Using social media to connect us to our humanity in the midst of social unrest

Photo credit: Kristina Leonardi at FCBC in Harlem

I am weeping as I type this. The tears are a mix of sorrow and hope: Sorrow for the violence, hatred and fear that I am witnessing and observing from every direction (especially sitting in the heart of NYC); and hope, knowing that others are waking up and taking a stand in whatever way they can, even if that means simply educating themselves about the issues at hand.

I also have hope when I remind myself that what we are currently experiencing is part of the deep transformational process we are in the midst of — a death of unjust systems and a detoxification of unresolved trauma and anguish that have needed to be addressed for centuries. (Click here for my note from last week, which highlighted this as well).

Due to the acceleration and magnification that comes as a result of social media, things are being brought to the surface at a new level (a process that’s been in the works for a while in our country, but started to heat up in 2016). For a gross analogy — although apparently many people like this sort of thing since they made a TV show about it — it’s like the pimple is being popped so that the real healing can begin.

In my talk for NYWICI on Thursday (my first virtual one[click to watch]; thank you to all who attended and are new here!) I spoke about how we all have a job to do in this moment — we are all living and breathing and co-creating history. What is your part to play? How will you look back on this time and what will you have contributed? A good place to start is always with yourself. Taking this opportunity to transform your own beliefs and/or heal your own pain. This is the only way change can be permanent and sustainable.

I will be talking more about that at some point soon, but for now, I want to share how I used my personal Facebook account this week to give you some idea of how you might use your own, and/or provide some thoughts that might be helpful. I welcome your feedback — positive or negative. (And if we’ve met or worked together, feel free to friend me there where you can comment directly as well.)

[Above is excerpted from my PGG Essay Newsletter sent out June 5, 2020]

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Personal Facebook post published on June 3, 2020:

I’ve been quiet on social media lately, as I’ve been observing, processing and reflecting, and I and wanted to wait until I had something constructive to add to the conversation. ** Please read to the end**

I have an extremely diverse group of friends, family, colleagues, clients and random connections on Facebook. And by diverse, I mean every kind — race, religion, age, gender, socioeconomic/cultural/ethnic/geographical background, sexual orientation and political persuasion .

I have never chosen to “unfriend” someone because of something they shared or commented on; I think it’s important to see where folks are coming from whether I agree with them, or understand them, or not. This is life. I may not like everything you say or stand for, but we all need to coexist on this planet as best we can, so if we can’t do that with people we know, what hope does the rest of the world have? It also helps me be a more informed citizen, and with the work I do it’s important to get a sense of what’s happening on a variety of issues from across the spectrum. (After all, I did found a nonprofit, The Women’s Mosaic , with the tagline, Recognizing Our Unity; Celebrating Our Diversity . )

Throughout this past week I have seen many well-intentioned folks posting what they can to express their shared outrage with and support of the Black community. I’ve also seen many other, mostly White folks, but some other POC, question the entire undertaking of the protests and collateral damage and seem perplexed or disgusted by them at the least, and well, as you will see, my example of much worse.

I normally don’t comment on posts, especially if I don’t know the person. However, I did this week, like I did in 2016, when I truly desired to have a non-heated, productive exchange with folks who were T supporters (or HC haters) and reached out when I wanted to call attention to or ask for an explanation/clarification of something in hopes of finding some common ground and understanding.

Earlier this week (I think it was Sunday — it’s all a blur!), someone made the post with one word: “Animals.” As it was in the midst of so much going on, I felt a pang of disgust but kept scrolling. By the next morning, that pang came back strongly as I remembered the sentiment and decided I would directly comment on it. But when I went back to the person’s page it had been deleted or hidden, and I felt some regret that I missed my opportunity to address it.

But the Universe gave me a second chance.

The next day the same person posted “Send in the troops,” to which another person, whom I don’t know at all, commented: “Amen bro, these animals need to be killed.”

My comment to that was simply: “They are human beings. De-humanization is what got us into this situation in the first place.”

He responded with a long diatribe about how I was “benighted” by “leftist collective thinking,” which was the root of the situation, as well as doubling down on the fact that what was happening was dehumanizing etc., etc. I am honestly not sure exactly what his point was, but it seemed obvious he didn’t get mine. So, after much thought, I decided to explain further (verbatim since I had it typed out on my phone first):

My politics and ability to think for myself are both irrelevant and unknown to you. The only label that IS relevant is that I am a HUMAN BEING. You said: “these animals need to be killed.” Once you de-humanize a person (or a people) their life is not deemed valuable and this leads to genocide , which is essentially what has been happening. THAT is the root cause of the anger and grief, and yes, some rage, you are seeing being expressed (although it’s not easy to know who are the legitimate protesters vs. who are the opportunists and outside instigators)

When I said this is how we got here in the first place I was referring to the legacy of slavery, the very premise of which was the de-humanization of a people, a wound our country has yet to really acknowledge, confront and heal . There is a lot of unresolved pain as a result. I am sure you can think of times when you did things or acted out of pain and frustration that were not rational. You can be disgusted by and even condemn a behavior (which by the way I absolutely do in this case) but to really UNDERSTAND it, a good question would be “What would lead another HUMAN BEING to do such atrocious things?”

And, more importantly, by reducing them to animals and advocating for their extermination, what does that say about YOUR humanity? In my book the destruction of another life is far worse than the destruction of property or a system which has been set up and proven time and time again for someone to fail in. Yes, we need to find a better way to address all of this, but by you calling for the outright MURDER of other HUMAN BEINGS that you have relegated to less than human is not the answer. Real change is always messy and uncomfortable at best. I pray for our country it doesn’t get worse than that.

He replied, almost immediately, by doubling down once again, claiming I was some leftist and/or too naive to bring humanity into it, and something about dealing with if I was under threat of violence; how could I write a book with such views; why do Black people kill each other and why aren’t Obama and Oprah saying something … . I read it once and again did not totally understand what he was trying to say, but I realized he still didn’t get it and was dismissive of my intelligence. So here was my response:

“It’s clear you didn’t get my very direct point. I will just leave it at that and wish you well.”

I hoped that at least other folks, many of whom “liked” or “loved” the original post (there were many) and commented would have seen it. I went to look later that day, but the whole post was deleted. (I’m bummed now that I didn’t save his comments to double-check if I missed something.) So I have no idea if there were any additional responses or how many others might have seen it, because with FB I assume many people are silently participating in the conversation, which is why I bother taking the time to do this.

The reasons I am sharing this whole exchange are:

  1. To directly address those of you on my timeline who have posted similar (covert, overt or subconscious) sentiments, have agreed with them, or have had similar thoughts when scrolling or watching the news.
  2. To give an example of what being an ally might look like.
  3. To give my Black and other POC friends here an opportunity to correct/educate me if necessary, on any level (feel free to DM me or comment below).

Let it be known I’m not saying I could’ve changed this stranger’s mind with one comment, but we have to call out what we need to call out (especially within our circles — the original poster and I share 20-plus connections). I believe that if we keep doing that, something in the atmosphere will change. The more of us who speak up and stand up for what is right, even if it seems for naught on the surface, I believe goes into some collective bank of truth and justice in the ether that can be absorbed by others through osmosis.

I also realize that social media is not always the best place to discuss these things, but it’s what we have and it’s where much of the influence is taking place, so I am putting this out there to start a dialogue if you are so inclined. Facebook has so many problems, but we can at least try to make it more of a productive space rather than just venting and grandstanding , etc. (which I totally get serves a purpose, as I too use it for that!), but maybe we can try for a better balance?

If you made it to here, wow, THANK YOU. Happy to hear your thoughts 😊

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Kristina Leonardi is a nationally recognized career and life coach, speaker and author who for over 12 years has empowered individuals to make lasting professional and personal changes aligned with their true passions and talents while fulfilling their role in the world at large.With a holistic and personal growth-oriented approach, she has helped hundreds of men and women over the past decade improve their job performance, enter or re-enter the job force, change careers, better manage their time and stress, and live happier, more meaningful, balanced lives. Her specialty is working with people who feel stuck or are in transition and can help you clarify exactly what you want to do, identify blocks, issues, and patterns in your way, and offer proven ideas, resources, and action steps to get you there.

Click here for info about Kristina’s coaching and speaking services

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