…likely just tired. Or perhaps you are learning to respond in more helpful ways.
I get it: hopping on social media these days, there are tons of things to get fired up about. From “leftist” to “alt-right” to “libtard” to “fascist” and everywhere in between, we all have opinions about what’s going on. And some of us are passionate about it and screaming at others about why they’re not.Can we pump the brakes on assuming that silence on social media is complicity or ill-intent? Click To Tweet
There are three main reasons why I’m not screaming about the latest thing alongside you on Facebook or Twitter. First, social media is my résumé. Second, I’ve got a real problem with ignorant people speaking out (and I’m ignorant). Finally, I don’t see social media activism bearing as much fruit as I’d hope it would.
Social Media As Résumé
I’m not vocal on social media about really anything other than things related to my job (I see it as a way to advance my career) or (mainly funny) stories from my family life. Even jokes are very intentionally aimed at people who might someday want to give me money.
Every now and again I’ll get fired up enough about something to post on a “serious” topic, but for the most part, my social media feed is very intentionally meant to be a glorified long-running résumé. I show off my least controversial side there.
So the reason I’m not having a meltdown about the latest atrocities in the world is the same reason you don’t answer the first bank teller job interview question with your thoughts on the abortion issue or gun control.
Recognize that in asking me to freak out and/or speak out there, you are asking me to undo the past 10+ years of carefully curating a history for potential employers and/or clients. Just because you use social media for a purpose doesn’t mean I have to.
If I’m not freaking out about your cause on social media, it might mean the downsides far outweigh the upsides. I get that this is a privileged position, and I’ll address that further down, but if you don’t stop yelling at me about being complicit by being silent, you might miss the real reasons I’m silent.
Ignorant People Should Remain Silent
The core issue in my mind every time I start to post some thought about politics or policy or the latest story everyone is freaking out about is that I don’t know enough of the facts to weigh in.
Let’s take the latest issue (at the time of this writing): the separation of immigrant kids from their families at the border.
I’m sure (without even looking) that there is an article at Breitbart or the National Review that is explaining how the liberals are misunderstanding and/or mischaracterizing the story as ICE agents removing screaming children from parents when it’s really about ______.
I also know (without looking) that there are articles at the Huffington Post and Slate that are deep-diving into the topic and showcasing lots of images of kids crying and how Donald Trump could stop it but he’s not.
I’m tired of having to parse an author’s stance and how I should be on my guard against bias as I read “reportage” on the story of the day.
The race to the bottom in journalism has gotten to the point where I don’t trust anything, from either side. News organizations care less about facts and more about clicks, and that makes me have to do the bulk of the intuition work: Which part of this story is selling ads by making me emotional (any emotion will do) and which part of this story is the actual facts of the situation?
Even after reading the deep-dive articles from both sides, my opinion on this particular issue is “it’s really complicated.” But just hop on Twitter and say “This issue is really complicated” and let me know how that works out for you. I predict an even split of “how dare you be ok with kids being separated from their families” (I didn’t say that) and “ha ha libtard not understanding that Obama is the devil/the MSM is corrupt/it’s not actually complicated” (also nearly impossible to respond helpfully to any of that).
It’s easier to check out than to engage when engaging means having to defend that I’m not a monster as points 1-3, and I’m not an idiot as point 4.
I don’t have a solution, nor do I have the time in my life to formulate a solution, so instead I say nothing. My silence is not complicity, it’s avoiding drawing a detailed diagram of a nuanced and complicated issue with my single large crayon.My silence on social media is not complicity, it's avoiding drawing a detailed diagram of a nuanced and complicated issue with my single large crayon. Click To Tweet
My long-term solution to the problem is for fewer ignorant people like me to muddy the waters surrounding the actual solutions by weighing in with my not-helpful “expertise.”
It’s Not Up to You To Determine My Activism
Related to points one and two: I don’t see social media turning a ton of hearts toward change. People are stockpiling memes that support their side, and the “discourse” has become so obnoxious that men and women I greatly admire on both sides of arguments are starting to look more and more like my 11- and 8-year-old arguing about “who started it.”
By not participating in the screaming and hand-wringing, I’m hoping that my actual activism will stand out. As a white, middle-class, theologically conservative evangelical (in the original “I believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God” sort of way), I’m a foster parent working to reunify kids with parents.
I am taking my white kids and their brown foster brother to celebrate Juneteenth to begin to understand the history of our country that I was just not taught growing up.
I am volunteering at my kid’s school, rubbing shoulders with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds and cultural backgrounds and seeking to unlearn many of the things I took for granted as a child.
Perhaps most counter-culturally, I am consciously joining a weekly protest at my Protest-ant church, loudly declaring to the world that my first allegiance is not to a flag, country, or man (with thanks to Derek Webb for the lyric there) but to a gracious King and a kingdom. A kingdom that according to the Bible is chock-full of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. A kingdom where I am learning to put my hand over my mouth more often, and weep with those who weep more often.
Bottom line, if you take my silence on Twitter to be complicity in either side, there’s only one of us who is mistaken.