Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: So Long, Facebook

Each year at around this time, I usually sit down to one of my favorite tasks, writing my Thanksgiving blog. In the past, the blog has, maybe unsurprisingly, been reflective about all the things I have to be thankful for: love, health, the peacefulness of my home, a rewarding career; the foundations of what have long been a profound contentment with the life I am blessed to have. These annual posts have been, without exception, optimistic and positive. I must admit I am having trouble this Thanksgiving season summoning that optimism. 

I am worried about my country. I see candidates for leadership who reflect a base of fear, of cynicism, of bigotry; not to mention a run-amok anti-intellectualism that denies the existence of basic facts that it finds inconvenient or problematic to its preferred narrative. 

What once was Reagan’s ‘shining city upon a hill,’ has become a place of hatreds fueled by fear. There are many who seek to seal off America, turn this great nation into a vacuum against the perceived threat of the things it does not know and does not seek to understand; but they fail to recognize that the gravest threat is internal to ourselves, the one which consumes our compassion, extinguishes the lighted flame of our shared humanity and leaves us in the profound dark.  

Turning away mothers, and fathers, and children, who are seeking little more than the chance to stay alive, that is not American. It can be rationalized, but in a nation whose foundational documents prioritize over all else the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, closing our doors to those whose life, liberty, and happiness is in most dire jeopardy is not American. Those who seek to guarantee their own safety by risking the safety of others harm both in the bargain.

But the refugee issue is but a symptom of a deeper cancer. We are Huxley's Brave New World come to life. Our culture has come to be defined by our distractions: social media being foremost among them. We've replaced meaningful connections with memes, thoughtfulness with an anonymous and argumentative online existence. Perpetuated a profound narcissism that threatens to define us offline, as it already does online. 

So with that, sometime before December 1, I am signing off of Facebook for a while, deactivating my account. Not sure how long I might be away, a week, a month, a year, forever, it doesn’t matter. I don’t delude myself into thinking that my presence on social media is important. I do think, however, that pushing back against the meme-driven, reductive, and argumentative society that we have become is important, and for those of us who strongly object to the impacts social media is having on ourselves and on our relationships with others, the easiest solution is to sign off. To seek some other, more thoughtful and patient way to engage with one another. I am not entirely sure what that means in the long-term, as I have forgotten how, in the absence of status updates and hashtags, we actually communicated. Although yesterday I actually picked up the phone and called a friend to wish him a happy birthday. In the short-term, it means limiting the distractions that have so often come between me and my wife, my kids, and my friends.  

It will do no good if thoughtful people disengage altogether, and I want to be clear that isn't what I intend to do. Maybe with the time I won't be wasting scrolling through status updates and suggested content, I can blog more frequently, gather more actual information, make more informed opinions, spend more time actually talking to the people I care about. It's worth a shot.

You can always reach me, and I would love to hear from you, at stevenkkline(at)

No comments: