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.