DAME’s Friendkeeper tells us how to handle stupidity on social media and today’s proliferation of non-apologies.
There’s that joke that’s been going around about the app that determines which of your friends is racist: Facebook. No joke. I mean, I don’t think any of my friends are cross-burning lynchers, but I am finding myself wanting to hit the “unfriend” button a lot these days, whether they’re saying things like “All Lives Matter” or giving the benefit of the doubt to trigger-happy cops and not to their unarmed, murdered Black victims. I had no idea so many people in my life thought this way, but this past year has really revealed a lot of ugly truths, and I am suddenly very disillusioned. But I’m also about to get very lonely because I will find myself with very few friends, so do I pick my battles? Can people become enlightened? Is everyone a little bit racist? I mean, I think people are, that’s how we’re raised, but is there a way to shake it off? Am I expecting too much? I don’t know, I’m just really upset by the world right now, and I want to believe friends I’ve had all my life are better than that. But I don’t want to come off like a Pollyanna. I just want us all to evolve and be open to learning from it. And also, I want people to stop saying, “I’m not racist, but … ” Oh, I don’t know, Julie, people kind of suck. Except when they don’t.
I Want People to Be Better, Is That Too Much to Ask
I think this is the question that has no answer. My feeling is, personally, that racism comes from ignorance and insecurity, or, in the case of mass genocide murderers, complete madness. I’ve had to unfriend two people in the past two weeks. One woman who I don’t know (someone who friended me because she has read my dog books) who posted some meme about these “people” who move to our country and then demand that the American flag not be flown and they should go back where they came from. She had dozens of likes and I commented, “Hmm, afraid I don’t understand what this means, can you explain it to me?” She replied, “Oh well, some people come from other lands and they want us to take down the flag.” “Really?” I said, “I don’t believe I’ve ever come across that situation. Is there a news story or something?” She said, “Yes, lots of news stories,” but she didn’t have access to them, she just remembered reading them in her personal newspaper The Racist Twat Gazette. She was just an idiot and I let her go. The second one was on Friday night. I posted Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral. Side note: I know a lot of people have had issues with President Obama, I haven’t had one issue with him. Our relationship has been perfect love every single day of his presidency and when he stops being president I will be very sad and mournful, even if the next president is my foster dog Rhubarb (though I think he would make an excellent POTUS especially given his respect for bacon). That said, I do know that many people have (in their mind) valid complaints against him. I don’t unfriend people who get mad at him for some shit with big business or trade, but this guy posted under my Barry singing, that he thought Obama was the worst president we’ve ever had, the most divisive … something something and that why should he (the Facebook commenter) have to apologize for being White, etc. I deleted the comment and the guy was gone (how nice would it be if it was that easy to get rid of people in real life?). This was a guy I knew from high school but we weren’t friends. In fact I always found him a little scary and then he went into the military and then he friended me on Facebook.
I have to say, though, that the people who I know in real life and love and even some I don’t know but know their hearts from enough time online together, have been pretty much true blue. If not necessarily agreeing, they are respectful and we understand. I’ve always believed you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind, though I’ve seen articles by former skinheads who did change, but I don’t think it’s something that comes from seeing a dopey meme.
I think what’s good and bad about the Internet is that you see more of people. I mean that there are still people who aren’t convinced that we need major gun control legislation (and they want you to know!). So we see into the hearts and minds more than maybe we would like to. And as sad as it might be to see this other side of people, I hope you are also seeing people who are better than you might have thought. Either way, unfriend or hide the ones you can’t tolerate, you’ll have some empty space for new better people to come into.
How do you handle sorrynotsorry apologies? I find myself saying, “It’s okay,” when it’s kinda not. I feel like it’s happening to me every day. This week it was some guy’s half-hearted sorry when an off-leash dog charged my dog at the leash-only park. Last week it was a friend who let a cat out of the bag that won’t get back in; I got a sorrynotsorry apology and realized I automatically said, “That’s okay.”
Is there something I can say in reply that doesn’t dismiss or condone what happened, but also doesn’t belabor the situation?
Sorry Not Sorry
Did you read Laura Zigman’s fantastic piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles this weekend? It gives a little insight into the mind of the non-apologizer, so, you know, I don’t have to. The thing I find the most useful is to say, “APOLOGY ACCEPTED!” And for some reason I do it in the voice of Jon Lovitz’s pathological liar character (try it, see how beautiful it sounds—insincere yet punchy …).
The thing about the person in the dog park or the nut who jumped ahead of me on the Zabar’s bread line and said she had been waiting in the smoked fish department for a long time so, sorry but she should get ahead of me, is I’m not going to go there. Some people, not naming names (MATTIE JOAN SMITH MATTHEWS), feel the need to get into it with strangers, I don’t. I just move on and realize that my life is probably much more Zen and perfect than theirs. The friend, though, is not going to be that lucky. My response would be, “Are you apologizing? Because I’m not feeling any better.”
There are so few people who apologize correctly and I think it has a lot to do with ego. The best apology I ever saw came from a 10-year-old friend of my daughter, Violet. There was a half-day of school and a bunch of kids decided to go get frozen yogurt. Mid-plan they changed their minds about which yogurt place to go to and Violet found herself on a strange bus not sure where they were going or how she was going to get home. (Also it was snowing for added drama.) Violet decided to jump off the bus and call me. She said, “MOM I NEED YOU TO GET ME BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I AM!” And I came and got her. When we got home one of her friends, Susie, was calling her to make sure Violet was okay. Done. Except then I got this text: Dear Julie, It is Susie, one of Violet’s classmates. I want to apologize for what happened today on the bus. My friends and I shouldn’t have let Violet get off the bus alone in the snow. She must have been very scared. We should have gotten off the bus with her and waited until she found a way home. In the future I will contact Violet earlier about the location and time as to where we are going. I apologize again and hope in the future I can avoid this mistake. Signed, Susie H.
When I showed it to Violet she said, “Hmm, has all the elements of a good apology.” They actually did a unit in school on proper apologies and a big part of it is taking responsibility for what you’ve done and showing that you understand how you made the person feel. These are 6th graders, they get it, but somehow most of us don’t.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
Become a member at DAME today to help us support our independent, fearless reporting so we can continue to shine a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps us continue to cover the critical policies, politics and social changes impacting women and their allies.