A long time ago I went to a talk given by the phenomenal YA author Gordan Korman, and he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that when he’s coming up with an idea for a novel, he tries to ask himself a “what if” question. As in, “What if a mobster’s son fell in love with the daughter of an FBI agent?” (That’s the premise for his novel Son of the Mob, in case you’ve never read it. And if you haven’t, you should. Stat. As well as everything else Korman’s ever written.)
So I play with that question a lot in my head when I’m coming up with story ideas. Recently I was playing around with it in my head as I was going through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, catching up on what I’ve missed while Hubs and I were on vacation this weekend attempting to ignore the world. (Don’t worry—I’m sure I’ll find a way to work pictures into this blog.)
Anyhoo, I was going through my social media life and playing the “What If” game, and I started to wonder…
What would happen if people were physically unable to be passive aggressive on social media?
YOU ALL KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. Those insanely aggressive-yet-not-outwardly-so status updates and posts. We’ve all seen them from time to time. Heck, we’ve all made them from time to time. All of the examples below are made up by me, of course, because if they weren’t...well, that would make me pretty passive aggressive.
Made-Up Example #1: Ugghh!!! Why are people so annoying sometimes?
Made-Up Example #2: Just don’t understand why some ppl can’t mind their own business.
Made-Up Example #3: The world has way, way too much anger in it. (P.S. That’s TOTALLY the type of post I’m likely to put up somewhere. In case you were curious.)
Okay, to be fair, there’s plenty of outright aggressiveness also out there in social media. But still, I like the “What If” game…so I began playing, and here’s what happened. Again, this is all made up. Duh. Because it could become part of a book plot. Who knows?
So in WHAT IF PEOPLE WERE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO BE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA world, here’s what happens to Made-Up Example #1.
Alexis Maryland: Uggghhhh!!! My annoying ex-best friend Jamie Louis keeps talking to my ex even though she said she was on my side!
Jamie Louis: Did you seriously just post that?
Alexis Maryland: Oh…uh…oops. I meant to just say that people are annoying.
Jamie Louis: Yeah, but you didn’t. You said that I am.
Alexis Maryland: Well, you ARE. Why were talking to Brian in the grocery store?
Jamie Louis: Because I’m an adult, and he’s the father of my godchild? What are you, twelve?
Alexis Maryland: You’re the one having this conversation on Facebook!!
Jamie Louis: Yeah, because you started it here!!
Alexis Maryland: Look, just PM me.
Jamie Louis: Why didn’t YOU just PM me?
Maggie LeBruin: Ladies, you guys are BOTH awesome. This is all just some kind of misunderstanding!! Call each other. I’m sure everything will be fine.
Jamie Louis: Maggie, thanks for trying to keep the peace. I’ll take this off of Facebook because I have some manners and Alexis doesn’t.
Alexis Maryland: Oh, real nice, Jamie.
Jamie Louis: Wait!! I wanted to say that I have some manners, unlike some other people!
Maggie LeBruin: How is that really any better, Jamie?
Jamie Louis: Because I didn’t want to say her name!!
Maggie LeBruin: Yeah, but she still knows it’s about her. Wouldn’t you have, Alexis?
Alexis Maryland: Of course I would have!!
Maggie LeBruin: Right. Just like Jamie probably would have known what you meant if you just said “People are annoying” instead of saying her name. Or she would have figured it out eventually. Or wondered if it was her.
Alexis Maryland: So what?
Maggie LeBruin: So….never mind. You guys carry on. I’ll see you both around.
Yeah. So I was going to play “What If” with the other two made-up examples as well, but frankly, I’m already exhausted.
For this record? Playing this game in my head likely won’t actually reduce my own passive-aggressiveness on social media in the future. Because, as the above exchange indicates and reminds, aggressiveness on social media can be really tiring. But this whole thought experiment sure has made me wonder about the point of social media in general. Why would I ever tell hundreds of people, some of whom I know much better than others, that “the world has too much anger in it” instead of just coming out and saying that I don’t like the way people on both sides of the Common Core Standards argument are treating each other? (Oh, don’t worry teacher friends—that blog is totally forthcoming.) And if I’m really worried about seriously peeing off people I respect and like by just directly saying that, why don’t I talk to those people directly? You know, as opposed to talking indirectly to them in front of hundreds of others?
Great. Very helpful game of “What If” there. Thanks, Gordan.
NOW, I’m off to play “What if George R.R. Martin stopped writing 50 pages before he finished the final installment of Game of Thones?”
KIDDING! JUST KIDDING!
Oh, and here’s a picture taken in the mountains above Ouray, Colorado, which is one of the places Hubs and I visited this weekend. Doesn’t this just put that entire fake social media exchange into perspective?
Okay, so I just read an article. And because this is me, I feel like responding in something longer than a 140 character tweet.
So: article. This dude from Princeton protests the term privilege, saying he won’t apologize for his white privilege. He makes one good case: that when people assume they know everything about him based on his skin color, they’re stereotyping.
Yeah, he’s totally right there. Single stories are bad. I’ll say it over and over again. People are individuals, and they should be treated as such.
Okay, great. But then I started to get itchy…because the author goes on to talk about how this country gives everyone the same chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make themselves successful. He actually makes the direct argument that his ancestors came to a country that affords everyone equality. I got itchier.
I paused and reminded myself that I have understood what it’s like to have someone telling you you’re privileged when you feel anything but privileged. I get that. I grew up in a family that sure as heck didn’t have a whole lot of moola, and it probably wasn’t until during or after college that I realized the word “privilege” means a lot more than how much money is in your bank account. I get a little of what’s going on in this author’s head. I told myself that he just needs to grow up; see a little more of the world. He’ll probably better understand the complex meaning of the word “privilege” eventually.
Except here’s what I worry about: what if he doesn’t?
When I posted this to my Facebook timeline, I made a joke about him talking to me when he’s seen some things outside his bubble. I seriously hope he does. But then I thought about how I ended up getting outside of my bubble: I moved around the country a lot. I’ve worked in a lot of different schools with a lot of different populations of people. I’ve learned to listen a lot. I’ve learned to ask questions. That’s how I figured out that “privilege” is a really, really complex word, and it’s not something to throw around or rant against lightly.
I like to think that the author of this piece—Tal Fortgang—will be as lucky as I’ve been, and he’ll get the opportunity to talk and listen and learn with a lot of different people in a lot of different places. But my own experiences have also taught me that many people don’t get as lucky as I have. They stay in their bubbles for a really long time, not exploring the meaning of this word or the background behind it, setting public policy based on their bubbles, defending laws based on their bubbles, influencing public opinion in Time articles based on their bubbles…all without realizing how very not simple the term “privilege” really is.
Tal, I do sincerely hope you pop your bubble and see what I’m talking about someday. In the meantime, here’s a story for you. I’ll try to keep it short. Yesterday, I went to the Colorado National History Day competition with a bunch of my students. It was amazing. A stellar experience that every kid should have the opportunity to participate in. It was an opportunity that was, in many ways, brought to our school because someone in Colorado noticed that, like 95% of the kids who participate in this competition are white…and since 95% of Colorado’s population is not white, they thought maybe they should try to fix that ratio. And they started with our school, since 95% of our population is non-white. And, on a somewhat related note, non-rich. But I don’t want to start single-storying and assume the wealth of the people at that competition yesterday.
Our kids did a great job. They’d worked their butts off, and it showed. One of them placed third in the state, and we’re crazy proud. After the competition was over, two of them were sitting around with us, talking about what they thought of the competition.
“Most of the kids were white,” one of them said. “And there weren’t many projects on Chicano history. I think we had the only one.”
“Yeah,” another said. “And how were we supposed to win the exhibit category, anyway? A bunch of them had, like, Ipads in their exhibits.”
My fellow teachers and I reminded them that technically you don’t get any more points for including an Ipad in an exhibit. We restated how proud they should be, and that they had done exceptionally well in the competition by any measure.
Then one of our students talked about how she might do her project next year on Corky Gonzalez, a leader in the Chicano community in Denver. And you know why I was most proud of them? Because that conversation hopefully means that more people from more places will see her project next year and end up—at least in one small way—looking outside their bubble.
And maybe even popping it.