Between Hurricane Sandy and the shootings at Sandy Hook, I’ve seen hundreds of memes, Facebook posts, web vigils, and news segments about the human loss—and the digital things I am meant to “share”. These platitudes and busy-box actions are intended to be little ways we can all stoke the fires of awareness, but I see them as mostly meaningless distractions from real interactions and true reflections. We click it and forget it.
It’s not that these little activities are wholly bad. I just think they are misguided. Together, we buy into this idea that by posting on Facebook, by texting each other partial thoughts, and by dog piling onto ‘never forget’ and ‘it’s the government’ sentiments… that we’re doing something. I mean, I guess it is more that nothing. But to me, it’s not much of anything.
Of course, if you’ve read any of the other posts here, you know that I believe unchecked smartphone and social media use make each of us less connected, less aware of our feelings and surroundings, less able to have quiet moments of reflection, and less apt to endeavor into non-digital activities. So as a logical extension, I believe that we use technology for tragedies like we do for more mundane moments—to make us feel like we’re connecting or being productive.
So… what am I advocating? Good question. As with anything, your mileage may vary. See dealership for details. For me, I have the nagging sense that rather than just rolling my eyes at the endless stream of fleeting posts about these and other tragedies… I need to do more than not participating in it. I need to do something real and meaningful.
This past weekend—as the Sandy Hook news and reactions mushroomed—I was at the mall with my kiddo when I spotted a former colleague sitting alone. I’d learned a couple of months back that her brother and sister-in-law died in a car wreck while on vacation abroad… orphaning their two young girls. I heard she had dropped everything to move to be with them. We emailed about it once and I left it at that. When I saw her on Saturday I approached her to see how things were going. I learned that a family decision had since nudged her out of the immediate support system and then she lost her job here due to the time she’d taken off. She was visibly devastated.
In that moment, it hit me. A Facebook post is not enough. A well-meaning email is not enough. This blog post is not enough. What I feel profoundly is that rather than scattering my thoughts and words into a thousand ones and zeros, I need to devote an hour of my time to spend with someone like my colleague—someone right here in my city. A real conversation. Real listening. Real help. THAT is meaningful and that’s where I’m going to start.
And I’m not posting about it either.