Social media and social justice when you’re anti-social.
It’s no secret here on Real Talk that Angelo is the prime contributor and facilitator of this blog. He alone is responsible for any success or traction it has had, and I am so excited to see what he’s going to continue to do moving forward.
I know it’s been unfair of me to neglect the blog and leave the responsibility on him. I’ve had a hard time explaining to him, and to myself, why I stopped thinking about this blog and took some time away from social media all together. Last night, I heard a presentation that resonated with me so well, it served as the explanation for my radio silence. I don’t want to share things.
I know it’s bizarre, given that a few months ago I was pretty outspoken on Facebook in terms of starting discussions on controversial topics. That was the whole point of Angelo and I starting this blog. But the latter half of 2012 was stressful on my professional and personal life. Both my bosses had been fired, I was doing the work of three people for no extra money–in fact, I was chastised for working more because it meant I was ‘over-budget’ for my position. And my cousin was very ill, in and out of the hospital until she finally passed onto her real home. I don’t mean to try to capitalize on situations; I’m a straight-forward enough person to admit I’m being lazy when I’m lazy. This was something else entirely.
Last night, at the Association for Women Journalists Chicago‘s annual meeting, Maria Hinojosa said she felt conflicted about using new and social media. Something along the lines of, “Oh, my Twitter followers, I think of you so often. But I don’t necessarily want to share that.” Until I heard this spoken, I wasn’t really able to pinpoint the disconnect I was feeling. What I’ve found is that I’m not alone (read “Anti-Social Media?“).
Until recently, I had deactivated my Facebook and I still don’t have the app on my iPhone. A few months without it was so refreshing. I realized how much I missed inner monologue. I missed thinking about something internally, allowing myself to feel it, and analyzing the need (met or unmet) that created the feeling.
It wasn’t that I wanted so badly to be disconnected from others (I think I was better about tending my relationships without Facebook) so much as I realized I wanted to be more connected to my own thoughts and feelings. Egotistical, I know. I’m a Leo. But as my job entails monitoring news and social media, I honestly feel sometimes like I’m drowning in information and opinions. And I like voicing my own; I’ve continued to have discussions and debates about things that interest me at work and in person. I just wasn’t having them online. This past weekend, at a friend’s birthday party, the birthday boy told me he missed my Facebook posts, because it was always good to see debate done tastefully. That really got me thinking that maybe people are interested in what I think (even more egotistical, I know). But there is egoism in being a journalist. To think that my opinion matters enough that other people want to read it, that’s a necessity for an effective column. Even in straight news, what I choose to report or focus on shows some sense of my perspective, my paradigm. So why didn’t I want to do it anymore?
The only response I can come up with up to this point is that I want to feel the strength of my convictions again. So often, it seems like people form opinions on topics of which they are generally ignorant. I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person, but I know there is so much of life of which I am ignorant. And somehow, it didn’t make sense anymore to get into an argument about why guns matter when 20 children had gifts under the Christmas tree that would never be opened. Somehow, talking about accessing birth control didn’t seem as big a deal when my cousin was dying of cancer. But the thing is, it does matter.
Guns around schools and violence toward children matter. And people being able to get treatment for their health issues matters. It matters a great deal for all families who lose loved ones to these sorts of epidemics, both social and medical. And what I’ve realized is just because I want to insulate myself, and it makes sense to do so when one is grieving, it doesn’t mean I stop the work in which I believe.
I may not work in government or policy, but I do believe that journalism can be active social justice. All the tenets of journalism–some of which Hinojosa mentioned last night at the AWJ event: shining light on darkness, giving a voice to the voiceless, seeking truth–matter, perhaps now more than ever. And I can’t be happy being someone who withdraws from the rest of the world’s problems entirely when I’m dealing with my own. I’ve acknowledged the significance of these things to me and my life, but there is a bigger world at hand and a bigger life to be lived. And the purpose of life, as Leo Rosten said, “is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” I want to keep standing up and being counted. Thank you, Angelo, for holding me to it.