Rules of Engagement

Lately I’ve noticed these trends of black holes of negativity forming on the internet in social spaces (Twitter, Facebook, etc) around cultural and political news. What I mean is that chatter around these events grow in such a way that nothing productive comes out of the conversations anymore and anyone who actually has something new/interesting to say gets sucked into the void with the rest of the negativity. In order to avoid getting sucked into this phenomena, I’m trying to change some of my approaches to current events and the discussions around them online

Avoid Hot Takes On Hot Takes

I noticed the Hot Takes On Hot Takes phenomena when Amy Coney Barrett’s name was introduced as one of POTUS’s considerations to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Suddenly, I was seeing a lot of “Criticize her legislative actions, not her religion,” stances which was strange because…well…I only saw people criticizing her legislative actions. I’m a staunch pro-Choice liberal so if I wasn’t seeing people in my circle criticize her religion, then was it something I needed to comment on? And of course after that wave there was the inevitable wave of people saying, “We are not criticizing her Catholicism! We’re criticizing her extremism!” which became Hot Takes on Hot Takes on Hot Takes.

See why the Black Hole analogy works here?

Sometimes I think we see people saying, “Don’t do this thing!” and we agree! No one should do that thing! And so we also say, “YEAH! Don’t do this thing!” When, in reality? Only one person was doing the thing and now we have 5,000 people writing about how we shouldn’t do it. Which, in turn inspires 10,000 people to write to/about those 5,000 responses and the original trigger response becomes more and more irrelevant.

I found myself thinking this yesterday when I kept seeing people say, “It’s possible to be pro-Choice and still grieve a miscarriage! People should quit saying Chrissy Teigen’s grief is fake!” I even almost typed my own tweet saying, “Hi! It’s possible to have even had an abortion and still grieve a future miscarriage! They’re not in conflict with each other!”

But…then I stepped back and thought, Have I actually seen people saying her grief can’t be real because she’s Pro-Choice? I haven’t. So why do I need respond?

It’s not that I don’t believe those hot takes were out there, I’m just saying that sometimes responses grow beyond the original “sin” so to speak which gives the original “sin” more life than it deserves. So, when I see someone writing a tweet or an editorial or a Facebook post about someone else’s hot take I take a step back and decide…is my voice needed? Am I getting sucked into an unproductive Black Hole of negative responses?

Avoid Self-Righteousness

Another example? POTUS announced he’s Covid positive tonight. I started seeing people get kinda snarky about how that’s what he gets for not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing. I thought That’s not a good look, peeps. I immediately wanted to post something like, “Let’s not do that guys,” like a school room teacher shaking her finger and then I remembered: Avoid the black hole, Kim.

First of all, that is a literal hot take on a hot take, but even worse? It’s super self-righteous and nothing stifles productive conversation more than someone being self-righteous. I fall into that trap all the time, wanting to appear to be the bigger and better person and therefore using my social media to wag my finger and say, “You should not be doing that!”

But…inevitably it just causes the conversation to shift to defensiveness and even more self-righteousness like, “This POTUS does not deserve any respect so I can snark on him all I want!” and do you see what is now growing in the spot where I was self-righteous? A BLACK HOLE OF UNPRODUCTIVE CONVERSATIONS.

Self-righteousness feels good. Trust me. That’s why I have to work so hard to stifle the urge constantly. I love finding ways to say, “LOOK HOW I AM BETTER!” because it makes me stop hating myself for a minute but it kills all productive dialog in an INSTANT. So I really have to check myself with those urges.

Avoid simply echoing other people

Listen, I really like to say the same things everyone else is saying WHEN THEY ARE SAYING IT simply because I agree and I want to go on record having said it as early as possible. BUT! Is it necessary? I’ve started waiting several hours or even an entire day before posting something that is basically an echo of things I’ve seen elsewhere. I’ve started making myself wait to see if I can provide any other personal connection or unique interpretation of a situation before just becoming an echo in the abyss. When Chrissy Teigen posted her loss I really wanted to say something. But I kept seeing other people say it better and I would simply become an echo. These echos create their own black hole simply because people stop listening when everyone is saying the same thing.

But then last night I was thinking of my own personal stories of loss and sharing online and I thought I had a different take and so I wrote something on Facebook telling my own story.

I started writing a blog in early 2004 because I wanted to document my pregnancy. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and a D&C, but through that experience I discovered a large community of women struggling to have babies and talking about those struggles online. Over the years I documented my two successes on that blog (although Nyoka didn’t make it easy, giving me a uterine hematoma during the first trimester and getting her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck during childbirth) but I also documented plenty of failed pregnancies with that community of women. Including one miscarriage that happened on the floor of my bathroom and was so traumatizing I wrote about it in detail on my blog just to purge myself of the experience.

I tell you all of this to explain why some people document really personal moments in public spaces. I’ve been following along with Chrissy Teigen’s struggling pregnancy and hoped she had a community like I did. Then, when she lost the baby two nights ago…NO part of me wondered why she suffered so publicly, because I did the same in my own (albeit much smaller) sphere online. For some of us, putting our anxiety and our grief out into the world through our words and pictures, it helps us sort them out. I don’t doubt she also had a community of women who were holding her in their hearts the same way I did with each of my losses.

I ask that you don’t judge her for publicly documenting her experience and I beg you not to doubt her grief. Put the same love into the universe for her and her family that you would your friend or family member who suffered a similar loss. Her bravery will give a voice to women who have never known how to grieve their own losses and for that we should embrace her. It’s a profound loss that no one should have to experience.

My Facebook Post

Sometimes after waiting I find my voice is not needed or I have nothing unique to add. Sometimes I just discover I no longer care enough to post. It’s like there’s an internet wave of conversation and I want to jump on it but I find if I let it pass, sometimes I lose interest or get distracted by something new and so that shows me my voice was not necessary.

But if I wait a bit and find a new angle or a personal connection to a story, or if I’m simply still thinking about the story, then I no longer become part of the black hole of echoes and increase my chances of actually providing something new. It also increases the odds that my sincerity is real and not simply part of the wave of responses that I like to be a part of.

BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE TO BE TALKING ABOUT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS TALKING ABOUT.

Anyway…these are just some of the adjustments I’ve made as someone who POST A LOT OF SHIT ONLINE. Do you have any similar adjustments?

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