Why I’m Quitting Facebook
Okay, I’m not actually quitting. But I made you look! (God help the poor souls who delete their Facebooks.) I am, however, changing the way I use Facebook. I’ll probably return to form for Trump’s inauguration (someone’s gonna have to troll the racist Oompa Loompa we just elected). But for now, I’m avoiding Facebook. You’ll still see the occasional post from some other social media that lets me post directly to Facebook (‘sup Instagram). I’ll drop in briefly to check event invites and share exceptionally-compelling updates about my life (lol yeah right). I just can’t bring myself to interact with Facebook the way I usually do. I don’t have the heart for it, I don’t have the motivation for it, and I don’t have the anger for it. Here’s my attempt to explain why.
I woke up Wednesday morning utterly speechless. If you know me you know that’s unusual. It’s not a feeling I’ve had since Robin Williams passed away. His passing (two years and three months ago) was the most heartbreaking thing I’d ever gone through. It wasn’t just that he played some of my favorite childhood roles: Peter Pan, Mrs. Doubtfire, Genie. It was because I grew up watching him use humor to combat his depression. He became a role model for me in dealing with my own depression and his films helped me through the few friends I’ve lost over the years. To see Robin Williams lose his battle was absolutely devastating.
I was similarly heartbroken the morning after the election. It’s not just that we lost an election. I’d have been okay losing to Romney in 2012; as much as I disagreed with Romney’s policies, he wasn’t a racist Troll Doll who thinks brown people are either rapists or terrorists. Tuesday night’s loss was profound. Millions of black people, brown people, LGBT people, immigrants, and women were told that they didn’t matter. Millions of white people now feel that their violent xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and misogyny are mainstream. And given who we just elected, they’re not wrong.
I decided to go on a Facebook hiatus that morning, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. At the time it was a gut decision. But as I’ve thought about it, I’ve begun to think about why I didn’t want to be on Facebook. In this post I attempt to explain why my hiatus will last longer than just a few days: I’m avoidant, I’m ashamed, and I’m responsible. (Sorry, I couldn’t get the alliteration to work.)
My original reason for taking a hiatus from Facebook was to avoid all of the post-mortems, the told-you-so’s, and the we-did-it’s. There is one reason that Trump won this election: he turned out more voters in swing states. We did not lose this election because we didn’t nominate Bernie Sanders. We did not lose this election because of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We did not lose this election because of Hillary’s emails (though shout-out to my man Comey for interfering anyway) or because of Benghazi or because of “super-predators.” We lost this election because Donald Trump turned people out.
Now let me be clear: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. One more time for the people in the back: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But Donald Trump (of all people) got people to vote. In the aftermath of one of the most surprising and shocking elections in U.S. history, the question remains why Trump was able to do what Clinton couldn’t.
And I’ll be honest: I don’t care. I don’t care to see demographic breakdowns of where Donald overperformed and Clinton underperformed. I don’t care to see whether minorities turned out in the right places. I don’t care about whether people want to abolish the Electoral College or whether people think Comey’s interference mattered or whether Russia’s interference mattered or whether WikiLeaks played a significant role. I. Don’t. Care.
I simply don’t have the time, the energy, or the motivation to engage with all this nonsense. And so long as it’s in vogue to be explaining why the election went the way it did, I can’t help but want to avoid it.
Shame is not an emotion I’m used to. If you know me you know that I’ll shamelessly blast Britney Spears with my windows down, that my love of Glee and Jersey Shore know no bounds, and that I’m proudly and unapologetically myself. What I’m ashamed of are the people I know, both socially and in my family, who are celebrating Trump’s election.
I’m ashamed that I’m related, by blood, to people who anticipate with glee the election of a racist misogynist who celebrated his ability to get away with sexual assault and a man who believes you can shock the brains of LGBT people to make them straight.
I’m ashamed that I’ve spoken with people, worked with people, eaten with people who are at least complicit in, if not downright encouraging of, the violence we’ve already seen against people of color, against LGBT people, and against immigrants.
I’m privileged enough to be a white male Christian. I’m fortunate enough that my sexuality hasn’t been met with judgement or violence. (I was called a f*ggot once, but that had to do with my aforementioned love of blasting Britney Spears songs with the windows down.) ((Also I’m bisexual. Surprise!)) I’m blessed to be a natural-born citizen of this country.
But that is not the case for everybody. I’ve known way too many people who have been victimized solely for being themselves. And now, in the Brave New World that is Trump’s America, that behavior is legitimized. This is a man who bragged about his sexual assault escapades. This is a man who offered to legally defend people who physically assaulted protesters. Yes, there are legitimate policy reasons to have voted for Donald Trump. No, those legitimate reasons to not absolve these people of their culpability.
People I know- friends, family, acquaintances- are complicit in his election. I can’t help but feel ashamed.
I can’t help but feel responsible, even in the most infinitesimally small sense, for what happened on Election Day. Trump won the election largely because he spoke to a non-trivial portion of the population that has felt ignored and invisible for the last eight years.
These are people who are convinced that abortion is a grave sin that costs this country its morality. These are people convinced that their religion is being threatened by marriage equality. These are people who are convinced that the government will take their guns. These are people who are losing their jobs to automation and clean energy. These are people who are convinced that their way of life is under attack by “the left.”
Of course, these are, in part, entirely unfounded concerns. Many of these are delusions courtesy of Fox News, Alex Jones, and others who peddle conspiracy theories to uninformed voters who simply don’t know any better. But they’re real enough to those voters. In the Age of the Internet, perception matters more than reality. Simply dismissing these bullshit delusions clearly isn’t the right approach. They meant more than reality to Trump’s voters and that matters. We need to fix that.
Next time we need to do a better job not just of dismissing these delusions (I’m going to keep calling them delusions because that’s what they are) but curing them, getting to their source and actually correcting them. We can’t just make jokes about how absurd these delusions are and how stupid the people who actually buy them are. We have to show people why we’re a better alternative than racist Biff Tannen. As abundantly obvious as it is to us, we can’t assume it’s obvious to others. We need to fix that.
It’s unfortunate that the person advocating for solutions to their legitimate grievances also happens to be the most unqualified person who’s ever run for president (in the history of our country, ever). But it happened. Not because he’s a better candidate (he’s not), not because he’d be a better president (he wouldn’t be), not because he stands a better chance of actually fixing those problems (he doesn’t). It happened because these people thought that Trump was a better solution. We need to fix that.
We can’t fix these things by rolling our eyes, no matter how absurd many of these beliefs are. I’m not suggesting that we allow our politics to be held hostage by these people, either. I’m only suggesting that we can’t be surprised that they voted for Trump when we did nothing but mock these people for eight entire years. We must mock the absurd while correcting the misinformation and
See what I did there? (Don’t worry, I hate myself too.)
So yeah. I’m avoiding the post-election diatribes and misinformed bloviating, I’m ashamed that I know people culpable for electing the village idiot, and I feel partially responsible for the environment that elected him. This isn’t a resignation of politics or a permanent departure from Facebook. This is just an explanation of my temporary disinterest in politics specifically and Facebook/social media in general.
It’s not that we lost this election. Yeah, that sucks. But we lost it to a blatantly racist misogynist who ran on a whim. And we lost it not because of some grand contest of ideals (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote) but because we failed to account for the extent to which Trump had successfully resonated with the delusions of a significant portion of the electorate.
I’m still processing my feelings about the election. Friends of mine have already passed from disbelief to anger and rage, but it hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe I’m still in the denial phase or maybe I just don’t have the energy yet to be angry. The anger will come, though, and if you know me you know exactly what to expect from Angry Dennis. Until then I’ll enjoy my hiatus from social media. (Aside from the occasional super-important post. My willpower is nothing.)
“Good morning! And in case I don’t see ya: good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” — Truman Burbank