Published September 21, 2012
There it was, in the middle of all the political bombast on my Facebook page – Sugar, Sugar.
Uh huh. The Archies circa 1969 -- “You are my candy, girl, and you got me wantin’ you …”
I sang along, every word. Pure joy. Thank you, dear colleague, for the little ray of sunshine amidst the seemingly non-stop arguments about whose rights are being most trampled, who would be a better president and what is clever vs. cruel.
From most accounts, social media is challenging the calmest among us right now, serving as a microcosm of the live conversations and discourse we’re having as we near the presidential election in November.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I’ve got Facebook friends who are holding on to their guns, god, and Pledge of Allegiance for dear life, ones who are firmly in the Ron Paul camp, some who have done their time at Occupy Wall Street, fierce Independents, one-track-mind progressives, spiritual teachers, apolitical folks – all of it.
While on one hand it gives us a chance to be exposed to diverse viewpoints at a tension-filled time nationally and globally, it sometimes feels like it forces us to be exposed to diverse viewpoints. I’ve heard this discussed in my local café, on mass transit, among my friends and on Facebook itself, sometimes calmly and sometimes with hostility.
Aside from following in the footsteps of a few disciplined friends who have put Facebook aside and have vowed not to sign in again until Nov. 7, what might we do?
I say fight Facebook with Facebook. Or Twitter with Twitter, as it may be. And let the bigger concept spill into all of our live interactions where possible. The idea goes something like this -- if you haven’t already, start focusing more pointedly and purposefully on the many other options for engagement outside of politics.
For example, I subscribe on Facebook to a page called Monet’s Palate that regularly serves up the most stunning images of art and food. Sometimes I gasp at the beauty as I scroll down my feed and see its lush colors. It sparks such a visceral response.
That makes it infinitely easier to smile and pass by the next five posts that might make me want to come out of my skin. It’s true.
Surely we all know the benefits of our friends’ posts about exhibits we’ve been meaning to see or restaurants we’ve wanted to try. Engage them more. Or the chance to get a taste of our friends’ parenting styles, from exuberant to laid-back, the ones with newborns and the ones with a house full of adolescent hormones. Relax into those. Linger a bit. Look how big Michael got. Now he looks more like his mother. That’s the stuff of life.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve broken out in goose bumps over posts that share grief in ways that slice through me and inspire. Another chance to feel.
Now I’ve got perspective on the two obnoxious political cartoons that would have seemed important 10 minutes ago.
On a given day, I might get a prompt for a certain kind of food from Ina Garten or a thoughtful observation from Marianne Williamson or Don Miguel Ruiz. My creative friends post about their poetry, blogs, books, paintings, films, jewelry, fashion finds, and speaking engagements. Those can be the focal point of my social media visit if I choose.
I very recently began following author Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page and it has brought instant gratification. One day she wrote a post about seeing a guy in an airport reading one of her books and how happy it made her; it spurred a memory in me of being a newspaper columnist and seeing a man reading my column at a diner counter. I couldn’t resist watching to see if it kept his attention to the end (it did – whew, victory).
That moment led Gilbert to open a discussion on the “chick lit” genre and what people thought about that label. What a refreshing, smart conversation and one that didn’t incite people to get in each other’s faces like so much of our national political discussion.
Much to my delight, Gilbert also posted on her page the idea of a Jar of Happiness:
"I made a vow to myself years ago that every night I would write down the happiest moment of my day and save it forever [in a designated jar],” she writes.
But she got busy and let the practice go. Now she’s begun it again using scraps from old bills and junk mail.
“Time to start stuffing the jar with joy again!” she writes. “I'm beginning again today. Who’s with me?”
Me. I am with you. The jar has been selected and it has a cozy spot. It feels good.
So let’s review.
I’ve stayed connected with friends, made new ones, engaged in thoughtful discussion, revived treasured memories and found something new to try that will help me give some focus to joy and gratitude. Again, this isn’t strictly a social media thing. All of us could take a moment to ask why we are friends with that person whose opinion we find offensive or uninformed. In fact, it might be a really good time to reminisce and reflect on our relationships.
Do I still get riled up sometimes? Absolutely. It’s part of staying informed.
But there is reward in picking battles judiciously because we care about the world and I’d venture to say even more reward in living well by engaging fully in all the rest.
The Archies had it right -- Pour a little sugar on it, honey.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.