A lot of people hate social media – and with good reason. Those bridge lurkers have ruined it for us.
But it is important to remember that social media in itself cannot be good or bad. It is simply a tool. People use tools for good or bad.
And i have a deep-seated theory that ‘People tend towards stupid’ which is why some tools have warnings that look something like this:
Which is why this interaction i had with a friend and a stranger yesterday on Facebook was so powerful and beautiful for me.
When Social Media is Great
One of the easiest ways to build bridges between races on social media that i have seen is giving people permission or invitation to tag you in a conversation. This might happen if a black friend is tired of trying to explain privilege to a white person or when someone feels like they are taking fire or even if they just want a different perspective on something.
This happened to me yesterday. My Facebook friend S’Thabiso tagged me on a post where her friend Bongani was trying to understand the strange behaviour of his white neighbours:
Now it’s starting to concern me that my neighbours (white family) will offer me food almost every time I walk into my place…
Ngibukeka ngathi ngilambile yini anisho?
S’Thabiso had given her perspective and shared some ideas and then simply tagged me in with this request:
Brett Fish Anderson, maybe some tips to add on handling this
It was hard for me without knowing the people or the exact situation, but i shared some ideas about what it might be and then added this comment:
i hear you Bongani. Maybe oil your hinges, wear socks and leopard crawl in and out of your place… good luck!
Which immediately got a huge laughing emoticon from Bongani and we were able to vibe from there – i eventually asked him if i could send him a friend request as long as i promised not to make him any food. And a new friendship begins.
Tag Teaming is the Way to Go
This one felt like quite an easy one and perhaps because it wasn’t really a situation of conflict but curiosity.
Inviting your friends to tag you when they would like your input, need your backup, simply want a different perspective on something can be a great way to build bridges in this sometimes scary world of social media.
i have people like Jacqui Tooke who i tag in when i need a gentler voice on race issues; Ashley Visagie when it’s dealing with education; Sean Du Toit when i need a more educated theological perspective on some issue; Megan or Walter or Jenn when i maybe need a more hardcore voice from someone who has journeyed much longer than me in some of the issues i take on. And so on. It works both ways.
Social Media, when it is at its best, builds bridges [and possibly at its worst it throws stones] and connects people. But there are times when things need to be dismantled and stones [or maybe tables] need to be overturned. A lot of it is about motivation – the WHO and the WHY – and the need to interrogate and WHAT and the HOW constantly.
But i have seen it be amazing – i have seen it turn the light on for some people and raise money for others; i have witnessed it rally people around a cause or educate people a lot deeper on an issuel; i have watched social media bring people together around a topic or shared feeling where previously they have felt so cut off or alone; i have seen it celebrate and cheer on and illuminate; and a lot of the bad stuff as well.
Put it on the Scale
For me the good outweighs the bad, and so i continue on – some people have left and sometimes that really is the best decision for them [and others] while others take breaks from time to time and that seems particularly healthy.
i guess the bottom line is to listen to the words of the bard and KNOW THYSELF or TO THINE OWN SELF, BE TRUE, or something like that. Stand in front of the mirror regularly and evaluate how social media is working for you and how you are working on it. Invite your community to have a say in this as well – i have come across some people who really just should not be on social media. That’s fine, as long as you learn that and go where you thrive.
But let’s keep working at bringing the SOCIAL back into the media. That is something i can like, retweet and even LOL!