Fear, Hurt, and Social Media:
Hi, my name is Katie and I am afraid – I am hurting – I am afraid to tell you why I am hurting. But I will try. I will try to explain myself, as best as I can and I will fail. I will inevitably accomplish exactly what I am trying to avoid. But I will still try.
This past weekend was my birthday. I received a great outpouring of love and well wishes, and I am embarrassed that I did not respond to the majority of those posts. But I could not, because I spent my birthday battling a horrible bout of depression that left me sick to my stomach. Why? Because I made the mistake of reading comments on a post I found thought provoking even in its poor word choice and harsh tone.
Authors I had once loved and respected, readers I thought were friendly and inclusive, took to social media to bully and attack an anonymous individual over a poorly worded cry for understanding. I understand that the post was very accusatory and full of generalizations. But to me it was obvious that this man had been hurt and wanted to vent his frustrations. However, instead of reaching out and asking why he felt this way – authors and readers alike attacked his words, his tone, and his anonymity. If I were anon, I would have been afraid to post anything ever again – using my real or pen name – because people were calling for his head. Why would he ever use his real name if this is the way he will be treated?
Now, those who commented on that post, or who wrote subsequent posts may not have intended to come across as hateful and rude, but that is how it felt to me. They may have only intended to defend themselves and express their hurt, but the way they chose to do that only exacerbated the problem. They blasted a poor soul for the same things – they were now doing to him. It hurt me and made me want to run from a community I had, up until this point, found accepting and loving.
I was so hurt to see other people attacking some of the points that I found most interesting about Anon’s discourse. I wanted to be able to point out the things in Anon’s post that, while worded harshly, made me stop and think. Things I agreed with because I had noticed some of those same things and they made me uncomfortable too. Things in that post that pointed to Anon’s hurt – his lashing out may have been masking something deeper. I wanted to discuss the comments that also made me stop and think. Those comments were worded harshly, but also spoke to a different hurt and pain. Some comments I agreed with partially, I would love to have asked for clarification and kicked off a conversation that may have been enlightening. I would have loved to have been able to comment on those remarks that left me appalled and flabbergasted in their hate and blatant disregard for any type of open dialogue, or communication.
Sadly, I didn’t because I was afraid that the same people who I have supported and whose work I have purchased would have crucified me for daring to have an opposing view point. I was afraid that they would latch onto my middle class, cisgender white female status and tell me I had no right to my opinion. I was afraid that someone would challenge me because I could not (or would not) show them evidence and statistics, or any other research, as to why I feel the way I do, as if I need to have my feelings supported by numbers or tweets for them to be considered valid.
I was afraid that people would pick apart my grammar and use it as another way to invalidate my thoughts. That people I have come to respect would block and/or report me because my post may have been misinterpreted, and instead of having a clarifying conversation, they would run roughshod over me in their effort to disprove my words.
I was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want it to be my turn to be attacked, belittled and bullied into guilt for feeling as I do. I have made that mistake in the past and it was not pleasant. And I watched it happen again this time when several well intentioned gay men tried to explain their reactions to the post and the subsequent comments.
So when Anon’s post once again lead to outrage and hatred, I took a step back from social media and realized that I don’t know if I want to come back into this community that professes to love and accept all – accept, until someone says something they disagree with.
Hi, my name is Katie and I am hurt – I am now afraid to be a part of a once beloved social media community. And I am afraid that no matter how many thoughtful or loving comments this post may receive, some will still feel the need to invalidate my feelings because maybe – just maybe – I touched on something that hurt them, or made them see something in themselves that isn’t pretty. Now, I am afraid that the instinct, to deny, vehemently and angrily, the possibility that anyone with a different opinion may have a valid point, will prevail – instead of opening up a line of thoughtful conversation.
So where does that leave me and those like me? What do we do when a few have ruined it for the many by leaving community members hurt and afraid to speak their minds?
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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