Stop Shaming People For Evolving Their Opinions

 
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Social media - and Al Gore’s Internet - are a gift and a curse. We have more information at our fingertips than at any other point of our history. We have the ability to connect with people around the world. Social media has created careers (and wealth), facilitated marriages and sparked connections between people who otherwise would have been strangers. But social media doesn’t mitigate or change human behavior, and we act just as ugly online as we do IRL.

Social media, especially Twitter, is a time capsule of sorts. We can see what we’ve shared at a particular point in time in our lives, and there are even apps designed specifically to show you what you shared on this same date in previous years. Most of the time I enjoy using Timehop or Facebook Memories and seeing my previous content, but there is the occasional moment where I see something I posted years ago and I cringe. Sometimes it’s because I’ve shared an opinion that doesn’t jive with my current outlook. And it’s in those moments that I’m really lucky to not have people searching my own tweets and sharing screenshots for the world to see.

We really gotta stop cancelling folks or throwing their old opinions in people’s faces.

We’re all allowed to evolve and grow in our opinions.

I mean, isn’t that what we want from people?

Back in the day, everybody had a personal blog, including me. We were all in college or fresh out of school, trying to figure out the world and who we were as people. A blogger once wrote that she feared what life would be like as a single mother, a “baby mama” and she vowed to not become one. And then life came at her hella fast, and she became the very thing that she vowed so many years ago not to be - a baby mama. The Internet, much like The North, never forgets and they never fail to remind her about the words she wrote so many years ago, when she was young and a bit naive. To a lot of folks, it’s a joke - “ha ha ha she became the thing she had so much disdain for!” To me, it’s shortsighted. Yes, it’s probably not a good idea to make firm pronouncements in public, but who hasn’t done that? Youth leads you to see life in a firm black-and-white, with no shades of gray, and without the context of wisdom to understand that life is more complicated than we think.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I talked on Twitter about how much our life views have changed, over the past ten years. She mentioned how she’d grown up with certain beliefs that were passed down by her parents, and that she had to challenge herself to evaluate those beliefs for validity. That self-reflection led her to change her belief system and evolve into a different person, along with age and a lot of life experiences. This is the growth that we want from people!

Last week, Uncle Joe changed his position on abortion, in regards to the Hyde Amendment. Was her just pandering? IDK. I hope not. But if he’s not, and he’s truly moved, why would we down him for that? Our forever POTUS Barack Obama famously evolved his position on gay marriage, as he should have. And he shouldn’t get flack for that. We should WANT people to grow and evolve over time, no matter their age!

I’m tired of seeing folks dig up old tweets or blog posts to prove that someone is secretly terrible. If they are truly terrible, we’ll find out! Why can’t we give people the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they’ve simply changed their opinions on a subject?

Or is that too much like right in our age of hot takes and screenshots?

My Social Media Is About Community, Not Aspiration

I don’t get social media influencers. Maybe because I’m not their target demographic.

I don’t use social media to learn about latest cool thing that the kids are into, which is why I don’t follow influencers, and I rarely buy things that show up in an ad on my feeds. To me, it seems like influencers are trying to be “aspirational”, to get their followers to aspire to achieve a certain lifestyle - a lifestyle that involves looking perfect in the perfect clothes with the perfect house and the perfect family on the perfect vacation. Clearly a lot of people aspire to that cause influencers have never been more popular.

But like I said, I don’t get it.

Because for me, social media is about connection, not aspiration.

Maybe I feel differently because of what social media, and the Internets have meant to me. See I discovered the Internets way back in the old days, before AOL sent you 3 discs a week in your mailbox. This was the days of Netscape and IRC chat, where you really had to be a nerd to use your family’s phone line to dial into the Internets and connect with people you didn’t know, would never see, and would never meet. This is before you even have avi pics, or could Skype with folks. This was back when you asked someone “A/S/L?” and you could never be sure if the response you got back was the truth or not. It was in that world that I made my first Internet friends, way back in high school. That continued when I went to college, where it seemed like all the Black kids on campus first connected on Blackplanet before we crossed paths IRL. We’d swap AIM usernames and send each other IMs instead of picking up the phone to call. I was in grad school when I got my Facebook invite way back in the old days of 2004, where you needed a college email address from a select group of schools before you could join. As our technology got better, we got the ability to use our phones for connection instead of our computers, then our computers turned into tablets and smartphones that we could take with us anywhere. We got Twitter and Instagram and Vine and Snapchat and Pinterest, and a million other different ways for us to connect to each other. And with each one, my primary goal was to create a community, to find other people like me that I found engaging and interesting and fun to talk to.

At every point in my life, from young college kid to middle-aged new mom, I’ve used social media to connect with other people, to “find my tribe”, so to speak, when I was unable to find that community locally. Hell, I found my husband on social media, so it makes sense that I find friends there too, right? Communities on Twitter and Facebook have taught me so much, and helped me when I had a question or needed support. I especially found Facebook groups helpful during my pregnancy and while I breastfed - here was a place where I could ask about my heartburn, or to compare bump pics with other plus size moms, or get confirmation that it was ok that my breastfed baby hadn’t pooped in 3 days. It was ok that I didn’t know many plus size moms IRL, because there was an entire group of thousands of plus size moms from across the globe, all going through the same issues together and providing support. So what I didn’t go to knitting circle locally, because there was a knitting group on FB full of people my age who both loved to curse and loved to knit (and who doesn’t love the combination of the two together?).

So with my history on the Internets, you can see why I’m probably not into influencers all that much. i don’t want to know about some thing that they were paid to tell me that I need to have in my life. I do want to know what tips other moms have picked up about streamlining travel with their kids. Yeah that dress is pretty, but I’m probably not going to be interested in where it came from unless I know you actually bought it yourself and really love it, and not just saying you do because you were paid to say it. I love and appreciate a good tip, but only if it’s authentic, and the authenticity is the piece that I’m missing with the vast majority of influencers, especially on IG. So I stick to my little corners of social media and I focus on connecting with people in ways that are meaningful for me.