Don’t Tell Me How to Feel: The Ugly of Social Media

Over the weekend a couple of stories broke on social media that had everyone talking. Arguing. Unfriending. I get it — I have my feelings on the topic and I heard from more than one person that they didn’t agree with me. That’s okay, I don’t need the validation of the world agreeing with me, though many do. I don’t need to toe a party line. I’m okay being different. That all was no surprise.

What I do need is for people to be nice. Nice is frequently in short supply on social media. People post their proclamations about how others should act and then get holier than thou when you don’t agree. So much “don’t judge xxx..” but they have no realization that they’re judging you by your few words sharing your feelings on social media.

I’m so over it.

Don’t tell me how to feel.

This is the ugly of social media. It was all over Facebook all weekend. People were amazed that others didn’t feel the same as them and instead of just scrolling on down, they started posting and replying that feelings were wrong AND that we shouldn’t share them. On my wall, I can’t share my feelings? What just happened??

When did we each become so important that we can post pronouncements on Facebook about how others should feel? Or that we’ll ‘unfriend’ simply for not agreeing? Random status updates about how people need to stop talking about xx or need to change their feelings — I’m lost, I don’t get where it made this turn. Where did kindness go?

Maybe it’s the time of year. The political atmosphere is atrocious. We’ve only been on social media for a few major elections now but this season is definitely the worst. I’ve never seen so many people say “But WHY?” The insistent poking until someone feels pushed into explaining their choice, or rather, defending it. So I ask “But WHY?” Why do we owe each other an explanation for our feelings? Why do we have to justify?

The written word is very easily misinterpreted. Simply saying “I’m angry the gorilla was shot” was taken as “I don’t care about the child,” which is very much not the case. Animal lovers are hated right now simply for feeling sad for the gorilla. Saying “that poor child” is taken as “I don’t care about the gorilla.” I’m pretty sure neither of these scenarios is accurate, yet people are rabid towards each other based on a few sentences. Worse yet, much of the vitriol is directed towards people about comments they made on other peoples’ walls.  I posted to a story my daughter shared, and I got a DM — from someone who just happened to see it in their feed — that it’s a shame I don’t feel differently towards the story. Huh?

A) Why is your feeling more valid than mine? I get that you’re passionate about this story, but so am I. Our feelings don’t make the other person wrong.

B) It wasn’t directed at you. I understand Facebook has put it in your face, yet I wasn’t speaking to you, with you, or about you. Please remember that. (And truly, I’m sorry that you’re having to see all my replies. I really dislike that about Facebook. I don’t choose to clutter your feed.)

C) To take it a step further, what I share on Facebook, on my wall, is my right. I’m not a nasty person, I’m not inappropriate and I’m not mean, so I don’t share things that are hateful, hurtful or attacking in any way, shape or form. You won’t find ridiculous behavior or vulgarity.  If you’re on my personal wall, it’s because I trust you; that’s why I only have 357 friends, by choice. I don’t just randomly friend, I don’t need the numbers. I consider my personal Facebook wall to be my safe zone where I can share things I like, photos of my family, funny stories or news that I find interesting. I don’t need to be attacked for that, so if you’re a friend of mine, please remember that I expect you to be kind. I don’t expect you to agree, so I don’t have a problem with respectful discussion; if you are going to tell me I’m wrong though, or that you just can’t understand me, please refrain. We need to let people have their feelings and be willing to say “I don’t understand, but that’s okay.” Your wall is your wall, so you can post those nasty pronouncements all you want, because I don’t want to be contradictory, but if it’s a bully pulpit to tell others how to behave, not cool. Behave how you want on your wall, but let others have that same right you’re expecting. Hand-in-hand.

Stuff like this weekend makes me want to step away from social media. I work in the field, so I can’t do that, but I still have to shake my head sometimes. The ability for us all to connect, for us to learn from each other, to network, to have fun, to celebrate together…it’s lost in the hate and negativity and drama. Real life isn’t scrolling through my Facebook wall reading people telling everyone why they hate something. Real life happens when I’m with my family, laughing at a funny story, enjoying life. Baking cupcakes, going to the movies, riding a ride at an amusement park and traveling. I love to write about that, so I’m not going anywhere. I live in what I think is the best state and I’m going to continue to share it with people. I just am not going to get embroiled in any drama. I can talk with my offline friends and family about the latest news, and that’s going to suffice.

So please, don’t tell me how to feel. I feel how I feel, and that’s okay. You feel how you feel, and that’s okay, too. You don’t need me to feel like you to validate your feelings. You don’t need to understand my feelings to make yours anymore significant, so don’t tell me my feelings are wrong. I like the color purple — someone once told me, not long ago actually, that it’s too bright of a color for a favorite color. Uhm, okay? Then how about this: you go like pale blue, and I’ll keep liking my bright purple. Deal? Deal. Look, the world won’t end, you can still paint your house pale blue and I’ll keep sporting the purple bag and necklace. Win-win! I’m pretty sure she felt good sharing her feelings with me, but having a feeling doesn’t mean you need to say it, and that’s where social media has contributed to the ugly out there. It’s given people carte blanche to share things they’d normally have kept to themselves. Sharing unsolicited advice, or unburdening themselves, has been couched as ‘honesty,’ but I prefer co-existing in a much more peaceful style. I’ll do my part – I’ll discontinue commenting in anything that could even slightly be contentious. I will not contribute to the ugly if I can help it.

But I am still going to like the color purple.

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