Somebody much smarter than me with a passion and understanding of quality, well-planned, and well-thought-out research and an interest in human behavior will do a study on how social media has affected our society. It won’t be me, but I’m curious about how we perceived each other and ourselves before and after social media. When MySpace came out I liked the opportunity to reconnect with other people and express myself in my own web space. (Turns out, MySpace still exists…) For all its follies, it seemed appropriately titled. Facebook did it better and took off. But now it seems like so much of the activity on Facebook is people sharing their strong opinions about something, complaining about life’s difficulties, or just railing about, well, anything. I’ve done it myself- get excited (or excitable) about some topic, state my case, post some article or other online evidence as to me being right, and see what happens. I’ve been called out on several occasions, most of the time in a fair manner. Usually, I’m forced to examine myself and what I’ve allowed to influence my opinions.
Then there’s the news. These days there is so little news just for the sake of informing. Take, for instance, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Report. He’s always saying, “CNN is following breaking news out of…” and then goes on to give one small report about something that happened long enough before the current time that it should no longer be considered breaking news. But very quickly he introduces a panel of 4 people to give opinions about it- whatever it was- and how it is the President’s fault. The same thing happens on FoxNews, except they try to explain that Obama really caused the problem. It’s the same thing on every news channel- news laced with opinions about who to blame for our current state of affairs. This noise affects how we think.
I recently moved from a liberal state (Massachusetts) to a very conservative area (the Eastern Shore of Maryland). I consider myself to be a moderate. In Massachusetts I felt like a conservative. In this part of Maryland I feel like a liberal. (NOTE: Hillary Clinton
won Maryland but was trounced in my part of the state.) A couple of months after the election I was talking to a six-year-old boy at my church and told him I didn’t vote for Trump. He was flabbergasted! “You voted for…Hillary?!?!?!” Evidently he was unaware anyone else was running. In a different conversation with his mother I mentioned being concerned about raising water tables. I was looking at a house close to the water and global warming was on my mind. She laughed. Out loud. Not mockingly so, but as if I was kidding. I wasn’t. In subsequent
months my family has grown quite close to this little boy and his very conservative nuclear family, and I’ve come to find out they’re somewhat different than I expected. They are so much like me. They’ve just arrived at some different conclusions. And more than anything I know they love me and are so OK with who I am.
It got me to thinking about whether I’m really fair to other people. Do I give them the chance or do I make assumptions about them based on what I see of them online or even in person? Do I have an understanding of the complete picture? Conversely, I wonder who people think I am. Am I portraying who I really am to people? I don’t know. That’s not entirely true. I do know a little. I hide stuff. There are things about me people don’t know. I don’t think that’s fair to anyone. Not to them- they can’t really feel free to be open with me, and not to me- some of the things I keep inside tear me apart. I want to be known. I think we all want to be known. So I wonder…
I wonder if you might be willing to give me your perspective…on me. Who do you think I am? What do you think motivates me? What confuses you about me? What do you find unappealing? What do you find appealing? I’m not trying to provide an opportunity for people to just praise me or to lambaste me, but I do desire to be a better person. If I need a good lambasting, then by all means, do it. I promise not to get defensive. Hey, this isn’t Facebook. If you just met me, what are your first impressions? If we haven’t spoken in years, let me know what you thought of me way back when. If I hurt you, please let me know. If I helped you, I’d like to hear about that too.
You can send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org (J, C, and S are the initials for my wife and both children, if you were wondering), or just send me a message on Facebook.