I’ve often compared social media to a knife. A knife is a tool and, in the right person’s hand, is extremely important. How could you cut your food, whittle wood, carve an ice sculpture or make a meal as effectively without it? However, every tool has a darker side. When in the wrong hands, a knife is a weapon, a weapon used to cause harm and injury. Social media is exactly like this. The wonders of social media are that it can bridge gaps in information, bring people to events, let us know about political uprisings in countries we would never hear about on mainstream news, and help us see the need for social action in acts of police brutality and miscarriages of justice. But social media has a darker side, too. It urges people to choose sides and limits information to soundbites, squeezing people into unfortunate allegiances. It can make our world smaller (and not in the good way), our opinions less nuanced, talking points more self-assured, self congratulatory and unwilling to listen, and can break the world up into “us”and “them.”
As a white, able-bodied, educated, cisgendered middle-class American, I am highly aware of my privilege in this world. I’m also aware of what it feels like to live in a world as both a woman and as a trauma survivor who identifies as bisexual and is deeply interested in intersectionality and how we can find our way through privilege and the whitewashing of history to find commonalities between us and those we do not understand because their experiences are so different from our own. The world needs less of the breaking down of facts and thoughts into absolutes and more of individuals listening to those who have walked walks we can never understand.
Recently, with these thoughts in mind, I constructed the following status for my Facebook wall:
What I am:
Against sexism and violence against women. Not against men.
Against police brutality/abuse of power. Not against police.
Against child abuse. Not against parents.
Against racism. Not against white people.
Against homophobia. Not against straight people.
Against extremism. Not against religion.
Against black and white thinking. Not against passion and integrity.
Against occupation/apartheid. Not against Israel.
Against blind patriotism. Not against the US.
Against capitalism. Not against people with money.
I believe deeply in the importance and possibility of seeing the nuances of issues and situations and speaking out against injustice without resorting to monolithic anthems. Critical thinking is paramount to finding truth, existing productively and civilly in a complex world and letting go of cognitive dissonance.
– Terri Muuss
© 2016, photograph and essay, Terri Muuss, All rights reserved