When Social Media Engagements Encourage and Connect You

I’ve never done this before, but I wanted to share an excerpt from an online conversation I just had. I’ve had some great discussions on the topic of race and racism on a friends page, and this exchange was the inspiration for my first podcast episode.

After a seemingly fruitless attempt to engage dialogue with a man who had criticised this video about the historical root of the term Caucasian, I was wisely advised by a fellow Facebook commenter not to waste time on people who want to remain ignorant. After telling him about my commitment to speak into these things, I was asked to share the story about the deconstruction process that led me into anti-racism activism.  The following was my response (as read on my new podcast Ooh, She’s Speaking)

 

“On one hand, I would say my deconstruction has taken decades, but the bulk of it has really taken place over the last few years.

I’ve claimed myself as an “anti-racist” for decades, and I truly believed I was. But now that I have gone through the bulk of this deconstruction, I can look back and say that I was very mistaken. My intentions were decent, but I had zero understanding of how much I had been shaped by external narratives. I had no real knowledge of history in this nation. I grew up raised and heavily relating to my Native American ancestry, so I had a solid amount of dislike for our founding as well as a severe distrust of our government, but even that wasn’t enough.

I held firmly to the ethic of the individual and subscribed to the idea that being “colorblind” was an enlightened perspective. I became a Christian in my early 20s and felt a strong call to racial reconciliation within the church, but I had absolutely no idea how to approach it. I didn’t understand race, the creation of the concept, the deep roots of white supremacy and how it absolutely saturated medicine, academia, our justice system, and the way we live and relate to one another to this day.

I truly believed that we lived so segregated out of preference. I thought that we could just get along if our minds were open enough. I saw people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as opportunists, Malcolm X as a hateful man and I blamed them for the division. I looked up to the whitewashed view of a peaceful, docile MLK Jr. I never once questioned how or why I came to those conclusions, and if I’m honest, I probably just assumed it was by my own brilliant, enlightened thinking. But I understand now.

My most significant turning point came when I started learning about the difference between American Christianity and the Bible. As my entire concept of “church” shifted, as I came to the realization that we are so bound to tradition simply because it’s the tradition, other things started to fall away as well. Cultural norms, race… all of it. It was perfect timing really. My white family had moved and was living in a predominantly black neighborhood, I was questioning everything about what formed my perspectives and why I held the beliefs I did, I was being moved into more in-depth work on racism, and my eyes were open to injustice all around.

The icing on the cake was when I was finally given permission to get off my butt and start speaking out. Until then, I didn’t really know where I fit. I actually needed my friends of color to tell me that they were tired of taking on the fight, tired of talking to people and hearing the same old crap and that they wanted white people to start doing the heavy lifting.

Since then, I’ve been hosting dinner party/discussions, speaking openly about racism, and most importantly-reading, listening and learning from people of color.

Here’s the thing that blows my mind. It took me moving my white family into a predominantly black neighborhood, spending years listening and observing, developing deep friendships with people of color (I can’t tell you how many white people ask how to even meet people and do that), going to events and classes, and being part of a racial reconciliation group- to even begin to see what my friends of color have known all their lives!

It’s breathtaking, and I know it will be my work for the rest of my days on this earth. But I know that reconciliation is the heart of god, and I have experienced a depth of love and grace and beauty, heaven on earth, as I have pursued this work, bridged gaps, and worked toward unity. ”

 

Clearly, I am long-winded, but I was so excited that someone was curious enough to ask me to share my story, excited that they felt I would be open to doing so, and honored to share it.

 

The New Year Newsletter I Didn’t Have the Guts to Send

I just found this little gem from last month. We’ll call it the cathartic holiday newsletter since I didn’t actually send it to people. 

“I just choked back the annual New Year newsletter. And let me tell you, it was the perfect mix of happy crappy nonsense with a side of truth-telling. I wanted to go with the whole “honest Christmas card” thing but got cold feet and decided on the safe and “normal” card instead.

People think we’re weird enough.

If I’d had the actual guts to write an honest Christmas card, this is what I would have written:

Greetings and salutations dear friends and family! I could not manage a family Christmas photo shoot this year, because the truth is, I’ve eaten my feelings for the whole of 2017 and the only pants that fit are gray and slightly stained, not very festive looking, and would not coordinate with any other family members.

It’s true, I could go out and buy new clothes for everyone, and yes I have seen the helpful Pinterest tips on how to maximize outfit matchiness, but the idea of trying to color coordinate makes me want to drink before noon. And who am I kidding anyway? My children live in sweats and dressing them up for a photo that I will send to a bunch of people I don’t ever hear from just to make them think I have my life together doesn’t feel very authentic.

And 2017 was the year of authenticity for me. Damn you, Bréne Brown!

2017 was also a crap heap of emotions. We lost loved ones, had other’s diagnosed with life-threatening diseases,  were plagued with endless hospital visits, and Trump became the actual president of the United States.

But I digress.

My husband has a job, so that’s good news.

The kids are great. They love to fight and argue and have some really creative name-calling skills.

As for me, I put much of my life and career on hold so I could homeschool the kids. The mix of ADHD, having your mother as a teacher and your brother as your classmate makes many days barely bearable.

It wasn’t a great year, and despite my efforts, the holidays didn’t feel very cheery for us. The movie Elf still made me crazy and no amount of mocha spiced cheery chino, holiday music or perfectly coiffed holiday photos posted to social media soothed this Grinch.

But I’d be exaggerating if I said all was lost in 2017. We did have some fun, and we definitely learned some valuable life lessons. Dealing with chronic illness taught us a lot about how strong we are as a family, and who we can rely on when things get difficult.

Well, here’s to the New Year! May it be brighter and better and less of a dumpster heap.”

From The Archives: The Illusion of Intimacy

I’ve noticed a theme in many stories shared on social media lately. I was deeply touched by The Innovation of Loneliness; a short video which explores the changes in the formation of our social circles and communities as we become more “connected.” I’ve also watched a few that explore how women’s self-perception is being impacted by constant comparison with photoshopped “beauty.” Most notable are the number of stories about disconnecting from technology to connect more fully with life and those around us.

I’ve been contemplating my own loneliness, especially since becoming a mom. I’ve wondered if it’s a natural part of staying home with my kids. Am I really cut out for motherhood? Or am I just too selfish? I’ve also wondered if the disconnection I’ve felt upon my move back to the U.S. is due mostly to moving back into the same old when I am nowhere near the same old. Perhaps I’ve just entered into a dramatically changed place? My absence and re-entry into the US have, after all, coincided with the immense growth in popularity of Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Questions give birth to more questions.

I am sure of a few things though. While social media is designed to connect, its natural consequence is further alienation from one another. While keeping up with friends and family through Facebook can be an excellent way to stay “connected” from a distance; it is not a replacement for the relationship.

If I haven’t called you, spoken to you, or sent you an email of a more personal nature- I can’t expect you to know or feel tended to on a relational level. It’s just reality. Conversely, when I speak with someone I haven’t heard from in a while and realize they keep up with me through Facebook; and may even have a decent grasp on the recent goings on in my life- it gives me great pause. Suddenly, someone I didn’t consider to be part of my inner circle seems like they should be. After all, they know what I ate for dinner yesterday, the cute thing one of my kids said to me that morning, or my thoughts on the day in general. It feels strange, out-of-body, and adulterous.

Adulterous may seem like a strange descriptive, but it best describes my sentiment in these moments. It’s as if there is this potential relationship being cheated on. A relationship that could exist, but won’t because I’ve settled for cheap and quick hook ups in the form of Facebook posts, tweets and so on.

I’ve settled for surface when I could have commitment. I’ve chosen relationships of convenience and ease that take place on my terms; as opposed to the messy and challenging relationships that happen in real time. I prefer airbrushed and dressed up in place of real and wrinkled. Intelligence and quick wit win out over thoughtfulness and pause.

Human relationships are messy and flawed. Frustration and challenge entwine with beauty and creativity in the bonds we form when we walk side by side. There is a dignity within the wrestling of relationship. We are known. We are accepted. We are stretched and grown. We are challenged and encouraged. Our lives are spoken into in meaningful ways, and we are given opportunities to speak into others lives similarly. We are held to a greater responsibility relationally. When someone is sitting across from us in our living room or at a table in a café- we can’t simply unfriend them or block them from our feed.

Is it any coincidence that as we become more “connected” through social media- we actually feel less connected, less accepted, and less cared for? We yearn for beauty, creativity, and understanding but report feeling less and less of these things with each passing day.

Perhaps it’s time to do something different.

Set down the tablet or phone (after reading this of course). Walk away from the screen in front of you and do something scary. Call someone you’ve intended to call for a long time. Make plans to get together with a friend. Invite people into your home for a meal. Throw aside your reservations, fears, insecurities, and excuses. Make the change. Shift the paradigm. Reach out and touch someone 😉

The Illusion of Intimacy

I’ve noticed a theme in many of the stories being shared on social media these days. I was deeply touched by The Innovation of Loneliness ; a short video which explores the changes in the formation of our social circles and communities as we become more “connected”. I’ve seen several that challenge and explore how women’s self perception is being impacted by constant comparison with photo shopped “beauty”. Most notably have been the number of stories about disconnecting from technology in an effort to connect more fully with life and those around us.

I’ve been contemplating my own loneliness, particularly since becoming a mom. I’ve wondered if it’s a natural part of staying home with my kids. Am I really cut out for motherhood? Am I just too selfish? I’ve also wondered if the disconnection I’ve felt upon repatriation from China is due mostly to moving back into the same old when I am nowhere near the same old. Perhaps I’ve just entered into a dramatically changed place? My absence and re-entry into the US has after all, coincided with the immense growth in popularity of Facebook, twitter and other social media outlets. Questions give birth to more questions.

I am certain of a few things though. While social media is designed to connect, its natural consequence is further alienation from one another. While keeping up on friends and family through Facebook can be a great way to stay “connected” from a distance; it is not a replacement for relationship. If I haven’t called you, spoken with you, or sent you an email of a more personal nature- I can’t expect you to know or feel tended to on a relational level. It’s just reality. Conversely, when I speak with someone I haven’t heard from in a while and realize they keep up with me through Facebook; and may even have a decent grasp on the recent goings on in my life- it gives me great pause. Suddenly, someone I didn’t consider to be part of my inner circle seems like they should be. After all, they know what I ate for dinner yesterday, the cute thing one of my kids said to me that morning, or my thoughts on the day in general. It feels strange, out of body, and adulterous.

Adulterous may seem like a strange descriptive, but it best describes my sentiment in these moments. It’s as if there is this potential relationship being cheated on. A relationship that could exist, but won’t because I’ve settled for cheap and quick hook ups in the form of Facebook posts, tweets and so on. I’ve settled for surface when I could have commitment. I’ve chosen relationships of convenience and ease that take place on my terms; as opposed to the messy and challenging relationships that happen in real time. I want airbrushed and dressed up in place of real and wrinkled. Intelligence and quick wit win out over thoughtfulness and pause.

Human relationships are messy and flawed. Frustration and challenge entwine with beauty and creativity in the bonds we form when we walk side by side.

There is a dignity within the wrestling of relationship. We are known. We are accepted. We are stretched and grown. We are challenged and encouraged. Our lives are spoken into in meaningful ways, and we are given opportunities to speak into others lives similarly. We are held to a greater responsibility relationally. When someone is sitting across from us in our living room or at a table in a café- we can’t simply unfriend them or block them from our feed.

Is it any coincidence that as we become more “connected” through social media- we actually feel less connected, less accepted, and less cared for? We yearn for beauty, creativity, and understanding but report feeling less and less of these things with each passing day.

Perhaps it’s time to do something different.

Set down the tablet or phone (after reading this of course). Walk away from the screen in front of you and do something scary. Call someone you’ve intended to call for a long time. Make plans to get together with a friend. Invite people into your home for a meal. Throw aside your reservations, fears, insecurities, and excuses; and (to quote an old telephone company jingle)- “reach out and touch someone”.