Monday, October 7, 2013

When Joy is Squelched by Facebook Reality

I sat in my office this afternoon, searching my mind for a positive note on which to end my workday. (It had been that kind of day.)

Amidst the paper, humming electronics and chaos of my corner of Paradise, I saw a photo of my family on my bookshelf, which was taken a few years ago. (I need to update that.) I focused on that, and found my happy place: two of my three kids are still on my health insurance, thanks to health care reform.

While they try to find their way in this world, I can give them the health insurance that takes care of their wisdom teeth, strep throat and (hopefully) preventative care that may be considered more of a luxury in the early, lower-paying years of a career.

Frankly, I think it's brilliant.

It wasn't even a very controversial element of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, if I remember correctly: allowing adult children to remain on a parent's insurance for a period past college was a no-brainer.

I thought it would be a great thought to share with friends on Facebook, a bright spot in my day that may bring them a little happiness, too.

Then, I woke up from my daydream: Facebook is no place to put happy thoughts.

Social media has become a desert of disagreement and debate. If I post anything and, say, Sally disagrees, rarely will she only shake her head ruefully at my "stupidity." Now she can correct me. In public. On my "wall."

For many, the wake-up call was the 2012 election, which turned social media into a toxic well of hate and derision. Among my friends, those who normally kept their opinions to themselves finally "allowed" a flash of heat so great my computer screen was singed. I saw words that shouldn't have been used in civil discourse emanating from posts of people who otherwise were the epitome of civility.

I was not guiltless. I shared pictures and articles that reflected my ideas as well. I didn't argue with people on their wall, but I would share evidence to dispute an error ("Guys, AP clearly states the President declared war on Kentucky, not Wyoming," for example).

The schism has not healed in the intervening years. I still hide plenty of angry posts about politics and religion. However, I'm doing my part when it comes to civility: I stick to photos of books, cute kids and cuddly animals. From time to time, I throw in a few stronger themed pictures and posts, usually centered around violence against women (for the record, I am against it). If someone decides to start a debate, they're on their own.

So, I was cheered in my otherwise drab workday with the thought of my family's benefit from HR 3962, and I wanted to share the joy. I thought about writing a brief note on Facebook, "I can still provide health care to two of my three children, and I'm grateful for health care reform that allowed that."

After an unpleasant Flashback to 2012, I thought about including a cautionary phrase akin to "This is not an invitation to debate, argue or otherwise vent." And that made me both cranky and sad, that I'd have to tell my perfectly nice friends and acquaintances that I was allowed to express myself without their input.

Then, light bulb: that is what social media has become. It's like stepping into a busy street and hoping you don't get run over right away. Oh, you may have to dodge a bike messenger or a texting driver — but if you're careful, you'll make it across the street alive.

So, I deleted my words and I closed my browser.

Silence is golden.

1 comment:

John said...

So you didn't actually post this on Facebook? Dammit, that'll teach me not to read the whole blog post before going off to check out the back story.