Engaged yet not..my break from Facebook.

It’s been a month since I actively sought to engage with facebook.  A month in which I have been less intense, less distracted and less caught in the complex relationships, in my head anyway, that evolve with friends as a consequence of watching their online engagement around issues.

According to my husband, there is more peace in me.

My personality seeks, strives and yearns for intensity; for intense engagement.  It drives me. Facebook offers multiple ways to feed this.

It also makes me less available in moments.  It creates stress in me when not channeled appropriately.

I have had to ask myself some hard questions this last month.  I am grateful for friends who have navigated this ahead of me.

Do I like who I become as a result of my facebook engagement?

Am I able to separate the way I perceive people responding to issues & comments on facebook from the way I engage with them off facebook?

Does my perception of people result in me making judgements about them? Do I want to engage with people whose interactions on facebook leave me not liking what I am seeing in them – not necessarily only their responses, but also their terms of engagement?

What is my role as advocate, as professional person and as personal person in social media spaces?

Does my family have a responsibility to respond or share our processes around navigating things & issues that impact us or are those sacred spaces that need other questions around them?

There is much that I love about social media and facebook specifically.

I love celebrating with people.  I love the opportunities facebook gives for generosity and engagement.  I love that it does connect me to people who if we are honest, we would lose touch with in the crazy seasons of life we are all in.  I love that we get to offer support in the hard seasons too. I love that some of the people who I engage with regularly IRL – IN REAL LIFE – are people I met through social media.

I appreciate the groups, spaces and posts that challenge me to refine my own thinking and positions on things.

I have realized though that, for me, there is a cost that comes with the above.  The cost being not seeing the underlying anxiety that it was creating for me until it was no longer part of my day to day life.  The cost of the time I spent saving things to read or watch later until that list has exceeded 40 saves and to be honest, I am not sure I am ever going to read or watch them, not while I am working part time and parenting a exuberant joyful 2 year old, while helping and supporting my husband in growing his business.  Not because the topics don’t matter to me, but the previous 3 mentions are significant and matter to me.  If I don’t honour these parts of my world, then all the knowledge gained through those 40 something saves isn’t going to matter very much at all.

I have realized that I spent a huge amount of emotional energy, even if not on facebook itself, in managing my own responses to things.  I have realized I started becoming wary of posting in case it was misinterpreted, or triggering, or deemed too radical or not radical enough or not PC enough or too PC – in which case I had people publicly and privately explain why I was wrong & not always in a honouring, respectful way.  Which led to my own wrestling with how to respond.  Should I respond?  Should I leave it?

Sometimes posts that weren’t aimed at anyone in particular were taken personally by people and while that is not my responsibility, if relationships matter to me, I need to think about how this matters too in terms of impact of what we are saying, regardless of my intent.

I realized that the echo chamber of facebook was exclusionary and that people who were on journeys around some justice issues were encouraged on their journeys of discovery but others were shut down as they explored things.

Some people who were repeatedly asked not to engage in certain ways around certain topics persisted and it all became too much.  Topics regarding adoption, race, justice and regarding whether or not my son was critically ill as consequence of being vaccinated (while we were in hospital with doctors exploring every avenue & being informed that his vaccinations prevented things from being far worse than what they were a year ago).  Too much for me.  Some of my friends thrive in this space. I am not one of them.  An inability to each see our own biases in stories makes online engagement as a catalyst for communication a hotbox for judgement, self-righteousness and mess really.

So for now I am wrestling with the above questions.  Our family is a conspicuous one, formed through adoption, needing to ask questions about race, diversity, raising our children to know who they are, were they come from and how much their own stories are valued, but this is a sacred space which only needs sharing in public spaces when there is an overwhelming conviction that to do so honour’s both my family and the bigger picture.  Else my family’s story ends up being a case study in itself and that’s not what we want.

I stand by public statements already made re: adoption and the racial things we have had to address regarding our language use.  Things like not calling our children ‘monkey’ or using adoption of pets as metaphors. Things like the fact that I am raising a man who is racially different to me which means I need to ensure that we have mirrors, mentors and many moments in which we reflect and normalize what this means for our children in a South African context, so that as they grow, they grow into the fullness of themselves and can stand their ground as South Africans with their own story – the present, the past and their origins.

I am standing down though from sharing too much of our own story in this as we navigate this all. In my personal capacity.

And here the challenge is – how do I share and navigate spaces that are professional spaces for me but have a personal impact to and do this in a way that honours and protects the integrity of both.

For this next season this means, far less active engagement on facebook (twitter and Instagram have been populating my facebook for now); a decision to continue figuring our how facebook serves me, us as a family, rather than me being a slave to serving it.

Over this past month, I have read books, been less tired & tied up, written reflections, gone for long walks, played games and been a lot less irritable about being interrupted when trying to read or follow something on a screen… not that the content wasn’t important but the relationships that are around me are & I need to be honouring those.

I have started dreaming again about reading more than candy floss for my brain and asking questions about professional growth spaces.

I know that often we engage with social media and feel like we have tackled issues.

I am asking myself what tackling those issues mean within my family space. What does it look like to live a life of justice, with Jesus as my teacher, without needing facebook to be a part of it? I still want the issues I have engaged with in the past so publicly addressed and will respond when appropriate, but I am doing this while being Alexa, being a wife and a mother.  While making sure that we keep wrestling with the tension of who and what we have in terms of our privilege without becoming a social justice experiment.  My children need a mother who can mentor and be present with them in lots of areas of life.  They also need to know that not all lives are as privileged as ours.  They are one day going to be the people who wrestle hopefully with other issues – but for now, WE get to hold the tension of both spaces.

So ‘still on a break with “facebook” & checking in every so often.  For now anyway.

Justice vs Selfishness

Is SOCIAL JUSTICE in some ways THE STRUGGLE AGAINST SELFISHNESS?

I recently had the privilege of attending a conference with various leaders seeking change in the area of poverty, inequality & unemployment. At this conference were leaders who had been involved in the struggle against apartheid as well as young leaders whose voices are loud in the current struggles that our country faces as a whole – by whole I mean people of all groups and (racial) backgrounds.
There were many reflections on things that worked, ideals that were and weren’t achieved and stories told of the political struggle that ensued to bring SA into a democracy. Rev Frank Chikane said the following which has sat with me and I have no concrete answers to this – other than we need to find this path through restitution and peace: ‘In the build up to 1994 the country was taken across a bridge in such a way that bought the country to a new place without destroying it; however the economic system wasn’t taken across the bridge’.

I sat listening to people speaking about their experience of growing up poor, of the struggle to escape an economic system that is responsible for much of the structural violence and neglect many people still suffer under and realised that this was the bigger narrative against which the smaller, personal narrative needs to unfold. As a South African who is white how do I find my space in the midst of this when I see what are emotional, angry and ‘you can’t possibly understand the other’ type responses on social media and news comments?

How do i listen to what needs to be said, but still ask or challenge or engage people to find an alternate way to that of bitterness driven responses? This morning I again saw a person of colour being allowed to respond to an emotional statement (which is allowed too) and yet when a ‘white’ person affirmed the initial response and asked the questions which I too wanted to ask was immediately shot down. It made me think that while we talk a big talk about creating a land of equal opportunity that in the midst of that we need to find ways of seeing each other – and that means looking beyond our own assumptions and stereotypes –regardless of who they are about.

Sivuyile Kotela said ‘that we need to find a way of talking about poverty and it’s link to race without being racist; that the church has a responsibility to talk about poverty differently to those who do so for political reasons and that as much as don’t want to talk about race often, in the context of poverty it’s a needed discussion’. This might not be radical enough for some of my more left wing friends. It might infuriate some of my more right wing friends that the race word has once more been used.

So in this context how does this broader narrative and story that is currently unfolding as a nation impact my personal narrative around justice? I have had FOMO watching friends engage in dialogues around this until I felt convicted that actually, justice needs to be about the way we live our lives – and yes the dialogues matter, but what matters too is actioning the things that we see and hear.

How do I acknowledge and what do I do re: my white privilege? No – that doesn’t mean I have a trust fund, it simply means that inherently if I listen to some of my best friends (who happen to have grown up differently based on their skin) tell stories of their childhood, do I acknowledge & respond to the wrongs or simply nod and move on?

Justice in my day to day life is about how I:
– Engage my community
– Engage my neighbours
– Engage those employed by me: whether at work or at home. Do I respect and value the person & her work, helping in my home enough to pay her a generous and living wage or do I worry that this will impact my disposable income too adversely?
– What do I do with disposable income and time?
– What do my friendship circles look like? Do I intentionally befriend people whose stories differ to my own so that there are bridges being built or do I surround myself with people who are like me and allow to not have to think/ talk or be the other?
– Is my faith & it’s actions private or is there a social aspect to it in terms of how I live it out?

I don’t have answers for all of the above – but when I start to ponder them the selfishness of aspects of my world are bought to light and it brings me back to consider where I need to shift again.