment wasteland. But even when I rarely and reluctantly log-on, I do put MORE money into Zuckerberg’s wallets and bank accounts like he needs more. *slap my keyboard hands!* 😦

    On the subject of fear, which you’ve covered quite well, and compassionate, meaningful change, and how to effectively protest in the highest most ethical humane way, I offer a clip from one of my all-time favorite social movers/shakers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments Professor. I agree with you about Facebook. I don’t know it seems so simple to just join a conversation and present some reasonable information in opposition, but it’s amazing how little that evidence is ignored and the desire to maintain one’s beliefs is so strong. I have changed my mind many times when presented with good evidence to the contrary. Not everybody is like this. I just need to take step back and find more proactive ways to promote humanism in the real world and avoid the virtual one a bit more.

      Thank you for the Gandhi clip. One of my favorite movies of all time and one of my heroes as an activist and scholar. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have changed my mind many times when presented with good evidence to the contrary. Not everybody is like this.

        Quite true. As I quoted in my latest blog-post Walt Whitman agrees with you…

        Do I contradict myself?
        Very well then I contradict myself,
        (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

        It is perfectly fine to consistently change your mind, change your position as facts and undisputed evidence/data builds and presents contradictions to OUR PERCEIVED interpretations…sometimes foolish interpretations. After all, is not this life, this planet, everyone on this planet, and the Multiverse our tiny blue dot floats… all changing every minute of every day of every year and millenia? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Politicians (especially on the GOP side) and the media love to make people afraid. People who are afraid are easier to control, the less likely they are to think critically, and the less likely they are to use reason to get them out of that state of fear.”

    It’s so true. It grieves me to know that by falling for the propaganda, the fear centers of their brain enlarges, increases in grey matter volume, so they literally become enslaved and controlled by fear, thus seeking to control their environment at the expense of others.

    I have very few friends on FB. I am selective. I have under 40. I read a comment from a group that I’m a member of, and they were giving advise on how to screen people that want to friend you. Their advise was that if they have fewer than 50 friends, they are probably trolls. LOL

    I completely agree with you about all this fear mongering being draining of energy and even joy. I have been in a funk for several weeks. I haven’t felt like blogging, either. The last blog post I published was in September. I live in the most religious, conservative state in the Union whose citizens have been so manipulated by political and religious fear mongers, that my state has been ranked dead last in well being across the board, and ranked # one in political corruption.. I live in a country who is quickly becoming like the state I live in. Hell.

    We need each other. We must not give in to the propaganda of fear that stifles critical thinking, empathy and compassion.

    Swarn, thank you for this post. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for being the change we need to see in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support. It feels good to just pour it out of me, and to know there are others feeling the frustration that I am feeling and that I am not alone. Much love Victoria. I wish I could at least give you a vacation from Mississippi!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have seen so many disgusting things posted that flow through my facebook newsfeed that I’ve dialed it back from even going to the site. The things I have seen posted disappoint and discourage me. For as far as we have come in waging a war on inequality we still have so, so far to go. When I see people who I know would give the shirts off there back to help another post the most xenophobic, racist, hateful memes and comments I cringe.

    It simply has highlighted to me the way in which we can dehumanize people without faces. It’s much harder to do that when you put a face on the poor, the homeless, those in the LGBT community, and yes, refugees. It’s easier to shut them out when we don’t personally know someone who fits into one of those disadvantaged, underprivileged categories. Once you put a face on them, once you dare to know someone, empathy and compassion tend to overpower those baser instincts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments Ruth and I agree with you. In some ways I can understand dehumanizing ISIS, even though many of those people were victims at some point too, but it just doesn’t make sense to dehumanize a group of people who were the victims of such violence. I wish there was away to make those self righteous people walk through a refugee camp in Jordan, and it least see the faces of the humans they are refusing to help.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It breaks my heart to see the attitudes of people about those who are fleeing this violence. It’s as if they don’t understand, and frankly don’t care, that these people are victims. I agree with you that social media isn’t the place to influence anyone’s opinion. Anytime I have challenged someone’s thinking either the post, itself, gets deleted or my response is completely ignored as if I don’t exist.

        I don’t understand how we, as a nation, can turn our heads, close our eyes and pretend that we have no part in this disaster. I don’t understand how it is that we can constantly blame the victims of this violence.

        I posted yesterday on my own timeline and got nothing but crickets chirping:

        “What is a hero? What makes one person throw themselves on a grenade for perfect strangers and another run the other way?”

        I hope against hope that our love and compassion will force us to swallow the lump of fear in our collective throats and do the right thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “What is a hero? What makes one person throw themselves on a grenade for perfect strangers and another run the other way?”

          This is very similar to something I was thinking about. In this countries heroes are most often painted as people who wear uniforms and hold guns, but what if the way I want to be hero is to make sacrifices by paying higher taxes to help my fellow man? What if I want to help feed the poor, and the destitute. What if I want to keep safe within the walls of my country people that have nowhere to turn? What if I want to reduce the number of people who have to turn to extremism because they are poor and have no where to turn and in the future end more lives and kill more of my countries soldiers?

          And I too just feel lost in not understanding how people can pretend like we didn’t help create this disaster, how we can just see the suffering and not do whatever we can to alleviate it. It’s not a matter of faith, it’s not a matter of intellectual argumentation, it’s just the reality staring you straight in the face.

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  5. Well said, Swarn, and bravo on influencing someone’s opinion on facebook. I have yet to achieve such a feat, possibly because I inevitably end up comparing people with Hitler. I also only visit facebook quarterly, so my opportunities are limited.

    I was saying to Christine a few days ago how good it feels to have a Prime Minister who is willing to do something bold (and right) for a change. We’re not interested in living in fear and have volunteered with our local multicultural association to help resettle refugees when they arrive. We expect about 300 will arrive in our city in the next few months.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s fantastic Chris. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that said they would accept refugees, which I am quite happy about despite the fact that a good half of the state is passing around a petition to tell the governor no. I am not sure if some will come out this way. A first wave arrived in Eastern PA, but I’ll be certainly looking at how I can get involved if they come to the Pittsburgh area.

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  6. Pingback: We Have No Use for Them | Out From Under the Umbrella

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