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The Post That Broke Me
And the swirling cess pool of social media
Is it just me or has it been a particularly difficult week in the world? I've been overwhelmingly disturbed by the unrelenting military assault by the RCMP against Indigenous sovereignty to the north; there are the ignorant and hateful anti-abortion, anti-women assaults perpetrated by the SCOTUS; for at least the second week in a row now people have assembled all over Montana with signs and slogans and ignorance to protest masks and vaccines; and finally—though there is more, there is always more—we endure the continued bloodshed in American schools and what seems to be utter political cowardice in the face of doing anything about it.
It is that last detail that finally broke my will to have any kind of social media presence, at least for the time being, maybe forever, who knows. But I was scrolling through Twitter and saw this image. This is a representative (he’s Republican, duh) from the state of Kentucky and his family:
It horrifies me, particularly considering the context. Even as I was looking at this image, my timeline was full of images of people in Oxford, Michigan, turning out in droves in solidarity with the families of the children murdered at Oxford High School just a few days prior. Also in Oxford another gun-loving family is in jail—father, mother, and the son who did the shooting—for being responsible for the latest murders. Now these clueless people, this Massie “family,” are posting their “happy” image while so many people remain in shock. What a vomitous collection of pasty-faced garbage they are.
Don't take my word for what kind of person Massie is. Reporting on the image and the Oxford shooting overall, the Guardian quotes Democratic US Representative John Yarmuth, also from Kentucky, saying, “I promise not everyone in Kentucky is an insensitive asshole.”
Meanwhile in an opinion piece for CNN, columnist Dean Obeidallah nails it when he writes, “Massie will joyfully celebrate this holiday season with his family as he basks in the glory of trolling people with his guns and ammo ‘Christmas card,’ while the families of those who were killed in the Michigan school shooting will bury their children.”
I don't understand the cruelty of these Massies. The ignorance. The utter lack of compassion to be mugging for all the world with their guns. I look at the grinning faces and I see … well, whatever the concept of evil is that I've struggled to understand, to recognize, how can this not be it? Because evil is not just something that does, it is something that makes the rest of us do. And when I see this family I see the people who refuse to do anything about gun murders, who represent the cruelty and misogyny that we see at play in the SCOTUS right now; I see the guns and batons and pepper spray turned against Indigenous people, I see mindless suckers without a drop of critical thinking who do awful things in the guise of “just following orders.” And I rage, and I wish terrible things on these people; I wish for murder on these people and that is not the kind of person I want to be.
What does social media have to do with this? I abandoned Facebook long ago, and Instagram a couple months past because I think they are symptoms of societal cancer. I know plenty of people justify their use of the applications for various reasons but come on. How much testimonial proof do we need to realize that Mark Zuckerberg and all the billionaires of his ilk are absolutely awful, and that by continuing to use their products we are just heaping coal on the fires of misery around the world? There are no ends to justify the means in using these technologies. They’ve contributed to the smoking ruin of reliable news reporting, they’ve sewn the seeds of ignorance via unregulated misinformation, and worse, they really don’t seem to care.
Shame on me for thinking Twitter was any different. It isn’t. And for the mental health of people like me they are absolutely devastating. Sharing an image like the one of the Massie family generally doesn’t do anyone any real good, does it?I only saw it because someone I follow commented on it and it showed up in my timeline. It’s just one example of the shit that rolls through my feed and sets me off after five or ten minutes of looking at it. Times like this and weeks like this one … it’s just all too much. Nor is it getting any better. I know I’m not even close to alone in feeling like this and I want it to stop.
Others would argue that it’s good that social media allows these people to show us who they really are. But I already know who they are. It’s the same argument I made when I was at the bookstore and Trump book after Trump book was trotted out by all the big publishing houses and I was aghast at all the air they sucked out of the literary world. Who reads these things? Are they the reading world’s equivalent of ambulance chasers? Because if you didn’t know by about March or April of 2017 just how much of an evil prick Trump is, what new book was going to convince you? It’s the publishing industy’s version—well, the entire corporate media’s version really—of disaster capitalism. Trump was the disaster, and they all capitalized as much as possible.
I know there is something about my emotional composition that makes me pre-disposed to being pushed over the cliff by social media. Hell, I was often plenty miserable before social media even existed. I know there are plenty of people who engage with social media against their best interests and they are miserable too. Miserable because our society, and those billionaires and their terrified sycophants pulling the strings behind the scenes, bends so much energy into convincing all of us that we have to participate if we want to be contributing members of society and to do otherwise means we are somehow weird.
So be weird! Truly. We don’t have to engage.
You can step away from it and everything will be alright. Less FOMO, more ETMO. As skilled as I am at finding things to make me miserable, I’m also pretty good at finding some happy spots here and there. An early morning dusting of snow across the landscape on a frigid morning. The coffee I enjoy while gazing at it. A child writing a poem about inventing turkey-flavored ramen that, despite not being as good as chicken or beef, is at least something he invented. A golden eagle riding a thermal above the Bitterroot River. All of these little details that I cling to because they are what make the world special for me in ways that no algorithm trying to guess what to show me on a screen can come close to.
I must make a conscious choice to engage with the world different from what the manufactured world would prefer I do. I am up to the task of engaging in a way that has meaning, and I am so grateful that there is still so much in the world that I love. That I am thankful for. Thankful there are still a couple people who enjoy my company. Thankful for all the spiky flora scratching at my ankles from socks, post laundry, that I’d last worn for a saunter in the desert. Thankful for the small dogs who have suddenly taken so much interest in sniffing around the floor of my office when I’m clattering away here at my desk. Thankful that I can step out on my porch right now and to the SW the brightest lights in the sky are Jupiter and Saturn, and how utterly, confoundingly magnificent that is….
No bad news. Tell me what you are saying “thank you” for.
A “more wretched hive of scum and villainy” you won’t likely find anywhere.
And yet here I am doing it to you to make a point and I apologize for my hypocrisy.
FOMO = Fear of Missing Out; ETMO = Eager to Miss Out (did I just invent ETMO?! Someone call my intellectual property lawyer!)