What have we come to normalize?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

In the middle of the night, as I was nursing Red and mindlessly scrolling through facebook just to stay awake to get through the feeding, I noticed the same 'math challenge' post several times down my newsfeed as multiple people were sharing it. You know, there is a clever little word problem and then you try to figure out the answer most quickly and then share on your own page if you got it right. Harmless enough... 

But the thing about the word problem is that the premise was such normalized violence that I was stunned. What a disgusting normalization of the complete loss of empathy in our (social media) world.

The problem for me lies in the fact that so many people shared it and challenged each other without a second thought. 
It's no big deal, right? 
It's just a silly social media game, right? 
Don't be so uptight about it, right?

But it's a perfect illustration of what we have normalized in today's (social media) world
  • the mindless sharing of information and words
  • the inescapable drive of a challenge no matter how inappropriate (or dangerous)
  • the unintentional (or intentional) sharing of hurtful and insensitive language
  • the belief that words don't hold value anymore (ie. it was just for fun! Don't take it so seriously!)
  • the thought that this word problem is not so far fetched...instead of horror at the language used to create a math problem
And the answer itself shed lights on a disturbing characteristic of our own thought process - regardless if you answer 10 or 71 what does that say about the way we digest normalized violence and violent deaths in today's world? 

Can we recognize that this 'silly and meaningless' social media challenge is asking us to use our brains to calculate whether human dead bodies count as people to solve a math problem. what the actual...

I am bothered by this as an adult that lives and walks along with you. This cannot be the way we are spending our time, right? We must also be sitting down and looking face to face with another human being sipping a hot drink and chatting about memories, right? We are also taking our dogs for walks and marveling at the way the sunlight comes through the branches of a tree. We must also reading picture books with children on our lap who are interrupting every sentence with a question because their little brains are going a mile a minute with not a screen in sight. We must also be chopping, stirring, mixing, and kneading food that we are making and baking with our own two hands. Please say we have not lost the simpler, intentional parts of life. 

But more deeply, it makes my heart ache as a mother and a teacher. Because the unintentional sharing and disregard for the power of what it is that we share pours directly into the people we are raising up; to our children.

Do you realize that in our schools, teachers and students (yes, even kindergartners) practice active shooter drills at school. We take time out of our learning to practice what to do if someone comes into the building to try to kill us. We as a society have agreed that this is a valuable use of time during our children's school day. That we are not going to solve the active shooter problem, rather we should teach our children in school how not to be murdered.

Although maybe this math problem wasn't meant for actual children, kids are on social media and certainly have access to this normalized and passive violence and insensitivity. They are watching and listening to the way we use words; they are learning how to use language to express themselves and what you say, write, and share holds weight - especially to the kids that look to you for guidance and approval. If we say it's okay and funny and not a big deal - they are taking that as a direct order. It's okay and funny and not a big deal for them to talk, joke, and share brazenly too. 

Sure, this might be over analyzing some stupid, meaningless social media share.
And the problems in this world are bigger and heavier than some dumb shit I stumbled upon (repeatedly) at 3am while I was overtired and breastfeeding my 11week old. 

But let's go off on a good solid rant because ya know what? I'm tired of all your crap.
because if we want to fix the big problems we need to be held accountable to all the stupid, meaningless stuff that we are consuming and sharing constantly - non freaking stop - to one another.

You all need a good old fashion momma talking to - my children and some of my students can vouch that this is what you would be getting from me - 

I know barely anything about anything and I read a heck of a lot of books and I talk to heck of a lot of different kinds of people. So if I barely know anything - you definitely don't know shit. Do not come at me with some crap you saw on the internet one time from one person from some corner of the web that does not value citing sources because...hell no.Your social media posting should be to listen first, research second, question third, listen again, go to the opposite side of belief and find out what they are saying too, research some more, do a fact check on everything you think you understand, and then MAYBE speak about topics you are not a qualified expert on. Do not embarrass yourself because, child - you are a reflection of every person who loves you and I will be damned if you think you are going to go out in the world and make ME look bad. Practice some humility, you are not special - you are one part of this great big world. You are small, yes, but that doesn't mean you aren't important because everything you say and do ripples out to everyone you come in contact with. So it's in your best interest to go make a hot drink and sit down with an actual human being in front of your face and have a real conversation where you both speak and listen. But listen for understanding not half listen while you just wait for your chance to talk again. Put down your phone, go outside and breath some real air and take a kid with you because they will point out every tiny thing that you forgot was beautiful and precious and incredible in the world. And then maybe you'll be able to unclench your fist again and look at other human beings and see that we are all trying to love our people the best we can. Maybe you'll be able to see that sharing with others doesn't mean taking away from you. Shared joy is doubled joy. Shared grief is halved grief. Posting from behind the blue glow screen of your phone or computer in all caps is not how you get people to care about what you think, say, or do. You have to be out in the world living what you think, say, or do. There is room to grow and learn and be better. I know you can do it - I know we all can do it. I am proud of you already because I know you are going to try better. I love you. Now let's have a hug, go outside, and listen to the birds for a little while. We are going to do better, together we will.