I’ve been thinking a lot about a term I’ve heard more and more in the last several years: Microagressions. It’s usually used in terms of how we slight members of marginalized communities. How we’re all a little racist or misogynist. Since that term has entered my vernacular, I’ve noticed a lot more subtle bigoted behavior. This has heightened my awareness of these small behaviors that are often just subtle way to be…well…mean.
Most of us probably look at ourselves as good people. We come forward with donations when a community member needs support, we offer condolences when someone experiences loss, we suffer sleepless nights after global tragedies. And I do believe all of this is good. I know that by those standards I’m very good. But…the more I have looked at my life the last few years, the more I have noticed my own tendency towards small slights of other people (these microagressions) – and it’s making me take a harder look at how I define “good” in my world.
I think the rise of social media and the ensuing surge of stories of terrible people has allowed us to excuse ourselves more and more for smaller slights. I mean, I haven’t gone on a racist rant in the middle of a store and told a person with brown skin that Trump is going to kick them out. But I’ve seen no less than three similar videos of other people doing that since the election. I mean – that asshole is a TOTAL RACIST. And because I see that type of behavior shared out regularly, I have defined that behavior as “bad” and by default myself as “good” without recognizing the smaller negative acts I may commit daily.
You know how we all have an increased fear of kidnappings because our media allows us to spread stories of kidnappings regularly so we feel like they’re common? I feel like the same phenomena is happening with “evil” behavior and we are now looking at these videos of terrible people doing terrible thing and using THAT behavior to define “evil” and by default the rest of us are “good”. But you know what? When I really think about microagressions or small slights, I think I’m doing a disservice to myself and to others by setting the bar so low to be considered good.
So I’m taking time to think about things like my retweets. That’s probably an area where I give myself the most “buffer” area to be mean. I don’t usually use my own words to slight others, but I sometimes laugh at the words other people use and therefore retweet them because I think they’re funny. And somehow – even though they’re mean – I remove any responsibility for them because they’re not mine. Sometimes there are tweets insulting Trump supporters or Christians and they kinda hit home to me and make me laugh so I retweet them but that’s kinda dickish, you know? I mean, do I get to absolve myself of the harm they do because they’re not my words?
I mean, it’s no secret that I dislike Trump and I’m trying my best to be proactive in fighting his agenda. But I think that can be done without being mean. And let me clarify: I DO NOT THINK ALL CONFLICT IS MEAN. I think it’s important in the scope of history and change not to tender-step all of our conflicts. But I do believe there’s a way to be “mean” that isn’t remotely productive and sometimes I retweet that type of stuff because – I’ll admit – it makes me laugh.
If you can’t see that image above it’s a tweet I retweeted that says: “Seriously. Donald Trump addressing Congress feels like a fever dream I had after I had my gall bladder removed.”
And it made me laugh. So I retweeted it.
But then I started thinking about how when people posted stuff like that about Obama I got my feelings hurt. I mean, it’s one thing to say, “This policy is terrible and here is why:_____________” But it’s another thing to say, “This guy on my TV doing his job is giving me terrors…” Do you see the difference?
I’m not saying because I retweeted that I am somehow evil or mean. Or not “good” by some definition. I’m just saying that I am not really looking at my actions alone because compared to the greater scope of the internet…I’m freakin’ Ghandi!
And I know this is the time where a lot of people like to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself!” And I’m not beating myself up over it, it’s just a new perspective I’ve been adopting lately. And honestly? It started with noticing small microagressions from other people that hurt my feelings. Small slights/jokes people make against liberals and their “snowflake” status, or about atheists, or Obama supporters, or feminists. Those tiny comments from otherwise “good” people that prickled my sensitive heart. My reaction to small slights from other people just heightened my awareness of it, and am trying to think about how words have power, not matter now “small” they are.
Just because you’re not standing from a rooftop screaming, “Liberals are ruining America!” doesn’t mean you’re “accepting” of all different political views. Just because you’re not changing your Facebook Cover photo to “F*CK TRUMP” doesn’t mean you’re helping mend the political divide in our country. I just feel like I’m letting myself get away with snarky behavior because it’s not as bad as some, but when I’m on the receiving end of that same behavior? It stings. So I’m reevaluating how I define “good” in myself.
And it’s not even just: “IS THIS MEAN?” It’s also, “WHAT IS THE POINT?” When I leave a comment or make a tweet – is there a point? I mean, it’s okay to just be silly, half of the shit I write online is just silly. But sometimes I find myself playing the, “Me too!” card in a moment that belongs to someone else. Like if someone writes a Facebook status about something difficult and instead of providing them comfort, I take the open door to talk about MY OWN similar problem…what is the point? Is this what the person was hoping for? No. They wanted comfort. Sympathy. How can I provide that without making it about ME?
I’m trying to remember that words have power, even if they belong to other people. I’m trying to remember that being “good” is a spectrum and just because I’m not on the “evil” side, doesn’t mean I’m 100% on the “good” side either. I want to go to bed at night proud of who I’ve been and not worried that I may have hurt the feelings of someone I respect. I want to be confident that I put more good into the world, than bad. I want to feel like I did my best at being kind.
I want to raise my standards.