Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh Elul (so was the day before, but that’s not really crucial to this story) and it was a hectic day. Sometimes when my days are a little extra hectic, I find that I engage more readily in Facebook group discussions.
If you’re part of any groups on Facebook, and, chances are, you are, because someone added you without your knowledge, and then maybe upon this discovery you updated your Facebook status to either ask people to stop adding you to groups without your permission (a futile request, in my opinion), or maybe you updated your status to griping about people adding you without your permission.
In any case, if you’re part of a group on Facebook, you might have noticed that they can get a little out of hand sometimes.
Sometimes this is good: A thread takes off and it’s great and people support each other and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and everyone’s grass is green and we all sing kumbaya.
And sometimes it’s just a mob, and G-d forbid you voice a dissenting opinion because don’t you know You Are Wrong. And probably feeble-minded, or uninformed. Or whatever.
And because these groups can be thousands or tens of thousands of people who have never met each other and have no context for each other or even concern or care or love for each other, you can find threads like this:
“OP (Original Poster) – I have this problem, it’s really bothering me. Random group of strangers, I turn to you for help.”
Person 1 – My sister/brother/wife had this problem and s/he did x so you should do that.
Person 2 – That is so hard, davening!
Person 3 – You need therapy, please go talk to someone about this problem.
Person 4 -There is something really wrong with you, I am scared for you that you actually think this way.
Person 5 – (subthread) – We should really try to be supportive, that was a really judgmental comment, this would be really painful for the OP to read.
Person 4 – (responding) – I’m just telling it how it is, I don’t see the need to sugarcoat things. OP obviously has Major Issues and I’m just doing the OP a favor by posting my completely unfiltered opinion here on this thread of hundreds of comments.
So, yesterday, which was Rosh Chodesh Elul, and a busy day for me, was of course the same day where I sat down and saw a post in a group that rubbed me the wrong way.
I started writing a response, but had to stop because my actual life actually demanded actual interaction. But then I had some downtime again and, despite my better judgment, despite the fact that only one comment had disagreed with the OP and the OP had responded with a pretty nasty response, I added my two cents.
Unsurprisingly, someone responded disagreeing with me, and in a way that I found amusing and both unamusing, because this comment told me something that not only did I already know, but have actually said myself in other online and real-life discussions.
So I was extra annoyed. Annoyed that my point (which I thought was a good point!) was dismissed out of hand, and annoyed that the person was assuming that I didn’t know the thing that I did, indeed, know very very well.
But more so, I was annoyed at myself for getting annoyed after getting into a useless interaction in a Facebook group when it was Rosh Chodesh Elul.
Now it’s possible that I was wrong, that I needed to think through my opinion a little more, to mull it over and see why I disagreed where so many others agreed. But I couldn’t even get to that place of introspection because I was so agitated.
I needed to disengage, stat. Because I didn’t want to have to deal with the temptation of checking for responses, of potentially getting tagged in a response, which would make it harder to ignore, I just left the group.
Almost immediately after I made this impulsive decision, I remembered all the times that I joined in on a post in that group and felt good, felt validated, felt like my opinion mattered. I would miss all those warm, fuzzy feelings. I would miss the chance to weigh in on a thoughtful post.
And I wondered, is there more bad or good in these groups? Do I hate them or love them more?
The groups I love are the ones where people consistently build each other up. Where people offer helpful comments, not just agreeing, but thoughtful (although agreeing is also nice). In these groups connections are made, advice is given, gifs are used.
In these groups, people seem to remember that we are all humans behind our screens. We have our own unique feelings and fears and insecurities and experiences. Maybe we’re having a bad day or week or year. Maybe we’re an expert. Maybe we’re full of nonsense.
It’s these groups where people talk to each other like they would while sitting at the same table, these are the groups that make me feel like things are going to be okay. That there are people who care more about connecting than being right or making a point. Those are the people I want to be around so that I can be like those people, too.