This morning I logged onto my husband’s Facebook account with the intent to perform a quick search on someone in my community. Forty minutes later, I was reminded of why I deleted my own Facebook account nine years ago. After logging off, I immediately texted my good friend Autumn to share with her what I had seen, read and felt while scrolling. The first post I landed on had been an attack on a nameless mass of people. The instigator had felt obligated to vent about all the ways he felt hurt by and ashamed of the ignorance exhibited by people who held beliefs in opposition to his own. Underneath his post were myriad comments that consisted of name-calling, put-downs, angry debating, snarky comebacks, and a whole lot of invisible pride. It was nothing more than an endless loop of back-and-forth hate-spewing with nothing accomplished, nobody uplifted.
As I scrolled down the feed, I noticed this pattern continue: angry rants followed by angry comments. It looked like a warzone via verbal bombs being thrown around the interwebs in the name of…what exactly? As I continued to read, the pit in my stomach grew larger, my anxiety worsening with each hateful word I stumbled upon. A feeling of hopelessness settled in, leaving me feeling every bit of drained and depressed. Eventually, I made the conscious choice to stop participating in the upheaval, even just as a quiet observer on the sidelines. I logged off.
But afterwards, as I lay in bed thinking about what I had read, I couldn’t help but wonder how so many people don’t make the conscious choice to log off. I pondered the notion that maybe some people don’t realize they have the choice.
What had initially brought on this thought was my puzzled response to the last line of the post I had come across. It had said, “I can’t keep doing this anymore. I’m so sick of all these horrible people who just don’t get it. So I’m done.” I had scratched my head and thought, Who said you ever had to start doing whatever ‘this’ is? Nobody asked you to stand on an invisible platform and speak your piece, and nobody expects you to continue. It is your own self-entitlement that got you here, buddy.
It seemed to me that this man wasn’t aware of how his own actions were creating the frenzy that he seemed to be so disgusted by—how his constant (though unconscious) need to feed his ego was his own downfall. Because let’s be clear: if you feel the great need to stand up to all the so-called injustices that your Facebook followers are clearly participating in (simply because you don’t agree with their thinking), you are being driven by your ego and nothing more. He was Dr. Frankenstein and the so-called agony he experienced at the hands of his oppressors was the monster he created. The rage he felt was of his own doing.
I think we can all agree that it is a tense time in our country. Conflicting opinions, prejudice, stubborn pride, and anger abound as the chasm of divisiveness widens at a faster pace than ever. ‘Canceling’ people and dismissing opinions is the new norm. Entitlement has never been so prominent; if setting others straight means verbal abuse, threats, and violence, so be it, because anything goes in the name of justice, right?
In the past two weeks I have seen this type of behavior displayed not only on Facebook, but also in hateful videos, biased news articles and angry petitions circulating the Internet. This idea that it is revered and noble to tear others down in order to achieve justice is frightening. And each time you or I participate in this madness, whether we are the fired-up ringleaders or the quiet bystanders taking it all in, we circle another lap feeling more drained and defeated than when we started. The high we initially felt wears off, and anger quickly jumps in to reside in its place. Consequently, we tell ourselves that people suck and the world is hopeless.
But it’s not the world that is hopeless. It’s the methods we are using to try and change the world that are hopeless.
Here’s What I Want To Say (An Open Letter To The Instigators)
Dear Facebook Ranters Of The World,
Pride is a great motivator. And yet, we are so often blind to it. Our self-entitlement can easily trick us into thinking we are offering others a service by providing them with what we think they need.
But in your quest to “save the world” and “be right,” you are standing proudly on invisible pedestals and preaching a skewed version of self-proclaimed righteousness. Unfortunately, you are unable to see through any lens that is different than your own. You’ve given into the popular belief that if it ain’t in line with how you think then it ain’t right. You are unknowingly producing a space of hostility and animosity and then blaming everyone else for the way you feel. That’s called victimizing yourself.
If your motive was love, things would look very different in our world today. The atmosphere would be quieter, calmer, kinder. Your actions would be fueled by humility, respect, and empathy. And the results of your actions would be MORE humility, respect, and empathy. A cycle of love would flourish. Can you imagine? I know you can, because I think it’s what you want.
For a long time, I have made the conscious choice to keep the news and social media at arm’s length. This is because I have a clear threshold that I recognized and established long ago.
Well, it’s obvious that you do not set such distinct boundaries in your lives, and this is why you continue to find yourself engaging in pointless conversations and frustrating debates. As a result, you may feel anxious, angry, bitter, and hungry for validation. You probably don’t even recognize the culprit (hint: it’s not other people–it’s you).
See–I think what a lot of you ranters don’t realize is that your seemingly innocent desire to educate the masses may begin as a tiny flicker of pure intentions…but it slowly morphs into a hungry wildfire that rages on through your need to continue feeding the flames. And the flames, of course, is ego. Pride. It’s no longer about your audience; it’s about your need to prove.
You have somehow convinced yourself that your mission is to be a noble world-changer. You’ve accepted the lie that our world is doomed. You’re linking virtual arms with the other Facebook do-gooders and calling yourselves heroes and martyrs, relying on the strength in numbers of the mob. Together you’re getting all riled up. You will stop at nothing to aggravate, tear down, and ultimately destroy people and ideas that don’t fit into your perfect worldview. And you tell yourself over and over again that it’s the right thing to do because after all—you have a moral obligation to stand up to all that is wrong in the world, do you not?
Yet you are unable to realize your own hypocrisy. You lack one of the most important virtues that keeps our world spinning: empathy.
Proving yourselves is hopeless. Fighting with each other is hopeless. Debating over who is right is hopeless. Pushing your agendas onto one another is hopeless. Fear, pride, bullying, anger and hate will only cause more of the same hopelessness that you are trying so hard to erase. We will NEVER all agree on everything, and that’s ok. If you want to SEE change, you gotta BE the change.
And the “change” doesn’t look like what I currently see you doing on Facebook, because change means doing something different. If the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome each time, it’s no wonder you’re so tired and frustrated.
So if you want to see change like I do? Start with love. Say a prayer. Then listen. Once you’ve listened long enough, go and do. Your doing will not look like angry Facebook rants, publicly calling people out, rioting, aiming to get people fired, or shaming others who don’t think like you. You probably won’t even feel compelled to check your social media feeds as you learn what your new mission will look like. Little by little, you will wake up to the power of goodness that has always been within you. You will become so busy and obsessed with spreading love that you will no longer have time or energy to engage in the negativity that surrounds you. Your driving force will be empathy and a willingness to understand—to see the person and not just the political view he upholds.
Now don’t get me wrong, you will still have opinions and you will still feel enraged by the injustices around you. But most of the red-hot opinions that were once your catalyst for change will be replaced with a much softer and more meaningful aura that will fuel you to operate from a higher frequency. In that space you will come to realize that we are ONE universe and we are all in this together. Though our backgrounds, cultures, religions, belief systems and core values are varied, our ability to coexist in harmony is not void.
After all, the common thread that binds us is our humanity and our desperate need for love, belonging and connection.
I believe that once you all understand this simple truth, the walls you have worked so hard to put up will start to crumble. Your fiery ego will be replaced with a simple, neutral curiosity, and your one goal will be to spread love and light because you will recognize that THAT is the true path to real change and world healing. Those in your circle will feed off of your positive energy, because love and kindness are contagious.
A Simple Choice
If you’re like me and a simple social media post can trigger your anxiety, learn to log off. We each have the choice. It is our decision whether we partake in love or hate, growth or stagnancy, empathy and compassion or self-entitlement, pride and projection. Everything we watch, read, listen to, engage in and internalize is a conscious decision that only we alone can make.
Friends, the world needs YOUR light. Even if you’re not a public ranter, maybe you’re a silent one. I’ve been there, too. Next time you feel coerced to correct, demean, or silence someone (even just silently, in your mind), take a moment to contemplate your motive. Does it come from a place of love or pride? Is it possible to gather all the angry energy you feel and turn it into something positive that will create real change and inspire others to do the same? As cliché as it may sound, change begins with YOU, and your quiet, loving actions will do far more good than loud, angry words.
The first step to changing ourselves so that we can change the world is simple: LOG OFF.