Strictly process, strictly progress.
Qualifier: This entry is different in nature than the other ones in this blog, in that its subject isn’t directly about writing. People comment all the time on the positive, non-dramatic ways I use Facebook, which I appreciate. I try to create very specific kinds of forums with my online spaces, and I feel most comfortable with the voice I’ve developed on Facebook. There are a lot of things going on there, a lot of which owes its success to writing (as opposed to videos or links or pictures), so I’m squeaking it in here under that guise.
Another point about this entry more directly related to writing: This entry started with what you will read and then I tried to boil it all down in an example, which was how I ended up with the paragraph/status update that I posted (9/8/14):
Dear online warriors for truth, justice and change:
Social networking is a video game, and just because you occasionally want to use it to build something meaningful or to inform people doesn’t change that. What people don’t get is that it’s game you still have to program to be effective. So if you want to play it like Pac-Man then you’re in for a lot of ghost chasing. I play it like Civilization: I put up buildings and expand territories and develop technologies. The people who like the way I build things come and kick it for a while. Sometimes I’ll amp up the science, sometimes the ammunition. Sometimes I’ll drop a party in there. I don’t hack other people’s cities. I just work on making my city where people want to be.
And then we’re ALL building the city.
It took me two pages (below) to get to that analogy, so by posting it all here you get to see my writing process (or rather, editing…both) in a very concrete way. That alone qualifies it for this blog no matter what it has to say.
That’s my qualifier.
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Most political people do Facebook wrong. I don’t mean the lobbyists or election evangelists. I mean people who want to do good by actually changing the world. Here’s how they blow it, in as short a phrase as I can parse it: they underestimate the scale of the world around them. And I don’t mean the proper world, the real world, the macro. I mean the Pangea that they’ve created out of the personal/professional/political stuff of their own lives, the world they’ve fashioned along the trends, the world they’ve katamari-ed out of friends that aren’t real people, allies that don’t know they’re supposed to be aligned, and under an ever-shifting set of rules of engagement that no one else can see. And that’s before they pour their individual –isms, unanswered prayers, and wanton need over everything. Even THAT microcosm is too big to fight one-on-one, all of the time, every day. Striking forth into the ugly wilderness to do battle with racists and sexists – and worse – is a great way to sell a comic book but it’s a mostly ineffective way to prompt change.
I care about a number of social issues, some of them passionately, and find that it’s a) a better use of my talents and b) in my interest physically and psychologically to create spaces where those things can be brought to light and processed in productive ways rather than attempting to change the often raw, unmoored spaces that others have created. I create the spaces I want to see, not search or wait for space that may turn on popularity’s dime. And if it turns out that my space is out of whack with justice or right or truth, the world has ways of letting you in on that joke. But I refuse to spend time fighting in other people’s spaces when I have a perfectly good space that I have every right to manage in the interest of not only my missions and values, but my sanity. It’s not like my missions and values are unpopular. And if I have to be more interesting than a cat video you can’t stop posting to do it, I will. At the end of the day, I’ve got a card bigger than every other card I own: the This Is My Space Card. I don’t treat that space as a 24-hour news cycle. I act like you can see what I’ve put up before because you can. And if you can’t be bothered to process who or what I am over long periods of time in this alarmingly public space between posts you don’t like, that doesn’t mean I have to fight you about it. That means you should read more. “I don’t know what kind of social presence you used to, but this space right here goes THIS way, holmes. Catch up.”
I spent many years being a social and political gladiator, on and offline. And while I can still wield a sword when I need to, I don’t want to be a gladiator anymore. More often than not I want to be solace, to be evidence that intellectual and emotional refuge can exist amidst chaos. I only need guard against the creeping tide of ignorance rather than marshalling an army of emotionally fluctuating and vaguely committed masses into the roaring sea of ignorance. Or charge into a melee one hundred times a day with people for whom a battle may merely be a distraction from work, or an incomplete and misguided life overall.
I’m not saying don’t fight. Pick your fights as you see fit. Just understand that there will always be fights, always and forever. And when you go, what will you have left behind for all of your sallying forth into battle? Better to leave a trail, a path, a formula, however that manifests in your life. Fighting for the right thing whack-a-mole style day in and out is a recipe for burn out, and what’s left at the end of a game of whack-a-mole but more moles? Put an oasis on your Pangea. Stop giving your strength and health away for free and exact an admission fee for your sanity. Wait for the discussion to hit the level that preserves you, not drains you. Don’t repeat yourself; point to the stamps in your passport from the places you’ve already explored. Otherwise the scars were for nothing.
People decry online activism a lot, which is understandable. 90% of its execution looks a lot like people sitting in their underwear making memes in Photoshop or passing on angry notes with their cellphones. I’ve written on how imbalanced and mistaken an impression of activism that position is, so I won’t dwell on it now. Like all activism, it requires balance, but when that balance is struck, good and real work gets done. 50% of activism is awareness building. No one can deny the obvious benefits of utilizing the tools that most people already use to generate awareness on issues without sounding like a curmudgeon. Maybe space building isn’t your mode. That’s fine. But don’t let anyone convince you that online activism isn’t activism. Just make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s productive to not only your movement, but your well being.