Much has been happening in the world lately. It’s almost as if the events of the past few years have been slowly boiling over, and we’ve now reached a tipping point of humanity. The point where we either move forward with different, hopefully better and renewed purpose and principles in life, or we retreat behind walls in fear and loathing.
The thing is this. Much is happening. A. LOT.
We had the medical virus that spread like wildfire throughout the world, resulting in many countries going into lockdown and quarantine.
We had political viruses take root in our local politics, unseating a democratically voted Government, purely for selfish illusions of grandeur, not for the betterment of the country or its people.
We’ve had international politics grip us at every turn – India, China, USA, UK – just to name a few.
And then, we’ve had the riots begin in the USA, sparking off a race debate globally.
And all that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s immigration, police brutality, migrant workers, plastic straws, the list is endless.
There is much to take in. But I have just one thing to say – pick your causes. You cannot care about everything and you should not expect EVERYONE to care about EVERYTHING, and especially not so on social media.
The reality is this. There is only so much one person can take in, and feel passionately about. If we are to care passionately about every bit of news that reaches us, every cause, every issue, we will only do our heads in.
If we don’t go stir-crazy trying to care about it all, we might end up in a worse situation – being apathetic.
Talk show host Hasan Minhaj described this very aptly, as “Compassion fatigue” – caring too much about everything, resulting in a reduction of your capacity for compassion.
It is my conviction that being apathetic to issues and causes is far far worse than having an opinion or conviction either way. It is the same way I feel frustrated when people shrug at me when we discuss local politics, and say “Well, what can we do?”
Yes indeed. What can we do? We can make noise. We can call out wrongful acts by leaders. We can stay angry, and take that anger to the ballot boxes. That’s what we can do. Not wallow in apathy and self-pity.
This is true also of all the other causes in the world today. Having an opinion and giving an issue some thought means you may be open to other ideas and convictions. Being apathetic means you don’t care whatever happens. That doesn’t bode well for any cause.
I am acutely aware that much of our opinions and convictions are shaped by our own personal experiences, interactions and reading material. We have brains, and we can think for ourselves. Or we should.
In fact, we MUST think for ourselves, without simply being reactive to every situation.
I do not downplay the racial issues happening worldwide. As a minority race in my own country, and having lived as a minority abroad, I have experienced discrimination at many times in my life. Does it shape the way I think, how I view issues?
Yes it does.
Does it mean I have to voice it all out on social media, because I have a platform and a following to speak to? Well, yes and no.
Yes, if you feel sufficiently strongly about an issue or cause, and are able to articulate it in a clear enough manner. Then, speak out, because you may be able to make a change, on your platform. Is it something that affects you? Speak out. But shut out the world, because someone somewhere will disagree with your view.
No, if you’re merely playing to the gallery. If you speak out for the sake of speaking out, but not believe in what you say. If you are just speaking out because “it is expected”, or because it’s a “trending and trendy issue” but don’t intend to change how you do things or think, then you’re better off not saying anything.
I personally feel that many people are doing the latter. There is too much reaction online simply because of expectations. I have seen many people being called out for not taking a stand, or not making a statement about current issues, when it is at its peak.
I’ve seen so many people dismissed simply because they hold a different political/social view/conviction. Social media is a space where anyone and everyone can speak up. It is a place for all opinions and ideas, even if it does not line up with your own.
If you follow someone because they post a lot about dogs and cats, are they expected to provide you social or political commentary too? Must they take a stand that lines up with yours? Does it make you enjoy their account any less if they don’t say anything, just post about their dogs and cats? Transpose this to any other niche social media accounts, and the question is the same.
You follow someone online for a reason. Sometimes, it is because they offer an alternate view, or a different opinion on how things should be. Sometimes, it is because they are interesting. Sometimes, it’s because you like how cute their dog or cat looks. But it isn’t realistic to expect everyone to line up with your ideals. That’s called living in an echo chamber, and it isn’t healthy either.
My question is this – Why do we expect online personalities to make a stand about every issue that crops up? When they do make a stand or statement, and people disagree, there is a uproar of dissent and a call to ‘cancel’ this person.
There is too much unrealistic pressure placed on someone who might just be a pretty face, or who might be knowledgeable about certain subjects but not others. People have a tendency to place others on a pedestal – monarchs, politicians, celebrities, influencers – and expect them to behave as a perfect, balanced person, who offers an opinion on every issue, that placates and is palatable to everyone.
The truth is, everyone’s just human, with their own experiences, prejudices, opinions and interactions. All these shapes who they are, and when such expectations are placed on people and companies, what we get is a reactionary response.
An example is the posting of the black squares on Instagram a few days ago, ostensibly in solidarity with the people of colour. Yet, what did it do? In my view, nothing.
It isn’t just me who says so. So many other people of colour have called it out as being a stunt that does nothing for their cause. It simply makes the poster feel good about themselves for “doing something” when they did nothing at all, but post a picture of a black square.
The next day, companies go back to promoting their products. Influencers go back to posting a selfie or an aspirational lifestyle photo. Everyone retreats back to their bubble, patting themselves on the back for having “taken a stand”. Yet, they haven’t done a thing to help the cause.
All I have to say here is this – don’t expect others to live up to your own ideals. You will be disappointed.
We do what we can. Not everything we do needs to be shouted about in public. Not everything out there is an issue we need to have a ‘hot take’ on. Not everyone with a differing opinion as you must be ‘cancelled’.
We cope how we can. We look after ourselves first. We take the time we need to understand issues and events, and if we have an opinion, we share it. If it’s an unpopular opinion (as I believe mine is here), we listen to those who detract from our view, and we walk away if we don’t want to quarrel about it. Call me a name however, and I’ll smack you 🙂
Life isn’t a competition about who’s doing more or who’s doing better. We stay abreast of the news. We keep our ear to the ground. We read and we try to understand what’s happening. But we choose our causes to be vocal about, so we don’t get overwhelmed.
When I watched the last episode of 2019 of Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix talkshow Patriot Act, he said something that struck a chord with me, and allowed me to deal with the chaos that 2020 has wrought.
He said, in not so many words that being bombarded with news and issues all the time, it is as if we have “50 tabs open in our mental browsers all the time”. Like any browser, we will crash, if you don’t do something about it.
His suggestion was to shut down some of the open tabs.
I call it “Pick your causes”. That’s how I’ve been rolling since the year began. Some issues will keep me engaged and vocal. Others, I’m engaged, but not vocal because I don’t understand it, or cannot relate and therefore would rather not engage.
I keep my ear to the ground, I read, I talk to people, I listen and I try to understand. But I choose what I want to delve into so I don’t end up with “Compassion fatigue”.
Whether as a consumer, or as an online creator or business, I think everyone could benefit from this pause because saying something online. Are you reacting because everyone else is and because you’re expected to, or is it something you want to stand up and talk about?
As for consumers of social media, be realistic. Stop imposing YOUR ideals on someone else. Not everyone owes you YOUR idealism. We all lead different lives, and have different experiences. We are all different, and that makes us all unique.
Some issues affect some people more acutely than others. Just because someone chooses not to discuss it doesn’t mean they don’t care. It could mean they’re trying to understand what’s happening or that they’re overwhelmed and need the time and space to process the information. Perhaps they’re already doing something about it outside the internet in their own community. We are all much more than the sum of our online selves, and anyone who cannot see nor understand that can rightfully unfollow 🙂
So, pick your causes. Just don’t be apathetic. There’s nothing worse than apathy because then, the bad guys win 😉