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Of ice buckets and Ferguson

shutterstock_145318993If you are on Facebook or on Twitter or don’t live under a rock then likely you have been either witness to or part of the ongoing cultural conversation around the ALS ice bucket challenge and the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the resulting outcry in his community and beyond.

I was thinking about this juxtaposition today, in particular about the controversy of the juxtaposition. I’m not talking about either thing itself — people drenching themselves in ice water or a young man’s death at the hands of police — but about these two things happening at the same time and how people are managing the presence of two wildly different cultural events happening at the same time.

I’m not the only one talking about this. Orlando Jones is. And Digiday.com is. But I’m thinking more about our response to each other and what it has to say about what we need.

I have read (I’m sure you have read) racist arguments, tearful essays, hopeful blog posts. I’ve watched (and I’m sure you have watched) moving challenges, funny challenges (and of course failed challenges) and challenges starring celebrities calling other celebrities out. I’ve also watched (and I’m sure you have watched) videos of mothers testifying to the loss of their Black sons, video of people rioting, and video of people marching peacefully only to be met with violence.

I have read these things and watched these things because people have shared them on their Facebook feed.

For the most part the divide is person to person; the person who posts a challenge doesn’t post much about Ferguson and vice-versa. Sure there’s cross over but not a whole lot. (You might be seeing something different; I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.)

This is what I’ve come away with.

Life is hard, deeply deeply hard and painful and we all cope with it in the best way we can.

  • Some of us really need to see the funny ice bucket videos and laugh knowing that it’s bringing attention to a good cause.
  • Some of us really need to see people willing to engage in hard topics on fluffy social media sites, to witness their friends speaking out and risking censure.
  • Some of us go to Facebook to escape.
  • Some of us go to Facebook to be inspired.
  • Some of us go to Facebook because we’re bored during an office meeting or during a toddler’s nap and we’re just killing time.
  • Some of us do best with lots of information and discussion.
  • Some of us do best when we can ignore bad news in the places where we play.
  • Some of us do our donating anonymously and would never make a show of our donations.
  • Some of us want to feel like part of a movement, to feel something exciting happening.
  • Some of us do our political work off-line where we won’t risk relationships.
  • Some of us speak loudly, passionately and use a status update as a rallying cry.
  • And yes, some of us do things on social media to make ourselves look good without any real interest in changing the world. (Sometimes the world gets changed anyway, even if some of the people who are part of the movement are just phoning it in.)

I think mostly about how much we (each of us, individually) need each other (each of us, individually) and this is why it is so inspiring and so painful when our social media is not reflecting what we want to see in the world.

I get compassion fatigue. Sometimes when I’m having a hard week or I’m working with a client (or two or three) who’s having a hard week I just want to take Buzzfeed quizzes (by the way, I’m Fanny Price!) and read LaineyGossip.com. Other times I really need to see the passion in people whose values resonate with mine, to see their hard work and anger. I have definitely been the person posting controversial articles on Facebook and I’ve definitely been the person temporarily hiding a friend posting controversial articles on Facebook.

I personally think that the ice bucket challenge has gone viral in part because of Ferguson and because of Gaza and because of Robin Williams. I think that when we collectively get sad we desperately want to get happy and so in hard times our Facebook fills up with pictures of cute kittens and calls to action that are easy and that are part of being hopeful.

But I also get why the juxtaposition is so jarring and makes some of us angry and/or disheartened.

I see a clear divide on my own Facebook feed with very little crossover right now. I don’t pretend to know why that is individually (I have friends who are generally right in front of anti-racist rallying who have stayed mum on Ferguson; I have friends who generally decry public displays of social charity who are tossing ice water over their heads) but I think it’s because these are hard times and we are all doing the very best we can.


Sharing around this week

fallpumpkin-insideHere are some things that caught my eye and that I shared on my Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page this week:

  • Catie, my co-facilitator for the All Adoption group has decided to create a casual, peer support Central Ohio Adoptee only group! If you or anyone you know might be interested in meeting up monthly, please join the Facebook page to get more info. This is SO SO NEEDED and I’m really thrilled she’s doing it!
  • I loved these pictures from the Humans of New York book review over at Brain Pickings. I don’t think I’d be happy living someplace so crowded but I sure do like knowing that it’s there to visit.
  • My friend Janine’s father died last week and she shared this post of her memories of being a little girl and spending time with him. Janine is a terrific, terrific writer and ought to be in your feed readers.
  • Spilt Milk wrote about having her children nearly removed from her care when she was struggling with a crisis in her mental health. Mentally ill mothers can be good mothers, too.

Finally, please click the last link for a quick pick-me up!


Things I shared around this week

flowerscartoon-insideHere are some things that caught my eye and that I shared on my Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page this week:


Stuff I shared around

sunpaisley-insideI don’t really hang out on Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page but I do share things around there and here’s some of what caught my eye this week:

And finally

Everyone Is (Not) Having More Fun Than You

shutterstock_85606345Normally I wouldn’t send you on over to the GQ site to get life advice but 99u pointed the way to this hilarious and accurate article about those pangs of jealousy we get when we are suddenly confronted with someone’s amazing life on our social media feed.

There have been far too many times when I’ve sat with a crying client in session while she lists the many ways she’s failing as a wife or mother or general human being. How does she know? Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram all tell her so. Her food is not as delicious. Her parties are less fun. Her children don’t nestle down to sleep in bedrooms beautified by child-sized furniture crafted from re-purposed Ikea bookshelves. Her life is just regular or maybe a little more (or a lot more) challenged than just regular at the moment, which makes her especially vulnerable to the idea that she’s somehow screwing up.

Do you know, new friends, how much work it takes to be one of those people who is at the right place at the right time, all the time? An awful lot of exertion—blood, sweat, tears, texts, e-mails, tweets, Facebook lurks, and most of all, fear—goes into making the social arts look effortless. It’s that fear that makes them work so hard.

via The GQ Guide to Getting Over #FOMO

Documenting our life for our social media followers takes a terrible amount of effort. All of that picture taking. All of that posing. All of that squinting to get the right angle or just the right update or exactly the right Vine that says, “My life is fantastic! And picturesque! And even the bad things are ironic or inspiring!”

People are curating their lives to show the very best events embellished with hashtags and gauzy filters. They are creating “unique narrative flow“, which means they’re leaving the less flowy parts on the cutting room floor. Even if we’re not seeking advertisers, we’re seeking some kind of return on our social media investment otherwise why would we post it? Be it attention or approval or the envy of others or even just a good (if heated) political discussion, no one posts to an audience without the audience in mind.

Just like you need to be critical when you look at magazines, you need to be critical when you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed. That doesn’t mean doubting your friends’ most perfect posts and pictures; it means remembering that you’re only seeing part of the story. Some of our friends will share the other parts, too (the deflated cakes, the crying kids, the lawn overflowing with dandelions) and some won’t. But you will know that we all have other parts even if we don’t share them. You can remind yourself that we could probably meticulously cut and paste our lives into amazingness, too, if we wanted to spend our time doing that instead of on other things like jobs or family or cleaning or counseling.

Besides, do you really want to be the mom snapping pictures at the birthday celebration in this commercial? Because personally, I don’t think the shot was worth it.

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