Sunday, August 17, 2014

When Social Media Becomes Destructive.

Social media can be a very good thing. We can easily stay updated on the lives of people we love, we can share ideas and beliefs with others, we can create community with those we wouldn't normally commune with, and we can have fun and be entertained.

But then sometimes social media can become the driving wedge between friends and loved ones.

Many of you know that for the past year and a half, I have become heavily involved in an online Twitter community. I started becoming involved when I was realizing my beliefs on certain things changing (becoming a feminist and egalitarian). I didn't know many people in my life who shared those beliefs, so I wanted to reach out online to those I could learn from as I navigated these new thoughts and questions. I started seeing people who were so much like me talk about their frustrations with evangelicalism on Twitter and how they were breaking away from the movement. I resonated so much with them that I began conversing and developing friendships with them. 

I started to express my real opinions on certain topics in a way I never before felt free to do. Previously, I had always expressed opinions that I felt were the most accepted, even if I didn't actually believe them. It was through Twitter that I realized that my beliefs, though unpopular with some, were valid and intelligent. 

Even though it looked as though I was changing drastically in my beliefs and opinions, I don't think that was actually the case. I think I was always a feminist on some level, but I didn't know how to reconcile that with my Christianity. It was through Twitter that I learned how to reconcile both together, and where I became educated on what feminism is and isn't. 

I felt free to talk about my issues with American evangelicalism, and I was grateful to actually be listened to and respected for my thoughts, even if others disagreed. For one of the first times in my life, I truly felt like my opinions were valid. I cannot quite express how freeing this was. started to go downhill. I began to vent and rant about people I knew whom I was frustrated with. I began to talk about customers I had at my coffee shop that treated me badly and made me angry. My words began to drip with mirth and venom. 

Since most of the people I talked to on Twitter were not from my actual life, I thought I could say those things with some sort of anonymity. I thought my judgmental overtones would never be seen by the people I was talking about. I saw others doing the same thing, and I felt justified in my actions. I began to think, "This is what Twitter's for. This is an outlet for me to vent so I don't bottle everything up." What I didn't realize was that it was making me more angry, cynical, and judgmental than I ever was before.

I was out of control. Anything and everything (and everyone) that made me angry would end up on my Twitter. It was like "word vomit" (for all you Mean Girls fans), and I continued to spiral. This went on for a long time, until it affected someone I love and deeply care for. 
I won't go into specifics, but I said terrible things about this person when I was angry. Even though I knew this person would probably see it, I didn't care. I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "Well, this is what I do, and they can just get over it." I was so desensitized to my actions that I couldn't see the hurt I was inflicting. 

And then I was confronted with the reality of my actions. When I thought I was just venting pent-up anger and frustration, I was actually hurting someone. This wasn't imaginary or theoretical, but it was real. I was inflicting tangible pain on an actual person. 

When I realized what was going on, I didn't want to admit it at first. I didn't want to admit my culpability, nor did I want to think I had done something really, really wrong. My pride overtook any feeling of guilt or conviction, and I just shoved all those thoughts of wrongdoing to the back of my mind.

It came to a point, though, when I couldn't hide it any longer. I had to come face-to-face with my actions, and it hurt. I didn't want to deal with that. It was so much easier to pretend nothing happened so I wouldn't have to deal with the pain I had caused.

I almost lost a dear friend permanently because of my actions. Though I had alienated others through my words, nothing struck to my core like thinking one of the people I cared about most in this world could be gone from my life forever because of what I'd done. I knew I had to do whatever I could to make things right.

Much like the ending of Mean Girls, it was in that moment that I knew I needed to start sucking the poison out of my life. My first priority was to be reconciled with this person I had deeply wronged. By the grace of God and this person's compassion and mercy, that is exactly what happened. I will be forever grateful for the love and forgiveness I received even though my actions were deplorable and I deserved to be cast off.

My second action was to eliminate Twitter from my life. I still retain some good friendships from my time there, but I knew that Twitter had become such a destructive piece of my life. I couldn't continue being there with peace in my heart. Though I would have tried to change how I approached things, I knew that eventually I'd get into the same terrible cycle and hurt more people. That is a risk I'm not willing to take.

I honestly don't know who else I've hurt in this whole mess. Twitter is a public forum, and I can only imagine how many people saw what I wrote and were shocked/offended by what I said. My heart breaks to know that I have most likely alienated multiple people.

If you're reading this and you're one of those people I've alienated, please know that I'm deeply, deeply sorry. My actions were reprehensible and uncalled for. My desire (though it scares me) is to know who I've alienated/hurt so I can apologize to you specifically. If I have completely lost your trust or respect, I understand. Your feelings and thoughts are valid. What I've done is inexcusable. 

I am a deeply flawed individual, but I am learning. Thank you to those who have accepted me back and given me room to grow and make mistakes - I am so grateful and blessed to have you in my life. You all know that I'm far from perfect and I will continue making those mistakes, but you love me anyway. There are no words to express the depth of my gratitude. 

Moving forward, I know I will stumble again at some point. I know I tend to be an opinionated and judgmental person, and that this will continue to be a struggle throughout my life. What matters, though, is not that we stumble, but rather that we get back up and try again. As my wise husband has said, "It's not what you did wrong that matters - it's what you did to make things right."
Again, to all those I've hurt or made angry, please accept my deepest apologies. There is never an excuse to behave the way I did, no matter how frustrated or upset I may be. 

I hope that my online presence through this blog and my Facebook will become a source of light and hope instead of the darkness it has recently been. Thank you for sticking with me in this mess - I am so grateful for you.

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