What We See on Social Media Isn't Everything

This morning, I texted my friend Melisa and asked, "How do I blog today if it's not about gun violence?" It was a philosophical question, really. It speaks to something I've wrestled with since Ferguson. 

I remember the first night of protests in Ferguson. I watched it all unfold live on Twitter and while people were fighting for justice in the streets, my feed was also filled with tweets from bloggers promoting cookie recipes and lifestyle tips. Even though I knew many of those were probably scheduled tweets, I was horrified. How could someone push a cookie recipe while a war raged in the streets of an American city?

I judged them but I was wrong. 

I fell into a trap that is increasingly familiar. People judge others based on their social media presence, by their likes or failure to like, and by perceived silence and inaction.

Last year as the election approached, I posted on Facebook about feeling scared and powerless. I don't remember my exact words but I do remember that a friend commented and suggested that the best way to combat those feelings was to get involved and volunteer.

His comment was patronizing and presumptuous. For one, I was involved and had been volunteering for Hillary Clinton's campaign. Two, he clearly assumed that my entire life was lived on Facebook. 

But what we see on social media is not everything

I don't write about every injustice. There are too many to count. But that doesn't meant that I don't care.

I don't post about every thing I do offline - my volunteer hours, the marches and vigils I attend, and the money I donate. In fact, I don't because I've made a conscious decision not to. I don't want to come off as a performative ally and I don't need praise for doing the right thing. In fact, it sets up a dynamic that makes me uncomfortable. 

When people carry on with personal posts and attempt to bring a little light or humor to the darkness, they are quickly shut down and accused of being ignorant to the serious issues at hand. Alternatively, if you post about politics every day, people are disappointed that you've become political. 

There is no winning online right now. It has become yet another place where we have stopped showing generosity of spirit to others. We rush to judge and condemn and call out rather than reach out and try to engage in conversation. 

So, I'm not writing about gun violence today. There is nothing for me to add to the conversation. 

I would, however, like to challenge all of us to give others the benefit of the doubt when scrolling through their social media feeds. Many people can't dwell in outrage for many reasons (some personal and some professional) but that doesn't meant they are ignoring the serious issues we are facing and sitting idly by while things fall apart. 

I keep thinking about that quote, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." It's a good one but I think we need to remember that if someone's not posting their outrage on Facebook, it doesn't mean they aren't paying attention. There is more to all of us than what others see online.