You Can’t Sit With Us…Anymore: When Popular Becomes “Problematic”

Here’s a story:

Once upon a time, there were two Facebook friends. They connected over their love of free samples and hating people who say that working is a good way to make money. They enjoyed most of the same fan pages too. For years, they got along swimmingly. They even racked up mutuals. It was one big happy Facebook family.  One day, their favorite fan page had a discussion about the conditions at a chicken farm in Goodluck, Mississippi. One friend responded that it was sad but they’d still be getting their 3-piece mixed with biscuit for $5 on Wednesdays like they have for years. A mutual saw the comment, screenshot it, and posted it on their page with the instruction that anybody who has that person on their list delete him E-ME-JET-LEE! The friend who had shared their third Go Fund Me campaign that fiscal year, held their secrets and talked shit about somebody with them in PMs was now trash because their dedication to seasoned fowl made them too “problematic” to be friends with any longer. The rest of the friends all deleted the chicken-eating friend and forced him into hiding. He came back three months later under a new name in hopes of rebuilding his Facebook life.

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. Every two months, a social media “fave” is outed for doing, saying or thinking something that the Facebook Committee of Dubious Logic & Morality™ deems problematic. For those of you not quite acquainted with the FCDLM™, being problematic basically means that you believe things that though they may be true, don’t make people feel good these days; and you just may be the reason the world will destruct in 5…4…3….2… The drill is that once you find out one of your friends is problematic, you’re supposed to disavow them, defriend them, and then let everybody know that they, too, should stay away from this monster.

The people who are into this kind of behavior think they are performing a public service. They think they are saving the rest of us from a future full of disappointment and headache by telling us to evacuate the building before there’s even a crack. All they’re really doing, though, is making themselves look like reactionary 7th graders. I’m sure the loose definition of “friends” these days has something to do with it. I mean, the people I consider friends would have a hard time surprising me with their socio-political beliefs. But even if your main locus of friendship is the world wide web, it’s okay that your friends don’t agree with every single thing that you do or think; it’s even beneficial if they don’t.

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But let’s back-up. 80% of the time, the person we’re supposed to stay away from didn’t really do or say anything that egregious. Your longtime friend, from Facebook or otherwise, saying “women menstruate” is not a phobe in support of the mass exile of trans people. You just have to pretend like they are because you’re afraid of how other people will perceive you as their friend. Some “male feminist” playboy you met on a social justice page getting you to pay for his bus ticket, food and lodging, and then talking you out of your panties while he’s “Netflix n’ chillin’” with 5 other women at home isn’t the capital offense you want it to be. Your feelings are hurt and your face is cracked because you realize you didn’t use good judgment and need someone other than yourself to which assign blame.

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The purpose of friendship is not to make you feel good about your bad decisions; nor is it to garner “likes”, followers or views on an app. Unless we’re talking about something especially heinous (I mean, if you’re friends with R. Kelly, you need to let that go already), you have to seriously evaluate whether or not your friend being pro-voucher or anti-tax is enough to drop them completely. Different friends and types of friendship should mutually provide different benefits. I’ve found that when philosophical disagreement are at play, it’s wise to remember why you developed a friendship with that person in the first place.

For example, I have a friend we’ll call Cherry Colastein. Her political values most closely resemble that of a Libertarian. I think it’s unrealistic to totally eradicate taxes and count on religious entities to provide the things that the various welfare systems in the country do. I also have a friend we’ll call Proteinia Shakelton. She is probably the most far left person in the country, although Guiness hasn’t called her yet. If it were up to her, the country would resemble a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and the Garden of Eden. In her world, money wouldn’t even exist. I think that goal is the stuff that unicorn dreams are made of and completely impractical.

Yet, I manage to maintain functional friendships with both of them. I’d never give up the non-hater in Cherry or the academic intellect of Proteinia over a political difference. We’ve learned the skill of compartmentalization. Cherry knows not to invite me to her Libertarian functions. I know not to invite Proteinia to gatherings with more of a right-leaning tone. We all know not to broach certain topics with each other lest the conversation turn into DEFCON 5.

It really is that simple.

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With all the talk these days about being triggered and the apparent trendiness of frailty, one would think that we’d be finding reasons to retain our friendships as opposed to getting rid of them when there is no ascertainable harm in keeping them.

Maybe our reliance on social media is slowly killing our various types of intelligence. Perhaps the cliquish nature of pages, groups and accounts has impeded our ability to deal with the differences of which we claim we want everybody to be accepting. Perhaps our ability to defriend people in an instant or have an online cheerleading squad without even a semblance of a true connection with other human beings has turned us into people who find even the smallest variance too uncomfortable to bear. Either way, at some point we’re going to have to realize that the liberation we claim we want is not going to come from lockstep interactions.

 

 

Checking My Privilege: ‘Cause I Ain’t Got Shit Else To Do

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that at 5’10.5”, I have tall privilege. I know that the ability to reach the top shelf at Tom Thumb has put me in a position of social privilege and that my evil pituitary gland has allowed me to wield power over those who did not have the opportunity to grow as tall as I did. I vow to use my tall privilege to rally for complimentary step stools on all aisles in all grocery stores across the nation.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that as a meat-eater, I have diet privilege. I know that not having to explain to people that I only eat nuts, seeds, and pretend cheese puts me in a greater position to enjoy life and through time, I have contributed to the oppression of vegetarians and vegans alike. I am heartily sorry and from now on, any function I attend or throw will adhere to the 3-cup a day recommended minimum of fruits and veggies so that all guests will experience the equality they deserve.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I’m subscribed to pretty much every streaming service available and therefore, have television viewing privilege. I know that my ability to catch my favorite shows with little or no commercial interruption fuels the 8-station epidemic in less fortunate communities. I realize that many, many, many people have to borrow passwords in order to experience the programming I do with my own account.  I promise to take a moment of silence for all the people relegated to community access television and their local Fox network before every binge session to try to right the wrongs this has caused.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have coupon privilege. I have both a Tom Thumb Reward Card and a Kroger Plus Card….plus the apps on my phone that let me in on special deals. I know that the free vine-ripened tomatoes I got today (with purchase of same, limit 2) is a luxury that many people will never experience. As penance, I will rescue everyone I encounter who still shops at Wal-Mart by showing them the way that they too can shop at Tom Thumb…or anyplace other than Wal-Mart ‘cause…Honey, no.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that every athletic shoe I own is New Balance. I don’t really know how that’s privilege but I’ve seen memes that mock white people for wearing New Balance and since they have white privilege, I figured I “minus well” throw this in for good measure. *shrug* F*ck it! Y’all don’t know my arches!

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have big hair privilege. I know that it’s a struggle to find elastics and other hair accessories that are reliable and cost-efficient. With my big hair privilege, I have been oppressive in buying these items three at a time and causing a shortage for the less privileged. I am committed to keeping my hair in goddess braids until women all over the world have elastic equality.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have electronic privilege. I counted and I have approximately 8 ways to talk smack on the internet at my immediate disposal. Because of this, I hold an unfair advantage over many people who only have their phone or computer on which to talk smack. AT&T would literally have to chop my wires which, in a war of words, makes me better outfitted than North Korea…and even then, I’d just go up the street to Starbucks and use their Wi-Fi….which I guess is another privilege. Anywho, I resolve to only talk smack from one device per day because I believe in fairness.

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I sincerely hope that by acknowledging and checking my privileges that I’ve helped hasten the day that we are all free. Won’t you join me?

Regards,

The Wayward Daughter