Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…