One of my resolutions this year is to be a kinder, more compassionate and caring person—especially when it comes to politics—but the more I’ve reflected on this ideal, the more I’ve been troubled by a pretty pathetic reality, which is that, as a society, and especially in our own interpersonal communities, we don’t help each other out enough—even the people we agree with most and/or like best.
It’s particularly glaring as an independent writer fighting for exposure and eyeballs—Seriously, over eight years of publishing chuckingrocks.com, I’ve had maybe 20-30 shares on Facebook, and though I’ve been on Twitter for only two years, I can count the number of retweeted blogs on my two hands. Obviously, some of that is our discomfort in sharing our political views, and as the vast majority of my blogs are political, I can understand why readers hesitate in taking that action—especially given my general saltiness…
But therein lies the problem, right? Because if more people had been verbal and upfront about their disgust with Donald Trump, it’s likely he wouldn’t have been elected considering that he won by less than 100,000 votes in three states (and barely won Florida as well). Indeed, what if more Democrats had openly asked the question I’ve been asking for years now: what have Republicans done in the last 20 years to help ordinary Americans? I still haven’t gotten an answer to that question, and it would’ve been a powerful rhetorical and factual reminder in this last election that the GOP doesn’t have our best interests in mind.
However, this reticence to be honest and upfront about what we believe in and support extends well beyond politics. How many posts on Facebook in which a friend is asking for help or starting a business do you we see shared? Very few in my experience—instead people share videos of animals doing cute shit, photos of vacations, and mainstream news stories.
It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with that, but think about it in context. I’m currently trying to market my new book, Cherry City Pulp (shameless plug #1: it’s fantastic—you should totally read it), and of my 580 friends, only a few have shared the post that links to the Amazon page (full disclosure, I initially said one, and my sister and cousin corrected me–my apologies, ladies). Compare that to the video of a dog herding cattle I shared about a week ago, which was then shared multiple times.
(Shameless plug #2–the dog video is pretty cool though)
Why is that? Let’s first dismiss with the idea that no one wants to read what I write because it’s shitty—which certainly, some of it is—but my blog does average a bit more than 1,000 views a week now, and when I post a new blog, google analytics shows a big spike in readership. So even if some people think my writing is shitty, a fair number of others are regularly reading it.
Plus, I see the same thing happen to others on social media: a photo of a mountain gets 70 likes and a post of a GoFundMe for college tuition gets bupkis. So again, why? Why is it that people are willing to like and share trivial or mainstream information, but will rarely do so to help people who are in fact close family members or friends—or even for causes they deeply support and believe in?
(This is how I feel sometimes… Courtesy: Wired.com)
Politics, as I mentioned, is certainly a touchy subject. Money, too, shuts down discourse, being that people are leery of “the sell” and buying things over the internet.
But my deepest suspicion is that there are three basic factors at play:
- That it’s somehow uncool/lame to advocate for the people we love and the causes we believe in; as if supporting a close friend or family member feels too partisan or personal, whereas an article from the New York Times is distant enough to feel comfortable retweeting.
- That envy, jealousy, resentment—whatever you want to call it—plays a darker role; that we secretly fear if we help our friends or family members, they’ll actually be successful, and their success will somehow diminish our own small lives or accomplishments.
- Laziness and apathy. That we’re so accustomed to scrolling through our feeds and casually liking things or not liking things without much thought or feeling we’ve effectively shut off the empathetic, caring aspect of our humanity.
Moreover, it has to stop. Because to fight Trump and the Republican agenda—indeed, to become a more thriving economy and democracy—we have to be willing to share and endorse what we believe in, especially social and political activists, community projects like XRAY.fm, small business owners, even, dare I say, independent writers like myself (shameless plug #3 if you’re keeping score at home).
Besides, do you really want to fall into any of those three categories above? A person who’s too cowardly, jealous, and/or apathetic to help your own family–your own friends? Ought we be so afraid of the “shameless plug” that we abandon our values and the people we love and care about? Certainly not (as I’ve clearly demonstrated).
What’s truly exciting is that if we emerge from this crippling mindset, we can affect real change. Really. Remember, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media platform runs our feeds on an algorithm, which means we see posts they think we will like and interact with most. Thus, the more we share and retweet (liking is OK, but somewhat less helpful), the more we bend those algorithms to our will—the will of ordinary people—and that’s an incredibly powerful step in making our society a better, more equitable place.
And what’s the cost? Thirty seconds, max, of your time—an extra button click? It’s nothing compared to the good we can do by supporting each other.
Plus, we know who has the advantage now: the powerful, rich, and famous. And in the greedy society they’ve created, everything is about money and cross promotion and sell, sell, sell—even our news is filtered and packaged based on what gets the most clicks, as opposed to the information we actually need. And look where it’s gotten us? Fake news and a Trump Presidency.
Luckily, as users of social media, we have the power to flip the script. Instead of sharing the latest Washington Post click-bait piece on Trump, share this blog, or the podcasts you find valuable, or the website for the new coffeeshop down the street, or your family’s brewery (SHAMELESS PLUG: HEATER ALLEN BEER IS THE BEST!), or you friend’s wife’s wedding photo business (which I did for the first time this morning), or even a link to a cool new book (#4)! And remember, doing so not only helps that individual, but it also tweeks the social media algorithms in favor of those people, as opposed to large corporations and mega-media companies.
It’s also just a really nice thing to do.
So in pursuit of my resolution to be kinder, more compassionate, and caring, I’ve made a point to share and promote those closest to me, along with the causes I support. It may feel a little forced or uncomfortable at first, but like anything, the more you get used to it, the easier it gets. And heck, the larger platform or more fame you have (cough, Jefferson Smith, Pod Save America, Judd Legum, etc.), the more just one retweet or share could matter to an artist or small business ready to break out.
So do it! Do it! It’s one small way we can be the difference we want to see in the world. Love the people you’re closest to by actually giving them a shout out—help them, and surely, when the time comes, they’ll help you in return.
If you like what we’re doing here at ChuckingRocks.com, please help us out by making a donation. Every dollar counts. Also, check out my new novel, Cherry City Pulp! An awkard, sexy, funny, and sometimes violent story about young people in small town America. If you can’t make a donation at this time, the other way you can help us is to spread the word–so please, like, share, email, tweet, and/or retweet our posts. Remember to follow me on twitter @chuckingrocks or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.