One of the saddest things that I have seen these days has been the division of Americans along political lines. Today, a few discussions on Facebook led me to taking note of this. I have seen my friends-list becoming more and more polarized along political lines. I won’t get into the details of my own political beliefs, other than to say that they are fairly centrist. But I will say that I don’t have a lot of hope for my country within the next generation or two.
I’m not a fan of political extremism and some of my friends I have retained because of a force of habit. These are people I have known for a long time. But recently, I have seen such a sea change in what binds us ideologically as people that I cannot adhere to the same connections that once held us together intellectually.
I have neighbors that no longer speak to me because of perceived disagreements on the subject of politics. People whom I used to enjoy spending time with at parties or just socializing. Some of the reasons for this may be because of them and some might be me. Now I just find their company exhausting and disingenuous.
What is taking over our country is one of Tribalism, where it is very much Us vs. Them.
What I see in social media is also destructive in these regards.
We hold on to entire groups of people we no longer know or relate to. Some studies have shown that human beings are really only capable of sustaining communities of 150 or less, which stems from ancient tribal and familial bonds. Yet our social media experience allows for thousands of “friends.” A lot of these people are just people you used to know. Collecting names on a screen like they were Mint In-Box action figures.
Sometimes, I really just don’t want to hang out with a lot of these people. For the most part, people who are rabid about their political ideologies are ones I want to avoid the most. Right or Left, the minute that soap box comes out and I hear rhetoric, fuck, I just want to walk away and find out where the misfits are hanging out. Maybe they are playing hackey sack. Maybe they are pirating music and introducing each other to things like vapor-wave and post-punk. Or want to talk about their favorite movies or video games. Or places they have visited. Funny stories to tell.
Maybe they have found a portal into another realm that they disappear into where fell creatures lurk in the shadows and wisdom and heroism are the weapons of choice to combat them.
Or at the very least they draw some really bitchin’ pictures of dragons with ballpoint pen. Ironically enough, I have seen what this tribalism has done to the genres I write within. How people are blacklisted due to their politics, regardless of their talents or abilities. How others have been put into positions of power due to cronyism. Cancel Culture has been around for a long time in SF/Fantasy.
We aren’t going to fix anything by alienating each other. And we aren’t ever going to get along entirely either. What we should do is treat each other with kindness.
In the last year, I have let a lot of people go. People who are no longer good for me, and maybe I wasn’t good for them either. When you get that sour feeling in the pit of your stomach and you feel like the people they are talking about with such hate and rancor is you, maybe it is time you parted ways. Love them Or love the memory of them. But it is okay to move forward.
Social media connects us with so many people we have outgrown. In my case, as a writer and someone who is trying to have their work read, there is a bit of hypocrisy in what I say today. I wouldn’t mind if everyone liked what I said and kept reading. But sometimes I’m going to say something that rubs someone the wrong way. I am myself. I am not an ideology or representative of such.
I’m not for everyone.
These days, in spite of trying to expose as many people as I can to my works, I do have my own boundaries. I don’t want to be liked by everyone. How exhausting that would be? I don’t have to be liked by everyone, and I don’t like everyone–on a personal level.
When I travel to other places, I tend to keep my mouth shut and my mind open. But sometimes hearing what people say to each other in my own country, well, it just makes me want to turn my gaze back towards the blank page and build other worlds to disappear into. Maybe when I emerge again, the world will have sorted itself out, and the radical Right and Left will have beaten each other into the dust and the rest of us can finally just live in peace.
When I go to other places, people are generally friendly to strangers. They are polite and accommodating. They trade stories. They recognize each other’s differences, but they also approach each other with grace and tolerance. I’m talking across many cultures. Separated by oceans, Religions, etc.
What I see on a platform of “Friends” is radically different. We have the potential to make the world a smaller place and all it has done is tear us apart. Or making us feel lonely.