Back Off

When the news about the Star Wars cast came out, I was beside myself with delight. Not that it was unexpected, but the thrill of knowing for certain that Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie were going to be back on the big screen, that these heroes of my youth were coming back, as much older as I was, but just as heroic? Thrilling.

I promptly went on Twitter to share my joy. Instead, I got barraged with innumerable tweets complaining about the lack of diversity, especially gender diversity, among the cast.

I get that. It’s a problem. As Michael A Stackpole put it so well, it’s a problem especially in Star Wars because the Empire was oppressive, misogynistic, xenophobic, elitist, and to not show a diversity in the cast now undermines much of what the Rebellion was fighting for.

Here’s the thing, though: at that moment, when I was nearly turning cartwheels over the thought of Princess Leia being back on the screen, I did not need to be overwhelmed with negativity. (Never mind the fact that I would be happier with ONE character with the depth of Leia than a dozen stereotyped “strong sexy women” on screen – I find those caricatures as offensive as the lack of women in general). I just wanted to share my thrill over my heroes.

And I do understand that for others, their need to share their disappointment was as strong as my need to share my joy. I’m not criticizing people for their honest reactions (although I am unhappy that negative reactions seem to shame positive ones – I felt like I couldn’t say anything happy about the Star Wars casting for fear of people throwing stones at me, as well). But for me, it illuminated a deeper problem.

I love social media for its ability to bring people together, and to allow us to connect with people we otherwise would never meet. I love that I have found other authors through it, people I can talk with about writing. I love discovering shared fandoms. And yes, I also like finding shared dislikes. But it’s getting to affect me too much.

The Star Wars tweets killed my joy. Slew it right in its tracks. And I don’t want that! I don’t want to be so tied in to social media that it can have that power over me.

Yesterday, I took almost the entire day off from the internet. I pulled out my old Gilmore Girls DVDs, and watched them while I made strawberry scones, washed a zillion loads of dishes, worked all afternoon on my niece’s quilt, made supper, and then worked on the quilt for the rest of the evening.

And it was great. It was exactly what I needed. Even Emily and Lorelai’s bickering seemed uplifting in comparison to the negative, swirling morass of Twitter and Facebook.

So, I’m stating this here, so you guys can keep me honest. I’m backing off social media. Not giving it up entirely, because I do have friends I don’t want to lose, and I do like to keep up on the world outside of seminary. But much, much less. Because it’s turning into an unhealthy relationship (okay, if I’m honest, it’s been unhealthy for a while because of how closely it hovers to an addiction, but now it’s becoming so obviously unhealthy I can’t ignore it any more), and because, of all the stress in my life, this is one I can most easily remove. I’ll still be on Twitter once in a while, still on FB occasionally, probably even still blog sometimes, but nothing like as pervasive as it all has been.

I am slowly untangling the death grip of social media’s tentacles around my throat, and I’m looking forward to being able to breathe unimpeded again.

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11 thoughts on “Back Off

  1. OMG I know exactly what you mean about the negativity. There’s this “social justice” thing online sometimes that seems warped to me– the reply is always that we need to keep talking about these things, we need to DRAW AWARENESS, but it gets to the point that, like you said, it’s like you can’t say anything POSITIVE anymore because the negative things are so SHAMEFUL how could you POSSIBLY be accepting of anything about it. The other day we went to McDonalds mostly because my daughter REALLY WANTED a My Little Pony toy, only it turned out they’d already moved on to Spider-man toys, and I looked at the sign and was (well, first off annoyed that I’d now been roped into getting McDonalds even though our original reason for picking McDonalds was moot– really not my favorite fast food) amused to see that McDonalds for once was offering Spider-man to EVERYONE, although for some reason they still had Boy Spider-man Toys and Girl Spider-man Toys, and I was like “Well, at least they’re acknowledging that girls can like Spiderman too,” but then I got home and discovered an online storm brewing of people being very offended by McDonalds’ feeling the need to make “girl” versions of the Spider-man toys and I thought, wait, McDonalds has been needlessly separating its toys by gender for YEARS– they’ve actually taken a step in the RIGHT direction (albeit a rather ridiculous step), and everyone’s suddenly all offended? There HAS to be a line between acknowledging that a change for the better is still not good enough and this shouting that BECAUSE IT’S STILL NOT PERFECT IT’S SO ABOMINABLY OFFENSIVE.

    And it really is depressing. I’ve taken to having a “we’ll see” attitude about everything. I too love Star Wars SO MUCH, but I’m so burned by the drama of “fan”dom that I refuse (somehow) to get excited or offended by anything about the new movies until I actually see them. I’ve distanced myself from it. Which is kind of sad.

    And I feel my relationship with social media is rather unhealthy, too. I keep trying to figure how to streamline it– making lists on Tweetdeck, only to discover that people I’ve relegated to the “less often” list are posting the best stuff, and someone on my “must” list is depressing me, or… well, you know. It’s just not working so well. And I wonder how much my own personal blocks are being reinforced by what I see online. I’m actually in the middle of trying to write a post about that.

    • On a purely practical level, regarding the gender-toy thing – my girls LOVE to wear princess dresses while they’re being superheroes, and they adore the Lego Friends sets (and Joy will spend hours building with them); all those things that people (including myself, before I had kids) sneer at as only deepening the gender divide, really are not all that bad. I would rather have my kid be into a “girly” Spiderman thing than no Spiderman thing at all, you know? I’m not going to squelch their fondness for “girly” toys/play, (so long as it doesn’t degrade them), just because I would’ve thought they were stupid when *I* was a kid.

      I thought I was safely distanced from my Star Wars love, but Aaron Allston’s death brought much of back, in a good way, and the news about Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie just sent me through the roof. No matter how mangled these movies might be, nothing is ever going to unwind these characters from my heart. My gosh, I was writing myself into Star Wars adventures long before I’d ever even HEARD of fanfiction (and Mary Sues, cough), and fantasizing myself in dozens more that I never even wrote. Not romantic, either! Just friendship (granted, BEST FRIENDS with them all) and adventure, the two things I longed most for as a teen. And so while part of me is nervous about how they’ll be portrayed … right now I’m so excited about seeing them again, and I want to enjoy that excitement as long as I can, and not feel like I have to squelch that because of others’ disapproval.

      There is a time and place for righteous anger, but for me, I find I have much more energy to devote to genuinely fighting injustice when I’m not overwhelmed all the time by “LOOK HOW BAD EVERYTHING IS BE ANGRY ABOUT IT.” Because I am much more inspired to do good by looking up at greatness, not looking down at filth. The latter just makes me tired; the former encourages me to “go and do likewise.”

      • Now this: “I would rather have my kid be into a “girly” Spiderman thing than no Spiderman thing at all, you know?” is just all kinds of awesome. :)

  2. But, but – I’ll miss talking to you and hearing from you!! Amongst other things, because you’re NOT one of those negative people, and you post interesting stuff like updates of the latest Poirot movies or something that we can get all excited about together.

    But, really, I know exactly what you mean. I don’t do Twitter, but FB is getting to the point where I was wondering, too, if I needed to get off again for a while. Too much negativity, too much conflict, too much bad news. I think I’ll stay on for the time being, because there is also genuine news from people I love, stuff I want to be kept posted on. But I’m backing off a bit, myself.

    Maybe we need to start our own social media – SmileBook, or something… “All Positive, All the Time!” Naah, never mind. Go back to your quilting, that’s even more positive. But for what it’s worth, I’m not a Star Wars fan at all, and even I thought it was cool to see the old guard back in the cast lineup! Don’t let the naysayers rob your joy.

    • Curiously enough, some of what annoys me the most on FB are the pseudo-encouraging posts – “Moms, here are 500 ways to DO BETTER BECAUSE YOU SHOULD BE FEELING GUILTY OVER HOW NOT-PERFECT YOU ARE,” accompanied by “wow, really needed to read this today!” comments, while I sit there trying to remember how to breathe calmly. Whereas Twitter seems to be where all the OUTRAGE OVER SOCIAL INJUSTICE happens. And it is sad, because on both are the good ways of staying connected, as well, and I hate letting the bad chase me away.

      On the other hand … knowing how much time I spend on social media a day, I just might find myself less overwhelmed with trying to be mom-writer-teacher-wife if that time is freed up for other activities. Like reading aloud to my kids! Or finishing niece’s quilt before she goes to college! Or even taking a nap, which sounds lovely right about now …

      So maybe this step back will be good in two ways: cutting unprofitable negativity from my life, AND freeing up my time to spend on more positive activities!

  3. You’re not the only one who is stepping back from the whole social media trap. I still get on, more Facebook than Twitter at times just to see what people are up to, but I have gone entire days hardly looking at some of it and didn’t really miss it at all. Sometimes I miss the old internet. You know, the place where we met and bonded over Anne of Green Gables? It can be such a block hole that just sucks us in.

    I have a Klout account, and I try not to pay attention to it at all anymore, because I really don’t want some app telling me how popular I am in the Internet world. I could easily find myself posting things that would get retweeted, shared, and whatnot just to raise my score. I don’t want to do that.

    I hardly ever blog anymore. I try to post once a week, but I find myself stepping back more and more to just enjoy things again. I’m enjoying actually writing for fun again. I’m horribly out of practice, and I honestly can’t write anything of real substance with a toddler constantly needing me right now, but I’m enjoying it again.

    Will I stay on social media? Yes, but I’m trying not to let it dictate how I post or what I post. I just want to be me.

    • Ack, I’m embarrassed over how often I check Twitter notifications, hoping someone will have retweeted or favorited something I wrote. I feel like a dope every time I do it, but I that doesn’t stop me. I know that my validation needs to come from Jesus Christ – I’ve known that ever since I was a teenager and first started looking at the world around me to make me feel special – and yet I still fall so easily into the trap of wanting others to think I’m important and clever. Gah. Popularity is such a subtle and pervasive trap.

      • It really is! I’m feeling pressured to go to a blogger’s conference basically in my back yard in September, and I kind of want to go meet people, but quite honestly almost all of the things they’re preaching I just don’t like. I’m rather tired of being told how my blog should look, what’s “in,”and what I should be blogging about. Either I blog from the heart, or not at all. I hate how flat my writing is when it’s forced or not from me.

        I realized the other day that I’m rather a “Method Writer.” Like a method actor, I have to really get into my characters, feel what they’re feeling, and such to write well. The same goes for blogging. To be “assigned” something really stifles me.

        And yet, I love retweets, likes, and whatnot. A part of me always will love that. It’s okay too, within moderation. I just have to not let it be a driving force for me.

        I’ve been thinking about starting a secret Facebook group for our comrades. We have one for the women in our Sunday School class, and it is a wonderful way to share every little thing from prayer requests to in-law rants without everyone else knowing about it.

      • I am terrible as assigned writing, as well. I was thinking about writing a short story to submit to an anthology, but even the parameters for that story (which were pretty wide – fantasy or sci fi, female protagonist) froze my brain. I couldn’t think of any decent plot!

        I like the idea of that secret FB group. Kind of a replacement for our old faith blog? There’s definitely something to be said for a safe place to share troubles and joys, without fear of other people reading or hearing.

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