On any other day, it could have been someone else.
But that particular day, it was a high-profile Catholic with a follower count to match and a big social-media footprint who got the whole thing started.
User 1 mocked someone — a stranger — who was in no position to defend herself, and several hundred more users piled on with likes and comments, maybe hoping for a coveted sign of approval from User 1, such as a like, a retweet, or maybe (gasp!) even a personal response.
That’s how these pile-ons get started, after all. One person tosses out a tweet and we all jump into the fray.
Why do we do this? Why are we taking a page from “Mean Girls” in our use of social media?
Is this how Catholic women support each other?
We jump in. We pile on. Maybe we even make that statement that starts it all. We do this out of our own desire to be heard. To be seen. To be acknowledged.
Can’t we find ways to be seen by modeling kindness?
Can’t our voices be heard more clearly when we offer a positive word? A compliment? A cheerful greeting? A joke that isn’t at someone else’s expense?
I’m not saying there’s never any room to be snarky, but I am saying you need to be careful about your target. That target is a person too.
Probably at first, kindness won’t get you too far in growing your follower count. But if you get (or keep) followers because you tweet mean stuff, you need to re-evaluate your social-media strategy.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (Luke 12:48)
Use the power of your platform for good. Please.
Otherwise, you scandalize the rest of us — at best — and hurt others.
And if you’re going to use the power of your platform to exclude those who don’t fit in with the rest of your tribe, then that’s a tribe I wouldn’t want to join.
I’ve been a regular at Eucharistic Adoration for just over two years, and it’s taken me this long to find a way to use the time as a prayer intercessor for others.
For too long, I’d gone to the Adoration Chapel with an agenda and a tote bag: a spiritual book (or three) to read, a rosary, a journal, and my iPad so I could pray Liturgy of the Hours. It was getting to the point where Adoration was another task to check off my list, a quiet hour to read a book I’d promised to review. Check, check, check.
Checking off tasks is not what Adoration is supposed to be about.
I’d been noticing for a while that my friend Allison Gingras would share on Facebook that she was heading to Adoration, and offer to pray for any special intentions people posted. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I adopted her idea, so I created a graphic with a photo from our Adoration Chapel and shared it on Facebook for the first time in late February.
The response was tremendous. Over 40 likes. Over 35 comments. And a whole host of messages with private intentions. And I wasn’t just hearing from Catholics. I filled 2 index cards, both sides, with intentions posted in under 3 hours.
People are hungry for that intercessory prayer. People carry secret burdens and don’t always know how to ask for help, or even prayer over their situation. It’s a comfort to know that someone else is holding them up in prayer.
I took those two index cards and my rosary to the chapel. I always pray the Franciscan Crown rosary, and it’s a good thing it has 7 decades, because at one bead per intention I needed all those prayers to cover my list, plus my family and one general prayer for any late-breaking intentions (I wasn’t checking Facebook in the chapel.)
Later that day I got an email from one of the deacons at our parish, who’s my friend on Facebook. He wanted to let me know that he and his wife were going to begin inviting their Facebook friends to share intentions, to be prayed for during their Adoration hour.
He also said that this is a great way to evangelize. I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. Originally I’d hesitated to mention on Facebook that I was going to Adoration–but this has shown me that it’s something needed and appreciated.
It’s gotten to the point where I hesitate to go on Facebook, and I’ve been avoiding Twitter.
I know plenty of people who have sworn off social media entirely. I don’t know if that’s helping; it’s certainly not helping those of us who are still there are who are seeing proportionately MORE political stuff, because the folks who don’t want the political stuff aren’t there posting other stuff.
Facebook is like having a big meal at Applebee’s with your buddies from high school, your college roommates and your parents. Twitter is like going to a sold-out professional football game in Gillette Stadium and having a conversation with the people next to you, while yelling at the guy on the other side cheering for the other team (4).
I’ve always enjoyed social media, and I use it for my job. But right now it’s become a chore. Facebook isn’t like a big meal at Applebee’s right now. It’s more like a bar brawl. I expect chairs to fly through windows any minute.
I’ve maintained that this election is going to be won through the media. Not social media. I still believe that.
But if you are still on social media, would you please do something besides bicker?
This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.
Several months ago, I got a Facebook friend request that surprised me, from a mom I’ve been acquainted with for several years through school. Our paths have crossed through various sports and school parties, but we don’t know each other at all and normally wouldn’t get past that “how’s your kid doing?” type of conversation.
This mom is a confident woman. She’s successful in the business world. She’s comfortable in leadership positions.
In other words, she’s the opposite of me.
My own bad experiences in high school (I was the middle-class kid in a very small school populated largely by the Ivy-league crowd) lead me to instinctively fear people like this mom. And by “fear” I mean “do anything I can to avoid having to be near” such people.
That’s not conducive to getting to know someone.
That doesn’t help you dispel the crazy illusions you have that someone else, someone you really don’t know, leads a charmed life where everything is perfectly perfect.
My fear of confident, successful leaders, it turns out, is born of a bad combination of social anxiety and jealousy.
There. I said it.
Anyway, I accepted the friend request and didn’t think anything of it.
Over the past few months, this mom has shared some things that have opened my eyes.
She does not live the charmed life I thought she did. This is not because she was ever lying about her life–it’s about the assumptions I made given the little I knew.
Her life is not perfect. She has problems too. She has trials and struggles and difficult situations.
She’s just like the rest of us, trying to make the best of things.
This mom has been gifted with confidence and leadership abilities. She uses them at work and she uses them as she volunteers to help her children’s schools. She’s a hard worker, not standing on some perfect pedestal.
So for those people who say that spending time on social media is useless, I’m sharing this story. If I had not made this Facebook connection, I’d never have learned that someone I thought was so perfect, who had it all, has problems too.
I’d never have had the opportunity to feel less jealousy and more compassion.
I’m still working on the social anxiety part, but this is a big step in the right direction.
We just didn’t want to let the whole world know that nobody was home at our house. It’s a safety thing.
You might think that if you mark your Facebook posts “friends” instead of “public” that you’re safer. And you are. But you never know who’s looking over your friends’ shoulders. As for Twitter and Instagram, everything you tweet and ‘gram is broadcast for the whole world to see.
And it’s not like we have a common last name. So we chose the “better to be safe than sorry” route this vacation. My photos never did make it to Instagram. That’s OK.
I just pulled the vacation photos from my camera’s memory card this morning. It’ll take a while to go through them, but I do hope to share more of the beauty we experienced.
As for the tweets, I’ll bet you didn’t even miss them.
I actually stayed unplugged (no cell phone except for the camera function, no Internet, no text messages, no email) for over 7 days. No, I didn’t get the shakes! I read 7 books, played board games, ate too much fancy food, admired scenery, napped, and stayed out of the sun.
Good times. Even without Instagram.
I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!
Not much writing this week–though I got a good bit done in this space, for a change! Between a “day off” for Labor Day, a half-day spent getting TheKid’s insulin pump started, and two Secular Franciscan events in the same weekend, my schedule was packed. In a good way.
The other day I lived through an example of how things said online aren’t always what they seem. After a Murphy’s Law hour, when everything that could go wrong did, I blew off a little steam on Facebook and then got down to the business of dealing with All The Things.
My oven is broken and there’s a mouse in the back porch. Also, I’m all out of Milky Ways.
Yes, I was whining. And venting. And trying to make light of the situation, all at the same time.
After the fact, it was interesting to do a little people-watching in terms of the reactions.
Some people sympathized.
What a bummer of a day for you.
Some people got the joke. And the need for chocolate at a time like this.
The worst was the last one. 🙂
Me: I’d definitely be dealing better with the first 2 if that last thing wasn’t also a factor.
That’s some serious <redacted> you’re dealing with!! lol
Without the chocolate, I would not be able to deal with the other two issues! LOL! 😉
You can’t handle all that stress without chocolate!!
Local friend who understands my weakness for ice cream: Guess you need a trip to The Meadows
That last one is the deal breaker really
Noooooo!!! Not out of Milky Ways!!!! I’m sorry for loss.
This ranks as a State of Emergency.
Barb, you were on the Nightly News no Milky Ways !!! lol
Local friend 2 who likes my homemade cookies: It was the Milky Ways that really make this sad! Oh, and your oven, too (no cookies)!
Crumb. Any other chocolate?
Oh no! Out of Milky Ways!!!
Then we got down to solving some problems.
Me: Mouse-in-the-porch plan: when Street Urchins arrive, promise them donuts if they find the mouse and safely relocate it OUTSIDE. Not that it couldn’t get right back in again, but…
Friend: broken oven– I switch to the steel wok on the grill, or a crock pot– but that last one– out of chocolate with nuts– oh that is major bad!
Me: I have a toaster oven and a Nesco roaster, so I can make it work (though there won’t be cookies).
Friend 2: I have made cookies in a toaster oven…cannot be helped when you have a cookie craving in the middle of a heatwave… Lol
Friend 3: First things first: Make a run to the drug store!
Friend 4: Tomcat traps are great. You never have to touch the mouse’s carcass —- OR you can get a humane trap and bait it with peanut butter and/or chocolate. You just have to be sure to haul the catch far, far away (3 or 4 miles, or on the other side of a creek or river) so they don’t return.Then follow Friend 3’s advice and run to the store for those Milky Ways! LOL
Me: Street Urchins are currently debating whether a donut is “worth it” in this case.
Friend 6: You can solve that milky way crisis pretty easily. The others, not so much….
Friend 7: Mice hate peppermint and a mini peanut butter cracker on a mouse trap works quite well. you’re on your own with the oven. I’d call a repairman or someone with those skills.
World-traveling friend: It is too hot to turn on the oven. Pay the urchin five bucks for catching the mouse. Amazon should take care of the Milky Way problem, unless you want British ones and then I can bring some back next week. Let me know.
And then, a progress report:
Me: Looks like the Street Urchins have prevailed over the mouse! (And killed a giant bee as a bonus!)
Friend 4: HOORAY!!!!!
And then, a ray of hope for my broken appliance:
Friend 5: Barb, my husband repairs ovens! What’s wrong with it?
Me: Well, it is flashing E2 F3 in the display and burning SUPER hot.
Friend 5: I will have him call you! What make oven and how old. Gas or electric?
Commence discussion re: make, model and what’s a good time to call.
Further resolution of the situation and other good news:
Street Urchins have been repaid for the safe capture and relocation of the mouse with donuts. And I have a caramel iced coffee, so I think we’re pretty much all set.
AND things keep looking up. I requested jury duty postponement so it wouldn’t be during TheKid’s summer vacation, and I just got a postcard saying I’m excused!
(And there was rejoicing in all the land.)
The urchins caught the mouse for 2 donuts each plus Klondike bars. 🙂
World-traveling friend: Excellent financial negotiation skills! Amp him with sugar and send him home
Further on down the line, after it was all over:
Friend 8: actually, i don’t like this like this. i am saddened by this, but like that you find humor even in the broken mousiness and the absent milky ways…
Me: That’s my survival skill, 🙂 At least we got the mouse safely to the woods down the block instead of my porch.
Friend 9: This sounds like a very bad day! 😦
Me: Fortunately, it got better. But all that in one hour was not fun.
And then there was this:
First world problems …
Now that’s the comment I don’t know how to take. Because it didn’t come with any emoticon to soften it, and the person who typed it isn’t someone I know in person (but who is a friend of many of my friends, and professionally I do wind up “friending” such people).
I am well aware that the lack of a working oven and the presence of a mouse are not major crises, and that not having any Milky Ways in the house does not constitute a State of Emergency.
So, OK. I was complaining about some pretty minor stuff. My friends got that it was minor, but upsetting, and the back-and-forth helped me get through the afternoon with some semblance of my sanity intact.
But now I feel like I am being judged, like I’m being told, “Suck it up, buttercup! There are starving people in <insert Third World Country here> who would love to have your ‘problems’.”
I wasn’t kidding when I told that one friend that finding humor in this situation is my survival skill. The humor here was that there were no Milky Ways, and bargaining with the Street Urchins for donuts in exchange for safe mouse relocation.
I can’t be sure that this person’s comment was meant as a put-down, but that’s how I interpreted it. Again, it’s hard to tell, just based on text and not knowing the person behind the words.
This may indicate that it’s time for me to evaluate whether it’s a good idea to have people as friends just because we have 47 mutual friends on Facebook. I might need to make an announcement that if I don’t know you in person or work with you, I’m unfriending, and then direct folks to “like” my author page.
(And yes, “work with you” counts because I work with over 100 people whom I’ve never met! If those people send me friend requests, I grant them.)
When my older son graduated college last spring, he had a job offer in his pocket. I followed that company on Twitter and then immediately forgot that I had. They didn’t tweet very much, and the tweets that did come through were from their British division (judging by their spelling of “personalisation,” so I didn’t expect to see any references to my kid and his work.
I knew that, this week, he’d be in Philly for work, attending a big event. And there were suddenly lots of tweets from a usually-quiet company account. Some of the tweets had pictures.
Like this one.
I retweeted it, adding a “there’s my kid!” remark. It’s cool to see him all grown up and hard at work.
The next day, my son called to tell me that one of his coworkers had commented, “Hey, somebody’s MOM retweeted my tweet about the event yesterday.”
My son said that this quickly morphed into a discussion about whose moms even know how to tweet, and that he’d said that I work for a blog and know more about social media than he does.
Which was quickly followed by, “Is this YOUR mom?” as a phone showing my retweet was handed over.
Well, yes, it was me.
So he called to ask how I’d found out about the event hashtag. (No such luck. I only saw the photo because his company was retweeting everything with that hashtag.)
At least I didn’t tweet this version for his coworkers to see.
He didn’t say he wanted me to unfollow, though, asking instead if there had been any other photos of him in the Twitter stream.
It’s neat to listen to him talk about his work. I’ve talked to him about mine, because he can appreciate what it is to build a page with jump links in HTML. (I was ridiculously proud when I learned how to do that.)
I’ll probably try harder to refrain from retweeting any more photos from his company. No promises, though.
Photo source: twitter.com/singerde Bottom photo modified by the author.
I don’t have thick enough skin to handle the kinds of conflicts that come when people who think everything must be done their way don’t get their way.
I got stuck in one of these this morning, and I am reeling right now.
A bit of background: I’ve administrated the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Little Brother’s school for the past year and a half. Because our principal is cautious regarding cyberbullying, it was agreed that any comments made to the school’s Facebook page would be deleted.
In 18 months, I have never seen anything but positive comments (and an occasional question) but I remove those comments anyway.
As a courtesy to the people whose comments are deleted, I take the time to send them a message like this one:
“I’m sorry; I had to remove your comment from the school Facebook page. I realize that it was a positive comment but per the school administration, no comments are allowed on the page. Unfortunately Facebook will not allow us to set the page up that way. You may “like” but not comment. Thanks for understanding!”
Because of the way Facebook works, sometimes these messages wind up in people’s “Other” folder, where messages from people they’re not connected with on Facebook land. But sometimes I get replies to these messages, and usually they’re simply apologies and the whole thing is over and done.
I removed a positive comment and sent my standard message and got a very angry response.
“It’s a sad world we live in…I don’t like you sending me a personal note…that is a shame…you shouldn’t even have a website…tell that to the principal.”
An attempt at a courteous response resulted in nothing but Feeding The Trolls.
And now I am sitting here trying to keep a lid on my emotions because a nasty message on social media has me all wound up and overwrought. I’m clenched and shaky and holding back the tears.
Social anxiety, anyone? (Social media anxiety…?)
All because someone I’ve never met in person (and am not likely to, as her children have already graduated from the school) was less-than-gracious when I dared to uphold a school policy.
And I don’t know how to make this go away, this reaction that is completely out of proportion to the situation I’m in.