Distress

I feel like a communication failure.

In my own tiny little world, significant relationships are in disarray and conflict and strife are multiplying faster than fertile rabbits. The root source: social media.

i was a very late adopter of social media, only joining Facebook sometime in the last 3 years and Instagram about 7 months ago. Until I deleted my accounts, FB on Wednesday (ironically, before the present problems came to light) and Instagram today. In the timespan of my memberships, I found FB a rather pointless time-suck and Instagram only slightly less so. For me. For my life.

The important people and relationships I have are nourished and maintained by regular contact via other and more personal methods: we get together for a meal or to hang out and talk. We email. We phone. We skype. We text. We use online programs to chat. I have zero desire to be part of a very public platform where every aspect of my life and times is posted to be digested, judged worthy and likeable. Or not. Being on FB was primarily for an online weight loss support group created by my physician, but participation in it has waned and it became stagnant and less and less beneficial to me and my better health pursuits. Without that, FB became irrelevant and like annoying clutter in my life.

M, however, is a big FB guy. He loves the interaction with old and new friends. He enjoys their private-joke style methods of talking to each other. He has strong views on a lot of subjects, many with life long experience formulating those options and ideas, and he is fearless in expressing them publicly.

No matter what the perceived cost to me or anyone else in his life. To M, his truth is his truth and he has the right to express it publicly. Unfortunately, much of our individual truths are grounded in opinions and values that may clash with others. The lack of respect for our differences is common, and M’s disdain for politeness or common social decency is nurtured in his retirement and tendency to associate with others who are equally hard-headed. I both respect his courage to be and own who he is and loathe his willingness to engage with anyone to defend himself from being disrespected, both real and imagined.

To him, I am way too tolerant and willing to accept the disses when they should be confronted and dealt with head-on. To me, I have both a public and professional life to protect and can let the small-ball shit go unanswered. This is one of our differences, our agree-to-disagree and be loving and accepting of one another. It’s a compromise that comes iwth marriage, loving each other, and understanding that our imperfections are part of what brought us together.

However, FB and social media is far from an insular world or method of communication. Trolling is a common practice, so common that you use the word in this context and nearly every ordinary person knows what you are talking about.

This week, one of M’s old friends made trolling comment on a photograph M was tagged in. It was humorous to M and to the commenter, but since the commenter does not know 9 of the 10 people in the photograph, there is no context for the majority pictured. From a casual reader’s perspective, it was insensitive and hurtful. These are family members, very near and dear to me, and while I understood the context (while hardly knowing the commenter but knowing myself well), there was serious offense taken. I do not blame them for their reactions and actions they took.

The real issue is that M sees nothing inappropriate in what was said and essentially feels there is a lot of histrionic overreaction going on. His methods of expressing his truth make him defensive to criticism that people who loves are genuinely upset by this incident. Being fair to M, no one approached him directly and said “hey, knock it off” and expressed their feelings. Instead it was brought to me, because I am closer to everyone involved.

When it came to my attention, I had a conversation with M about it. M was cavalier, pointing out the social media is the “wild wild west” of communication and shoot-from-the-lip (or keyboard as it were) is common practice and needs to be factored into and therefore temper reactions. I do not disagree with that, either. But while I feel like a super-awkward Jane Doe Average in the great unwashed masses of humanity, real life has taught me that I am more of an outlier in understanding of common human behavior and more a peacemaker that shit stirrer. Wishing everyone in the whole world were evolved and emotionally healthy and balanced does not make it so. and that point of view might be more persuasive if the trolling comment had been on M’s personal page, not some stranger (to the commenter) who happens to be part of M’s family and tagged him in a photo.

(Forgive me if I have the terminology wrong. As I said, not a big social media user and therefore blissfully ignorant of how it works.)

But to make matters worse, M took the reported reactions – indirectly including my own – and wrote a long entry on his own page about it. This did not go over well. Since emotions are high and the human tendency to seek out other fallout, the comments were viewed and read and the emotional backlash was immediate.

That I am still dealing with fall-out two days later says a lot about the level of distress on all sides.

Unfriending and blocking took place. There was also announcement of active, direct estrangement from M in real life as well. I am sad and disappointed by the choices, but I also respect the people involved and their right to take actions they see fit to live the best lives possible. I do not approve or condone M’s actions, but I also respect his right to pursue his social media activities and free expression of his opinions.

Even when I vehemently disagree. Potentially especially since I disagree.

I understand the reasons why I am being included in the conversation and being told of the anger and distress. My response was regret this happened, because honestly, I wish it had not. I can express sorrow for the hurt feelings, I can encourage open communication with M about those feelings, but I will not apologize for another person’s action, even if I happen to be married to him.

I can also understand why they choose to not dial direct. I do not have to agree with them to understand.

But here I am, three days after the initial blow up on FB, and I am hurt and I am angry that the paintbrush has spread to include me in the estrangement and banning from inclusion in life. While on the surface it sounds like a complicated and painful choice, in my view it is an easy way out. I expressed that view as well while doing my best to graciously accept their decision.

All because of some stranger on social media. *sigh*

Despite my hurt and anger, I leave the door they chose to close unlocked, no key required to reopen communications or walk back through and into my life. I am grown up enough to recognize this is short-term thinking in a long-game scenario. If and when cooler heads prevail, perhaps breaches heal and reconciliation occurs and relationships once again proceed in forward fashion.

Until then, my life continues. My world just seems a smaller place today. Because the culture social media fosters is unrealistic, polarizing, unhealthy. It is my casual observation that rather than bring people closer together, social media outlets are a direct contributor to tearing apart once functional, productive relationships.

What I know: each and every action I take has consequence. While I always hope for good outcomes, I only harbor regret for poor choices or mistakes I make/made and do/did not learn from enough to change my mind or behavior to be smarter in future decision-making opportunities.

But I have a deeper, wider case of sads this weekend. I feel helpless and powerless about things well beyond my control. My sphere of influence feels like a big goddamn joke about now, and the worse foolish feeling in the world has descended like a cold, bone-chilling fog.

I bailed on my gym practice this morning warming up because of this exchange, and I am not going to yoga this afternoon either. I may not leave the house, or I will end up doing something destructive to my long-term health (i.e., restarting my sugary soda addiction).

My and my first world problems are very real right now. M and I are okay – we protect our relationship by talking things through – and I am reassured knowing that he and I will weather this storm. I know that’s not nothing, but it feels like little consolation in the moment.

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