Saturday, December 12, 2020

Gathering Signs and Mopping Up

 A while back, some of Paul’s students came by one night and stuck some political signs in our yard. TRUMP-PENCE. ART ROBINSON FOR CONGRESS.

Paul thought it was funny. And so do you, if you know him at all.

I saved the signs, thinking they might be useful someday.

I have friends and relatives in the medical field, and I get the feeling they’re not doing well. One of them sent me a disturbing message the other day:

“I'm home indefinitely.  We have over half the staff and half the residents full blown cases.  The staff is working  until they just are too sick and I am so prone to hospitalization I’m home for now, my boss said until the immunization is in our building. Sigh. So far the staff are not in the icu.  

We lost 3 so far. One resident died within 12 hours of first symptoms—no sign except she couldn't breathe.  Her only underlying condition was age and dementia with severe behaviors. 

I’m still struggling with anger at the pooh poohing of no mask, let us do what we wanna do attitudes. 

I’m sharing because I pray you are letting others shop and do the away from home things for you.  Please. This is so awful.”

I thought, I’ll bet she speaks for many in the medical field who are burning out. Poor things! I’m going to share this on Facebook.

I hesitated over including the line about anger over masks and attitudes, because I come out from under my rock enough to know that that subject is controversial. But I decided to include it. It’s part of her story. Anyone who’s out there watching people die is allowed to be angry at whatever they choose, I’d say. So I’ll let her say it.

I thought, Everyone will know it’s her talking out of where she’s at. 

I’m sure they will understand that this is her own conclusion.

They are smart enough to know that I didn’t write it myself, and that’s not how I would word my thoughts on the matter.

Wrong wrong wrong.

The comment section blew up, of course. Not about nurses, but about masks. Almost entirely about masks. Yay and nay, close up and far away, all day, all the way, wheat straw and alfalfa hay. 

Those of you with long experience in social media can predict the kinds of things people said. Passionate paragraphs with DOUBLE-BLIND STUDIES in all caps. Links to videos about forbidden but effective medicines. Personal attacks. An earnest entreaty from the guy who never comments except to drop down the chimney once a year like Santa to set me back on the strait and narrow. People who are clustered in the center, just trying to make it through these times.

First I deleted any comments the medical friend would find hurtful. Then I deleted a few that kind of agreed with her but were polarizing and off topic. Many of these were from friends I know and respect. Ouch.

Please, I begged wearily, this is about the nurses in your life. Make sure they’re ok.

I felt violated. But why, when I had obviously put it out there to be seen and read?

“It’s not fair. This is YOUR platform, and they’re using it to push THEIR agendas,” explained our daughter Emily.

That clicked. Yes. It felt like hundreds of people milling around our property, pounding political signs in the yard. It wasn’t funny like teens pulling a prank. It was scary.

Thankfully, a handful of nurses said, “At last I feel understood,” and another handful of people said, “I will pray for the nurses in my life.”

But I removed the post, along with a subsequent post that fared even worse. Some of this was me not communicating clearly. I take full responsibility for that. But some of it is the nature of social media.

These are the problems with Facebook:

1. The Facebook format encourages people to see any post as an invitation to argue. I see facebook as a handy way to chat, converse, keep up, tell stories, and share thoughts and information. Debates make me curl into a fetal position and freeze, for reasons I won’t go into here. My posts are not invitations to argue. This makes me look wimpy and overly sensitive, I’m told. So be it. There are better ways to change my mind or to show your support for me. Pounding signs in my yard is not one of them. 

2. There’s no way to monitor comments except to sit there with a fire extinguisher aimed at the computer screen all day. You can’t turn off comments for a few hours while you clean the house. I tried. 

3. If you have more than 100 friends, you apparently have a “platform.” It’s assumed you worked hard to build this platform, everything you post is pushing a specific agenda, and you are “somebody” in a way that someone with fewer followers is not. It is weird. Instead of simply saying hello and moving on, people feel compelled to push either with or against you.
I have never tried to build my numbers, and I don’t know how many followers I have. I am a storyteller. Sometimes I just want to share a story because I’m worried about nurses. I’m a mom. Sometimes I think people should think about how today’s actions might play out. 

I don’t know yet what that means for me and social media. I do know that I shouldn’t allow on my online pages what I wouldn’t allow in my front yard.

The signs that the kids put in our yard are sitting in the carport, upside down. Paul asked why I still have them. “The sticks will make great dahlia stakes,” I said. He examined them. “I think those screws will work to hold the loose boards on the hot tub.”

“And the signs are that nice foam stuff,” I said. “Maybe I can stack them up and cover them with fabric for a bulletin board in the sewing room.”

This is what I’m realizing: what you put on social media might be a sign stating your position but even more, it’s a big sign telling us who you are. You are holding it up high. “LOOK. This is who I am. SEE? Right here! Clear as day!”

I would like my sign to say, “I think your story matters, even if telling it gets me in trouble.” 

I wish every online comment came with a nice 4-foot wooden post, because I’m hoping to have a huge dahlia crop next year.

And I'm wondering how others navigate these waters.


  1. Wow, I read that post, all I saw was the weariness in the medical field from all this. It must have blown up after I read it. So sorry, but keep posting, I like your forthrightness and you saying what others are thinking but are afraid too. And you do it with kindness.

  2. I often feel cursed t see both sides of an issue. Sometimes it’s a blessing but often it feels, like a curse. In this situation I have my opinions... but I also listen respectfully to other views. The same way I like that be listened too.
    And the medical field is getting the blunt edge of all this. An I have nurse friends with opinions on both sides of this, yet both sides agree it’s an area where they are being overextended right now.
    And really, over a 100 you have a platform?? 🤔🤨🤔 that doesn’t seem like a lot, an i didn’t try to build a platform either.
    But then most of my posts are not public either so I’m not as ‘out there’ as you are. I’m ok with that.

    1. I just pulled the 100 number out of the air, actually. I never thought I had much of a "platform" but then I got numerous messages saying I do, so maybe I do? It's all a strange world.
      And thanks for listening to all sides. I know not all nurses are going through what my friend is, but I think it can't be easy, no matter where you are.

  3. I don't have Facebook for those very reasons but I have Instagram and it can be just as bad as Facebook. I'm very particular about who I allow to be followers on my Instagram page to prevent such arguments. And the same with my blog and all comments are moderated. And I join you in curling up into a fetal position because I there are a couple of blogs and IG accounts that receive the most mean spirited comments I ever read. Even a sweet photo over a grandma holding a baby brings hateful comments! I apparently don't have a "platform" with less than 100 followers on both my blog and IG accounts I'm fine with that.

  4. Oh and btw, I'm glad to see comments moderation on. You have no need for the " Dr.Kildaire helped me do a spell to bring my husband back". Or the one that goes "Useful information. Best I've read on the internet". And it will include spam links. I mean, you can post about an ingrown toenail and your 90 year old grandparents discovering their expecting again and you'll get such comments!

    1. LOL! Yeah, comment moderation seemed like a good idea.
      As I told Susan, I pulled the number 100 out of the air. I don't know if there's an official number.

  5. The Baritone12/13/2020 7:20 AM

    Vast swaths (swathes?) of social media turned into a cesspool a long time ago, so there will always be that side of humanity showing itself as long as we have the internet. It was probably there at some level all along, but the internet allows a level of anonymity and (dare I say it?) physical distancing that gives a lot of people a level of courage they would not have face-to-face. (Some of them would, don't get me wrong, but fewer than the number that "take a swing at each other" online...)

    Let me be clear that I am not criticizing your choice to be on FB or any other site, just stating that the problem you described--or the potential for it--will always be there, either for you or other people. But you probably knew that by now. :-)

    Apologies if I misused commas (or other punctuations/grammar) in my post. :-) I will try to end this on a more cheery note: Merry Christmas!

    1. That is a very good point, that "there will always be that side of humanity showing itself as long as we have the internet."
      Somehow I want it to not be true, but I'm better off being realistic.
      And LOL on the apologies. I saw nothing amiss!

  6. I left Facebook over a year ago. I am a political animal, and my "friends" always knew that, pre-Facebook. But it had got to the point where when I disagreed with someone or posted a comment someone took exception to, they would just...delete the comment. It felt like a slap in the face. I mean, if you had a disagreement with a friend, would you just walk away and ignore them, or would you discuss with them (privately) why their opinion or comment was not appropriate? I couldn't understand why a "friend" couldn't message me and tell me they were going to have to take down my comment and why.

    Now, I understand that if you are in a Facebook community with more than 100 "friends," maybe not all of them are "friend" enough to take aside and discuss an issue privately. But when I was on FB, I had less than 3 dozen "friends," all of them either people I knew personally or virtual friends I had "met" on the internet and "knew" for years. Anyway, combine the realization that I really had no "friends" left on FB, with my political objections to a lot of the content posted there, and I just had to walk away.

    I'm sure FB is a valuable resource for a lot of folks, but it wasn't for me. I'll never get used to social media being...what it has become, and I guess I'm just too thin-skinned to be able to ignore the bad in order to enjoy the good.

    Let me be clear: I understand that is MY problem, and I have no opinion or right to an opinion on what anyone else decides to do about Facebook. Just thought you might not mind some input from a slightly different viewpoint.

    1. I like your clearheaded view. And how you evaluated the situation and made a decision.

  7. I don't have insights, but I love your courage. <3 Thank you.

  8. As a person who works in emergency medicine, I see both sides of the topic. I read your initial post and all I heard was the weariness and frustration that most of us are feeling... please do not stop posting as your posts are a bright spot in this particular EMT's life.

  9. Ugh, I am not on Facebook. My husband is and he has a very level head and very judicious feed, so occasionally I go and peek at the melee and say hi to friends that I don't "see" otherwise. I try to reserve my "arguments" for people I know and am talking to face to face. That takes a lot more courage, I have found, as I tried to be a little more forthright about what I saw as right and good in election season and about systemic racism.. . .

  10. Also, I wanted to say: my sister is a nurse and I am definitely praying for and concerned for the medical staff who is exhausted and worried and outright traumatized by their patients dying and suffering. . . and some people out there acting like it's too annoying to stay home or wear a mask.

  11. I am not on FB, so this is not just for FB users, but I think we all of us need to remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable. My older son is very good at calmly saying to people who like to unload on him "Thank you for sharing that with me" or "I respect your opinion on that" I then remember him saying in private "It's hard to be patient with stupid, and stupid has nothing to do with your IQ" It seems to me, he is very patient, even when it is hard. We could all practice this more.
    I have thought about getting on FB to see pictures of the great nieces and nephews, but it feels like wading in the fire swamp to toast marshmallows.
    Lastly, I'm bummed somebody beat me to the comma comment! :)

  12. I read this yesterday and left a comment. Then this morning I found this for my daily devotional:

    I often think God has me on remedial spiritual education, because He seems to hit me with the same message several times in a row, After pride, my mouth is my biggest sin-tool, even when I am trying to do better.

    Thanks for all your work.

  13. I have a love hate relationship with FB. I love being able to keep in touch with far flung friends and family members, but dealing with infighting is difficult. I've tried really hard this year to keep social media "social". I try not to post my political opinions if I can help it (sometimes I fail though)and just try to scroll on by when someone else posts something I disagree with. I've finally figured out that arguing with someone of FB is not going to change their mind and they are not going to change mine either. So what's the point? I also think sometimes people just like to stir the pot to see what floats up. My son has ADD and in some of the research I did on ADD they mentioned that sometimes those with ADD "seek conflict" as stimulation for their brain. I think many times people develop ADD when it comes to FB. LOL!

    Shannon Combs

  14. Like many people I've noticed that social media isn't a very good fit for me and my very sensitive self! Sometimes I think of the inherent limitations and imbalances: it seems like the deep effects of cruelty, disrespect, and so on are fully transmissible via social media, whereas deep love generally is not--and then, that in turn can compound and perhaps get people in a worse state of mind, and so on. For me I love the internet, but apart from email, I like using it more for information, entertainment, and such--like reading this very good blog of yours!