When I’m procrastinating on writing—due to fear, fatigue, fear, lack of inspiration, did I mention fear?—Facebook is like a magnet.
One day recently, I could feel its pull, so I decided to trick myself into writing by giving into the temptation, going to Facebook, and crafting a blog post entitled, “The Antidote to All the Crap in Your Facebook Feed”—a sort of hopeful, redemptive response to all of the angry, nasty, and cynical news in my Facebook scroll.
The first item in my feed was exactly what I’d predicted.
A New York Times article about the anger at a political rally, replete with divisive comments from both supporters and haters. It confirmed my expectations, and I got ready to write a really good response to all the soul-sucking content.
But then I kept scrolling.
And it was the only article posted in the previous two hours that drained my soul.
The rest of the content nourished my soul.
There was an invitation to the high school graduation of my youngest cousin, and a video of his recent national drum line performance. It was breathtaking. Young people pouring all of their time and energy into creating beauty, and then bravely putting it out into the world.
And there was a group of old friends marking the 25th anniversary of one of their beloved movies by sharing favorite lines from the movie. You got the feeling that the LOLs in the comments were the real deal. Picturing people belly laughing always makes me happier.
Someone had posted a meme about vengeance: “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” Suddenly, the “feed” in my head that is often filled with ways I’ve been wounded or mistreated was filled with images of people who have loved me well.
There was a long string of birthday wishes. I often lament these. But the truth is, if I get fifty Facebook wishes on my birthday, that’s about forty-five more than I would have gotten ten years ago. And who couldn’t use more acknowledgment that the day they were born was a good day because, on that day, this world became one person more beautiful?
A friend had shared an invitation to a wine festival in Chicago. It reminded me of what my oldest son recently said after attending his first concert: one of the best parts of being there was being a part of something bigger than him. Amen, buddy, amen. We all need places of belonging, where we’re all paying attention to the same things, enjoying the same flavors, celebrating the same art. I’ll take an invitation to that any day.
I found out it was national tea day. It’s an antiquated ritual of sitting down daily, to rest and to taste and to come together. A mini-festival of sorts. My kids love making tea, and I decided we’d make tea together after school. What we made, really, was a memory.
Then, another meme: “I am in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness.” I’m not sure this is always true, but it’s true way more often than we think. And it reminded me: it’s up to me to choose between the laughter of my children, or the somberness of my adulthood.
In the end, what I ultimately realized was this: if we have a bunch of anger, negativity, and cynicism in our Facebook feed, it’s not the fault of Facebook, or even the content creators. It’s because we’ve populated our Facebook world with people who have decided to cultivate their own anger, negativity, and cynicism. So, I don’t have to write the antidote to it. There already is one.
It’s called the Unfriend button.
I suppose this is true in the real world, as well. Though, of course, in life, it’s not as easy as hitting a button. Usually, it’s a long, slow letting go of the people we tried to love—the people we’d hoped would make our lives more beautiful but just made our lives more toxic.
And, in the end, the other thing I realized is this: I’m grateful for my people. Thank you for bringing the light into the darkness, hope into the doom, peace into the fear, and love into the hate. I’d friend you twice if I could.
If your people bring the love, let them know you notice. Let them know they’re the antidote, to the darkness, to the doom, to the fear, and to the hate.
Let them know they matter.