Online Debates & Social Media

What’s the point, right? Who in their right mind engages with internet trolls to prove a point, when you know on the other side the person you are typing against will never change their own heavily one-sided-and-bias minds? Why do we do this?

Since I’ve deactivated my Facebook account I’ve not had to worry about these comment wars folks get into. A voyeur within me does love to stand on the sidelines and watch drama happen (this is human nature I think) but when it’s my dear old Auntie Doris verses a Stay-at-home-mommy Karen verses that chick I used to know from Psych 101 class it becomes far more personal and nauseating. Plus, many of these arguments serve zero purpose. We’ve all boxed in our own beliefs and prefer the comfort of the echo chambers attached to the point of view we’ve assigned to ourselves.

This morning my darling husband “went at it” with a relative anti-vaxxer. I adore the woman; she is a dear friend to me and I’ll never not love her. That said, I also refuse to bring vaccinations up with her, so while I was sipping my morning coffee and the hubs read aloud each point and counterpoint, I started asserting my view to him, which he then in turn wrote. It was a FB debate by proxy, I suppose.

This is the thing about anti-vaxxers- I totally understand how one can be lured to their point of view. When I had my first baby, the fears of taking care of him and doing things right were always there. So, on FB or whatever, when I saw posts decrying vaccinations and “evidence” against it, I wondered if I was a bad mother for allowing him to get stuck by needles so often. My ignorance about medical science and my unconfidence in my own parenting led to me feeling guilty for not having a strong stand. I also had a nagging voice in me which knew anti-vaxxers were using junk science and personal anecdotes as evidence, but it’s really hard not to believe a story written by grieving mothers about how one vaccine essentially ruined their child’s life. Stories are more compelling than statistics and evidence and critical thinking.

I did vaccinate my child, of course, but with the first kid I did it on a “delayed schedule” (look I’m NOT mainstream because I don’t follow a schedule!) but by the time I had my second and third kids a lack of time and energy sucked out any desire to go into the pediatricians office more than needed so they followed the standard schedule. And guess what, they are fine. Of course.

My point is, as I turned away from reading social media I really don’t think about anti-vaxxers. Or vaxxers. Basically, it’s just as common to me as when the doctor looks in the kids’ ears or mouth during an exam. If they are due for a vaccine I just nod my head, try to comfort the kid, and then move onto other more interesting thoughts like what’s for dinner or what show to watch once the kids are in bed. You know, important things. I’m not passionately for vaccinations, but the majority of parents probably aren’t.

Until a preventable disease is spread because of anti-vaxxers, of course.

Even still, I just shake my head and pat my own back because I know my kids are as protected as they can be because they had their MMR shots.

But in the massive steaming cesspool of social media, the debates are ever present and start to leak into my peaceful morning coffee time and I get empassioned.

Once you engage with a troll, though, there is no winner. Nothing is gained or lost from it (except time and energy). The anti-vaxxer from this morning actually told my husband the link she shared wasn’t meant for him to read at all; it was for other anti-vaxxers. Why did she say that? Because he had cornered her with actual facts and it was the only argument she had left. It also just proved my view; she didn’t want a debate. She didn’t want her beliefs challenged. She just wanted the echo chamber of outrage to continue as she sees fit.

The problem with mixing personal beliefs with medical science is, well, they are totally different things. I think it’s all fine and good to have personal beliefs about god, how to live a healthy life, the best way to style your hair for your face shape, whatever… but unless you are a medical doctor, researcher or scientist who really understands the way the body works and the immune system at a molecular level, your belief means absolutely nothing. This seems like common sense but, as we all know, the majority of anti-vaxxers cite their “hours and hours” spent researching as just as important those who have committed time and money towards a medical degree. These things are not equal.

My husband claims he enjoys debates. I mean, I do too. But, these sort of debates are just never going to be won or lost. I am 100% confident I’ve made the right choices for my kids regarding vaccinations, and the anti-vaxxers are too. I believe they will regret not vaccinating their children one day… but as far as I’m concerned with my kids now aged 2, 4, and 8, I’m past any “danger” point for them and I know in my bones they are perfectly safe and protected against any disease or ill effect from inoculations.

And with this outpouring of a blog post, I’ve said my peace into the oblivion of the internet without offending anyone I personally know in real life, which is great. (unless of course they are reading this now, and to that I say hi! I love you! Peace!)

The Social Media Cleanse

Have you done it yet ?

For years my interest in the Facebook has waned; I’d say I log on every few weeks. It’s just not a pleasure to scroll on it any longer. Seeing photos and updates of my friends and family is nice and all, but as we all should know, all that happiness and perfection is mostly projection and pushing “like” is not the same as personal connection with another human.

Plus all their data mining is scary.

Plus the targeted advertising makes me paranoid.

Plus all the political viewpoints from said friends and family is tiring.

Basically, the Facebook has brought me zero joy in years. I really only hung on to it because of the “Groups” function; I love my mommy Facebook groups and the women I’ve met through there… but as our babies have aged the group dynamics are less and less.

The Facebook has a great hold on local events and the marketplace as well, and the only way I found my local babysitter in this new town was through the Facebook. Oh, and finally, the most important and annoying aspect of my Facebook dependency? My Spotify account was linked through it. If I deleted Facebook, I couldn’t access my music.

Still, I’m sick of it. The New York Times most recent piece on the corporate management provided that final nail in the coffin for me. I figured out this morning how to unlink Facebook from Spotify – basically, I had to sign up for a new account with a different email (gmail user tips- if you have a period “.” in your name, you can remove it when signing up, and you’ll still get the email but the Spotify company registers it as a different email, for example if your address was Facebook.sucks@gmail.com just sign up with facebooksucks@gmail.com) and then I was free to deactivate my FB account.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully delete my account, and it’s not really going to change much, as I honestly only logged on once or twice a month. I haven’t had the FB app installed on my phone for years, and I never used messenger, but I still feel freer and like a weight is off my shoulders.

Now, onto the other side of my social media addiction.

Instagram.

IG seems like the lesser of two evils, and I really enjoy using it, but it too is owned by the Facebook. It too uses targeted advertising that borderlines on creepy, and, while it seems “less annoying” than the Facebook, there is just as much projection and false advertising on it.

I’ve deleted the app from my phone many times, but this time I’m determined to avoid it for a long period of time. I’m thinking until the new year. The holiday season is stressful and the last thing I need is another app making me sadder and less connected with my real life outside of the phone.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m perfect. I’m not. Within the past year, my smart phone usage has stayed the same because of Reddit. I find Reddit is more addictive than traditional social media. It’s a lot more impersonal as well, but that’s what I like about it. The anonymous nature of Reddit is what I love- you can be yourself on it and Aunt Bertha won’t comment on every post I make. I follow hundreds of unique and specialized subreddits and the content is just better.

That said, I still would like to work on my smart phone usage. It’s an addiction no matter the platform I use, and I don’t like the person I am while using; disconnected with my beautiful kids in front of my face, someone putting off chores or tasks around the house. But by weaning myself off social media and focusing on more productive parts of the internet (like writing on my blog, reading The NY Times or doing crosswords) I feel like I can break out of this addiction.

parenting in the age of trump

Whoa, whoa, whoa, you say. Either you roll your eyes at my crybaby liberal ways when you read this title, or you nod your head in agreement. This divide we all are in is stark and very real.

Tonight I brought my kids to a diner. Just me and the three of them, it was a reward for my older son. We sat at our booth and as soon as we settled I overheard a couple. Two old ladies were discussing our new president at top volume.

It was pretty obvious they were big fans.

I kept thinking, Ohh, wrong! Or – how can they believe that? Or wishing they’d ask me my opinion. Which of course they didn’t, wouldn’t. They were having a private conversation at such a volume you’d think they were on stage performing, but it still was private.

Besides I’m not confrontational at all.

Anyway, at one point they started talking about me, and the kids, at the same decimal level. “Ooh, look at him. Cute baby. Good baby. Quiet!”

“They are all so good so quiet”

“Wow! Amazing kids!”

I didn’t know if I should thank them, smile at them or ignore them and pretend I didn’t hear.

I gave a silent cheer when they got up to leave and approached my table to tell me to my face: “Great, great, good kids”.

On the drive home I couldn’t get the ladies out of my head, their reverence for President Trump, and their utter lack of self-consciousness on discussing their approval in such a loud volume. My older son E knows the very basics of the past year’s politics – he knows we do not support Trump – and I started to get sad thinking about growing up with someone like Trump in charge.

Because – when you think about it- what is the phrase we always tell our kids? Maybe one day you’ll be president. It’s the ultimate honor, the ultimate job title. And all kids know the leader is a strong, good person. A person deserving of praise.

Okay, this is a romantic notion, but that’s certainly how I remember my childhood presidents of Regan, HW Bush, and Clinton.

I just don’t think I can see myself, ever, telling my children anything positive about Trump. He’s rude, crass, a liar, not curious about anything intellectual, he’s sexist, racist, I mean, it goes on and on. If I were to spin a positive light on him, I’d have to say he is a hard worker and a good salesman. That’s about it. Trying to raise responsible, civically minded children is harder now considering the mess we have in charge now.

I am also aware I just need to tell my six-year-old the very basics in regards to this president. He knows we didn’t support Trump, and he knows I find Trump lacking in character, and that’s probably all he needs to know. I have a “no-lie” policy with him; I don’t encourage the Santa myth, I’ve never given a cutesy explanation on where babies come from (I get very scientific and only give the most basic details he needs). So, it’s hard for me, when he asks, “Why is Trump president? Are you ok with that” not to answer him with a straight honest opinion.

I suppose this is the problem of someone like myself, stuck in that liberal bubble I wrote about after the election. Maybe I’m making to much of this and all this drama is in my head and I should just get over it. Maybe. But maybe not. For the time, I will focus on raising good kids. I won’t let my sensitive oldest kid know the unease I feel whenever Trump is on screen.

This new era our country is in already feels so tumultuous and it’s been but three days since the inauguration. Is it the midterms yet?

thoughts on the bubble 

I’m from a rural area. I grew up in the nineties with a vague idea that Hilary Clinton was not a good person. She overstepped her bounds. This wasn’t an idea planted by my parents, surely, but it was the general chatter I’d hear. Sort of like Chevy vs Ford, Washington State vs University of Washington, Tonya Harding vs Nancy Kerrigan, except the universal dislike of Hilary seemed, well, universal.

In ’08 I was 100% behind Obama. Clinton’s candincy  seemed like another dose of nepotism and I didn’t want that.

During the primaries this year I voted for Sanders. Once again, something about Clinton seemed unsavory. I’m not sure if it’s because of my early general impression of her, or if it was because of Sanders’ brash calls for a political revolution.

So, during the summer, like many many other millennials, I held my nose, held my mouth shut, and quietly supported Clinton. Or, so I thought. I live in the Northeast. It’s blue. The suburbs I live in are red as far as state representation and Congressmen go, but in a general way, I assume most of the not-in-your-face people regarding the election were for Clinton. (Trump supporters always let you know they are Trump supporters, I falsely thought).

I’m a person who reads the Sunday NY Times. It’s actually delivered to me. I watch the Nightly News on NBC, well, nightly. I enjoy Bill Maher and John Oliver. To me, it seemed like every well informed, educated person would certainly vote for Clinton. I had a bit of nerves hit me, occasionally, on the idea of Trump winning, but to myself I felt all in all she’d squeak by.

It’s fitting I was home in the rural part of my home state during the election. As the results rolled in, my parents and I could only look at each other, speechless. My husbands text messages came in, in increasing levels of urgency, he even resorted to typing in all capitals at times (which the logical pilot husband of mine NEVER does) WHAT IS HAPPENING. I couldn’t even stand to watch the full results, besides I had an early morning drive across the state the next day (which BTW I have a whole other blog post planned out about traveling with kids on standby but this seemed more urgent).

Driving the next morning, across the vast fields, empty skies, and desolate country that makes up Eastern Washington, I streamed WNYC through my phone to listen to the reactions on the call-in morning after show. Brian Lehrer was a voice of comfort and clarity as my mind spun, wondering how it happened. The cell reception is shoddy in Eastern Washington so I kept losing the stream and having to wait a few minutes to find it again. I tried to find a similar NPR station, but that’s the thing, NPR really isn’t a thing in this area. In fact, my parents, sister, brother, they’ve even asked me what NPR is before…

So it sort of hit me. What Michael Moore prophesied on Bill Maher earlier this year was true: I live in a total liberal bubble. It’s terrible to write out, but I just assumed anyone with any sort of brain would be just like me, voting for Clinton. Voting against all the hate, racism, fear mongering, the sexist rants, and the anti-intellectualism Trump represents. Clear thinking people couldn’t possibly believe the sort of lies the far-right media put out – people surely would do their own research – well, like all the media outlets I follow, we were all stunned and flat out wrong.

And I should have known. The absence of #ImWithHer from all the people back home didn’t resonate. My flight attendant friends were all #withher on election day, proudly sporting their “I Voted” stickers and proclaiming their nastiness as women, so I assumed most people were just like them. A few of my friends from out west posted their election day pictures, without the same enthusiasm, so I assumed based just on my Instagram newsfeed it was in the bag.

But the highly diverse, open minded people who made up my former employments work force don’t represent Middle America. I see now why Clinton lost. She relied to heavily on the glitz and glam of high profile stars and endorsements, the money coming in, and did not connect or inspire enough voters. Someone like me, a politically minded person up to date on current events, who is going to vote no matter what, does not represent the typical voter. But to reach out to a voter not motivated by her, to get that person in Middle America to cast a vote for her, she needed to do more. Trump did that.

I cried most of Wednesday. I cried Thursday as well. I think the tears are all gone. I plan on buying a safety pin and wearing it daily as a show of solidarity to everyone who fears this president. I’m in the bubble that will most likely not be affected by this vile man’s agenda, but I know so many great, good people than are in his crosshairs.

I refuse to be on the wrong side of history and will speak up. Like some, I’m holding my breath. Maybe Trump will change his tone, his view. Maybe it will all be ok. But unfortunately this mindset is what led to my utter disbelief Tuesday night and I won’t just “hope for the best” anymore. I will demand it.

I’m not the praying type, but I do find it appropriate to end this with the sentiment “praying for our nation”.