I’ve done it too many times and it has to stop. I see a mean political post on Facebook and before I can stop them, my fingers are doing the talking. The next thing I know, I’ve gone to war.
It starts innocently enough. Somehow, I think my wisdom is going to change the collective mind. If I just post a well-written article that explains an opposing view, I’ll be able to convince, educate, mediate, be heard. If I point out the obvious hypocrisy of engaging in hate speech in the name of something great—be it national security or people’s rights or love trumping hate—then we’ll all get along again. *Smiley face!* Seriously, people, these are my friends here.
Bad, bad move.
Brazen Woman is not a political site. It’s a lifestyle site. We’re here to help you feel your best every day and to support you when you don’t, and throughout this election, many of you don’t. We’re not here to take sides or to comment on political process before, during, or after the fact, so we’ve stayed mum. But that doesn’t mean we don’t see what’s been exploding online and the relationship roadkill this political fight has left in its wake.
Along with the rest of Canada, I have been watching the U.S. election dominate the media. I haven’t exactly had a choice. Because I do my work behind a screen across social media channels, I couldn’t escape witnessing the oncoming train wreck—in real time—pretty much 24/7 for the past year or so. And so, I did everything I could to understand both sides and what I found was this: There’s a whole lot of fear out there tearing friends apart.
Now I’m done. I’m so done that I actually have to restrain myself from engaging on Facebook lest a post turn suddenly political. Because I know what’s coming, I’ll sit on my hands if I have to. When I want to post about the aftermath of the election, I turn into a stern parent and tell myself NO. When I start commenting, I catch myself and delete before hitting Enter. I have made a conscious choice to stay out of the media firestorm because I have learned that jumping in makes everything worse.
I have seen how political divisiveness kills friendships, and on social media, it happens in a keystroke. We had our own mini American election play out last year. When the tide rose against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and then Prime Minister Steven Harper, both of whom were vilified as much for personality as politics, it felt like social suicide to show them even a word of compassion or support. Doing so online could spark a virtual World War, with both sides taking up arms to defend their right to be right. The result was a lot of mud slinging, hurt feelings, and yes, un-friending. Conspicuously absent: listening, understanding, intelligent discourse. Sadly, there was no raising of the bar when it came to awareness or perspective.
But at least when Justin Trudeau took over, Canadians found a way to pull together. Were we scared? Sure. And yet, perhaps it’s the British in us, but we bucked up. We dragged ourselves into the present with the realization that we had to let the future unfold. Pretty soon, the panic subsided and our Facebook feeds returned to memes and travel pics, minus a few friends here and there.
I’d like to think I’ve learned from that experience.
Like most things American, the U.S. election has gone and outdone us. It exposed a deep divide that has shocked the world, and on social media, the war rages on and on and on and on. Regardless of which candidate took power, I’m pretty sure our feeds would look the same. Because the country is split, we could count on in-yo-face name-calling, swearing, refusal to accept process, and attacking of beliefs. It’s a sorry continuation of the behaviour we saw during the campaign.
I think we can all agree that Love should trump Hate. So at some point, we will have to find a way to stop hating, right? Right?
This time around, I for one am choosing a new response to the vitriol online. When I see FUCK YOU and GROW UP and all the ugly rest of it, I don’t shoot first, think later. Instead, I try to see what’s behind the hate, and I don’t have to look far. This election was built on fear, plain and simple, and that fear will keep on growing as long as we feed it.
For different reasons, we’re all terrified. Way too many people let fear drive their vote or their choice not to and now everyone is afraid of what’s to come.
I get it. The future is a scary place to live. It’s unknown and it’s always out of our control. When we’re too focused on it, we can’t feel okay right now. Not that we don’t try. In order to feel powerful in the moment, we spend too much time trying to justify our fears and in the process, shutting out different views. It doesn’t help. By doing so, we just sink deeper into our own fear where we lose out on the opportunity to understand anyone else.
Have you ever wondered what people are so afraid of? Have you asked? Do you even care?
To me, this election has been less about rights and freedoms than it has about the deep dark fault line that is keeping humanity separate and apart. When we allow our fears, be them red or blue or any colour of the rainbow, to dictate our actions, we can’t be friends and and we certainly can’t evolve.
Yes, Love trumps Hate. But Love also trumps Fear. If we show a little compassion for each other’s fear—and we do it off Facebook, where let’s face it, all we really want is to be heard—maybe we can start being real friends. You know, the kind of friends that don’t just jump on each other’s bandwagons but who learn a thing or two along the way.