My beautiful wife often asks a question that I really love: “does it bring you joy?”
She asks it when we’re trying to rid the house of clutter that has accumulated and it’s very effective. A while back I caught myself standing in our shed holding the textbook from the Latin class I took in high school 32 years ago and asked that question. That textbook didn’t bring me any joy in 1983 and it certainly wouldn’t now, so out it went. (Oddly enough I took Latin as an elective in high school because I thought it would bring me joy – I signed up for that class because I thought it would be a great way to impress the ladies. Needless to say I stayed single for a long time.)
I’m asking myself her question a lot lately, regarding Facebook. I signed up years ago because I really enjoyed reconnecting with far-away family and old friends I’d lost touch with and, for a long time, found it to be a really great way to do so. It was much better than email, which isn’t a very effective group communication tool in the first place and is mostly spam anyway.
Lately the Facebook experience has been anything but joyful. In the days immediately following yet another shooting, especially, I’ve found it to be particularly less so. It’s not because of the news, which is tragic enough, but in how I see people treating other people on the site, myself included. We share memes and articles that really have no impact other than to say “can you believe how dumb the people who don’t see things the way we do are?”. There isn’t usually any sort of reliable information provided by anyone, regardless of what perspective they’re coming from.
I’ve thought about just quitting Facebook, but I don’t believe shutting oneself off from the world is a good long-term strategy. Facebook, like all social media, is just a reflection of our larger, “real” communities. We’re social beings. We don’t thrive when we hide. We thrive when we step out of our caves and put down our clubs. By that I don’t mean we should abandon all our defenses, as there are genuine threats in the world – I mean that we need to stop attacking each other. We need to teach ourselves, and especially our children, how to participate respectfully in the conversations of the world.
We’re angry. We’re frustrated. We’re scared the next shooting will happen in our community. We want answers, we want solutions, we want our leaders to do something, but not too much something. Regardless of our stance on guns, we can all agree that the shootings need to stop.
We don’t put out fires by spraying them with gasoline. We aren’t going to solve our shooting issue by spreading hate or lashing out – lashing out is what a shooter has finally resorted to when their emotions have exceeded their capacity to communicate.
I had a science teacher in middle school who frequently said “you can’t swallow a cow”. He taught us that larger problems must be addressed by breaking them down into manageable bites, and that’s where I’m going to start.
I can’t change Facebook by myself. I can’t change the world by myself. I can’t solve the shooting issue by myself.
I can, however, start with myself and my family. I will do my best to give my children joy, support, and the tools to communicate effectively. I will do my best to teach them how to experience sadness and express anger and frustration without lashing out.
And, starting today, I am pledging that when I share something or when I comment on something that I will try to bring joy. I will probably stumble, so I’ll ask your forgiveness, but I’ll also challenge you to do the same – will you try to bring joy?
Joy! To the world. Hey, that sounds like a good idea for a song…