Today is one of those days where I am struggling to get the thoughts and feelings out of my head and into the written word. I’m upset and frustrated by some things. Nothing specifically directed at me. It’s more a part of something bigger. Something that has always bothered me and certainly plays out in my own life.
Also…I admit…I fear that in writing this, what I am going to write about may happen to me.
I am trying to remind myself though that change doesn’t happen by people remaining silent. Change happens when people take a stand.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about feeling exposed and vulnerable so much of the time. In disclosing my gender identity and writing about my journey here, I have left myself open to attacks. In trying to help normalize what people like myself go through when transitioning, I know there are those who don’t agree with those of us transitioning and see me as some sort of target. I know there are those who may not like me, for any variety of reasons, who may try to use my transition as a means to come after me.
No matter how strong I may appear at times, knowing that anything I say could potentially be used against me leaves me fearful of how someone may twist my words and experiences for some other means.
About a year and a half ago, I quit posting anything on my RL Facebook page. In fact, I think the last thing I posted was a photographer of me and the team from my internship site at the end of the Spring 2018 academic term. Aside from that, I have changed my profile picture on my RL Facebook as a means of honoring my loved ones who have gone before me. Aside from that though, nothing. No posts about anything. I MAY log into that account once a month just to look through pictures of my niece and nephews. That’s really about it though.
I sometimes get asked why I would put more focus on my SL Facebook than my RL Facebook. My answer most of the time is that my RL Facebook had become so toxic and unhealthy that it was better for my mental health to disengage from all of that. In the last year or so that I was active on that Facebook page, I saw so many negative things….things I never imagined witnessing. I watched as adults attacked children. I watched as people would attack another person just for having a difference of opinion. I watched as people went through break ups and divorces and used Facebook to ruin good people’s names. I watched as people with zero understanding of diverse populations attacked everyone who was different from them.
It had all become so negative that I couldn’t handle it anymore. And it all came to head with the wife of a good friend of mine attacked the 16 year old daughter of another friend, and when I say attacked…I mean it was horrible..just for having a difference of opinion. That was the point that I said, “No more,” and switched over to my SL Facebook page completely.
At the time I switched over to my SL Facebook, it was fun and entertaining. People were posting funny memes and making jokes in good taste. People were laughing and having fun there. But lately, and by lately I mean over the past few months, the feel on SL Facebook feeds has changed…at least for me.
In the past few months, I have seen posts saying that people like myself deserve to die. I have seen others attacking people because of their race, gender, faith, sexual identity, gender identity and the languages they speak. I have seen people call each other stupid, ignorant, worthless and other horrible things for the smallest differences. I have seen some people become just downright mean to others.
And honestly…it breaks my heart.
Somewhere along the way, I feel like we have lost our humanity in the world of social media. By not having to look another person in the eyes as we tear them apart, we become immune to the consequences of our actions. By not having to hear the pain in someone’s voice, we don’t experience the fact we hurt and brought pain to another human being. We grab little snippets of information and develop opinions of others without ever taking the time to find out about that group on a one on one level.
We have the ability to be so much more connected in the world…yet so many are finding themselves less connected than ever before.
Let me say here that I am not referring to everyone in this post. Obviously, so many of you I know are such amazing people. Most of you…your jokes are in good humor and if someone were truly offended by one, most would be apologizing. Most would work to rectify a potentially bad situation. Most of you would be mortified that you had hurt someone in that way. Most of you probably wouldn’t know that you had the slightest chance or really hurting someone before making a post and would then try to mend fences with someone you upset after making the post.
AND…before anyone screams about free speech and the fact you have the right to say whatever you think or feel…you are right. You do have that right. But freedom of speech does not mean you are not accountable for the words you speak and type. It only means you have the right to say them. It does not free you from liability or criticism for what you share.
Ironically, I used to hold so many views of people that were wrong. I enjoyed being in the privileged Caucasian male class. The first time I started to get a better understanding of how simple comments could be so hurtful was when I was married to my ex-wife…an African American woman. Then, as I began my own journey to finally be me and live an authentic life, I experienced it all over again…and at a totally different level. I experience every day how people treat me differently…which makes me more attuned to how others behave towards their fellow man. Am I perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. I still make mistakes. I still have flaws. I am, after all, human and still learning.
But I welcome that growth and learning. Shouldn’t we all?
I think all of us, myself included, need to remember this when we are posting something, anything, on social media. Would we want our mother, grandmother or boss to see what we are posting? ESPECIALLY as it pertains to comments about people with diverse backgrounds?
If not…then lets all be smart and not press that submit button.
See it on Flickr.
Foxcity – Higher 5m (Head Adjustment with LeLutka Axis HUD)