Monday, June 13, 2011

Facebook, Twitter, depression, my surgery, and 'quiet dignity'

My blog post about using social media in the hospital was adapted for an article at Macworld. There were lots of nice comments and Tweets from around the world—which was gratifying—but I'm afraid the one that stood out was the commenter LJMAC's observation that more or less criticized me.
I dunno. I don't want to speak for anyone else, but for me this kind of thing is just too private to tweet about - I feel it's something that should be endured with "quite (sic) dignity", as people always did for decades before the advent of social networking. I think times like this are good for quiet reflection and contemplation - something I feel people do too little of these days, in our constantly connected world.
There's something appealing to this vision. I'm not above seeking a little solitude to contemplate and reflect. But even if I were capable of "quiet dignity"—and honestly, I'm probably not—I think LJMAC would be dead wrong.

For me, at least, "quiet dignity" would've meant "quiet suffering." And there's nothing inherently ennobling about suffering, I think, when it's done in a vacuum. Pain, depression, loneliness, the drug-induced sense of not quite existing in the real world—none of these things made me a better man. None of them were likely to. And anybody who implies I—or you—should be quiet and endure probably has a romantic view of life that renders them callous to actual human pain.

In fact, it was the support of my friends and family through Facebook and Twitter that actually provided the benefits that LJMAC thinks comes from "quiet dignity." A few weeks ago, I posted this message to my private Facebook account:
In recent weeks, I have been the recipient of prayers and hopeful thoughts from an unexpectedly wide range of people: Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists. Democrats, Republicans, and socialists. Journalists and non-journalists. Folks in Europe, Asia, and more than a few of the 50 states. People I've argued with heatedly, and people who probably have every right to hate me or hold me in contempt. I've been offered grace from people I never expected to give it, from folks I didn't think were capable of it.

I've learned humility on my own because, well, poop has been an integral element of every bad thing that's happened to me in the last month. But I've also learned humility because I've seen kindness from so many unexpected sources in the last month that I find it a bit more difficult to easily assign folks to binary groups of black hats and white hats.

I am not who I was five years ago, or 10 or 15 or 20. But ... neither are many of you. I've been guilty of not recognizing the growth that other people experience. I've been guilty of not always recognizing their humanity.

There are a lot of changes I expect to make as a result of this spring and summer of discontent. Mostly, though, I hope to be more patient and generous in spirit. I have been the recipient of that in the last month. I am grateful for it. And I thank you all.
Solitude has its uses. So does community. There will be times when I need the former; the latter has been crucial to my recent survival ... and growth.

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