Sometimes, there are events in life that prove to be a major catalyst for personal change. This past presidential election proved one for me. By early last summer, cursing out my television on a nightly basis was traded in for putting that proverbial pen to paper because, frankly, the only other choice was a straightjacket. The rewards were twofold: channeling my anxieties into a productive endeavor was intensely therapeutic, while my two-year-old became far less likely to drop an ill-timed f-bomb. (Kids say the darnedest things, don’t they?)
Having been met with modest success, I continued to write about politics. For a stay-at-home mom whose definition of success in recent years included showering and other hygiene-related basics, receiving praise for essays on domestic policy and electoral politics felt pretty damn great.
I was like a new woman. Refreshed, ambitious, curious, exploding with energy. It was almost as if tiny humans hadn’t spent the better part of five years performing cruel sleep deprivation experiments on me. Guys, I was flying on top of the world!
That is, well, until the internet police came out in full force. They came dressed in oversized tee-shirts and garishly patterned leggings to inform me that I had been committing some major social media crimes.
Somewhere between marketing their home-based-business every fifteen minutes, these self-appointed officers found time to let me know that my politics were an unwelcome addition to their newsfeed.
And, look, I get it. We’re all mentally exhausted by the monumental clusterfuck that was the 2016 presidential election. But I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of being civic-minded and politically engaged, even more so now that I am a mother. So while I understand that we’re all beyond burnt out on cable news topics, I don’t see the difficulty in simply scrolling past commentary you don’t want to see. Besides, it’s not like I’m posting every fifteen minutes or anything.
I should’ve known that wouldn’t be good enough for the internet police, though.
It started with simple warnings, like the officer who neglects to write a ticket but reminds you of your duties as a responsible driver. It could be worse, sure. But you’re fairly certain you detect a dose of unwelcome condescension. There are the passive aggressive posts, the sudden disinterest in neutral subjects, the “unfollows.” How does one find out about the “unfollows,” you ask? See the aforementioned passive aggressive posts.
All of that may be annoying, mildly deflating even; but it pales in comparison to phase two: community service.
At this point, the legging-clad police officers instantly transformed into a disquieting combination of judge, jury, and infomercial-on-loop.
Despite having been publicly chided and electronically shunned for the impropriety of speaking about politics (the horror!), I found myself bombarded with unending requests to attend live Facebook events. I was added to weirdly enthusiastic groups without consent (like flamingos-on-your-pants-should-be-the-life-goal-of-every-self-respecting-woman kind of weird). I became paranoid that a box of overpriced clothing would appear on my doorstep with a bill at any moment. It was as though I was being strong armed into donating my time, energy, and money toward endeavors deemed worthwhile by the very people actively rebuking my own causes. All this because money knows no political affiliation.
It’s not that I had never been on the receiving end of social media marketing before. But this was different. I had already been dismissed, cast aside for my views. I had essentially been declared useless by people who had once enjoyed my company — useless that is, except for my check book. Where before I could overlook such forceful marketing and move on with my day, I suddenly felt taken advantage of. Each cookie cutter business-related message oozed with a disturbing insincerity that became increasingly difficult to ignore.
(Pro tip: Legging ladies are now as ubiquitous as the Tupperware parties of the 90’s. I can’t stick my foot out without tripping one so, rest assured, being a judgmental jerk will get you replaced in a hurry. You are expendable.)
However much I may disagree with your strategies, I do hear you though. I know you believe social media is best served as a tool for inspirational quotes, lighthearted stories, and, of course, selling merchandise. I am aware that you find discussion of politics (at least those that don’t reverberate through your own echo chamber) to be uncouth, even tacky — a stunning lack of self-awareness from a crowd eager to model leprechaun-clad clothing with a pot of gold buried in the crotch.
Differing fashion senses aside, I’m ready to make peace. So here’s my mea culpa, friends: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my politics make you uncomfortable…
…but perhaps a little discomfort would do you good.
Making a living off butter-soft pants, it’s understandable that you would eschew any sort of irritation. Hell, your life better be all rainbows and butterflies for the absurd price of some poorly-made polyester-blend fabric.
But while you’re busy clamoring over the newest seasonal prints, it’s important to remember the many people who will never be afforded such luxuries. Their hunger can’t be solved with an “unfollow.” Their sickness can’t be cured with angry-face emojis. Turning a blind eye to their plight doesn’t actually take it away. In fact, your revulsion to being made uncomfortable only perpetuates their unimaginable suffering.
So resist the urge to roll your eyes the next time political commentary makes its way into your newsfeed. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. Get used to the feeling, because that’s where growth happens (and also because someday you’ll be forced to slip into denim again).
Just know that I don’t write with the intention of upsetting you. The goal isn’t to be unbearably obnoxious. And, I would suspect, you might say the same of your sales techniques. I write because I feel an obligation to use my voice for change, however small that might be.
Listen, we’re all just doing the best we can. So let’s make a deal: I’ll stop writing about politics when you stop shoving your leggings down my throat.
Now can we all agree that such a compromise is as useless as bombing a Syrian airfield without destroying the runway? (What? Too soon?)
It’s never going to happen. We’re both passionate about what we do — and that’s okay, because there is no single way to use social media. The internet is big enough for the both of us. So consider putting away that internet police badge for now. It’s divisive, unnecessary, and frankly, it totally clashes with your outfit.
(Originally published on ScaryMommy.com – 14 April 2017)