Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Media List #7: Doomscrolling Edition

Published in Blog.

Rolling through social media feeds as if the incoming stream of information makes any tangible difference, as if snippets of awareness of more injustice helps right wrongs, as if it is an education…

Every social media account I’ve held over the past twenty years—absent those I’m currently using—is closed. I burn the account. I cut ties. Sometimes for years. But I don’t want that right now. This first article speaks to what we all already know, that scrolling endlessly through what has become a looking glass into extremes isn’t all that healthy for us—it’s addictive, it’s consuming, and maybe not super great for mental health. I want to work with this idea a little more and I’m going to try to lean out of that world this week. Not remove myself from it, but try to work with it and find a better balance, because without that balance I’m finding just how easily purpose is lost.

Any question of sustainability on the front of activism, awareness, or justice feels baked into a broader population of engaged peoples’ ability to maintain a sense of emotional and physical health. I can tell that I feel more drained when I’m more “connected”… though “connected” is just shorthand for me refreshing my Twitter feed to gain exposure to new problems, new villains, new outrages, each taking a toll on an increasingly calloused perspective. This week is the first week I’ve felt relief, in part because I’m trying to determine and choose my lane(s), rather than feeling responsible for leaning in on all fronts. I want to have an impact beyond contributing symbolically…

Speaking of falling out of engagement, I first read this when it was made public four years ago. The gist of it is: Law professor wears Black Lives Matter shirt; students write an anonymous letter to announce they’re offended; law professor writes two part letter deconstructing their entire premise. I find it helpful to read it again, if only because it provides a clinic on how to respond to the still very-real backlash to a movement built around recognizing that a peoples should matter, too, despite centuries of evidence supporting the contrary. That aside, it’s disheartening to that comments on this letter might as well have been written last week.

It’s an embarrassing admission, but I feel a sense of anxiety when thinking about bringing forth a voice of contention to people in my life who make arguments like, “I’m not racist because ‘X’,” or White privilege can’t be a thing because ‘Y’.” I think this comes from how few answers I have (and how poorly informed I really am, when it boils down to it)… aligned with being generally averse to confrontation, which doesn’t help matters. While I’m not likely to jump into ideological cage matches with strangers any time soon, I am trying to challenge myself to invest more energy in changing the educational portion of that equation. So, what is white privilege, besides a phrase that generally speaks to why non-white folks have a different road to walk than I do? (This article references Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” which I have added to my to-read list.)

There are numerous other articles, podcasts, videos, and social media posts in recent weeks that have stuck with me, or left an impact. The above video, showcasing Jane Elliott’s studies into how prejudice is manufactured is one of the most powerful. For all my concerns about social media, part of what brings me back is the reality that it’s useful, too. Perspectives from informed, engaged and informed individuals speaking to why Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility (adding where focus should instead be given) have stuck out to me the last couple days.

This podcast with Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza introduced the idea of being a “co-conspirator” rather than an ally, which struck me with the right words at the right time. An ally is surface-level; it’s saying “I sympathize,” without carrying any burden of actively participating in a plan of action or course correction. As I mentioned earlier, like many (most?) right now I’m so scattered relating to what my focus should be. There’s so much going on. Topple the racist monuments and statues, de-militarize and defund police and invest in education and social support networks… Without a focus, and recognizing what I can offer, where I can offer it, and to whom, it’s all too much for even the broadest of shoulders to support.