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Giraffe imposed on text about Newton's 2nd Law (momentum). Vintage TV with interference on screen instead of head.
Sticking my neck out. (Sketch by Christiana Lambert, 2015. For more, see: http://reviva-arts.com/)

The truer I am to myself these days, the more I realize how far I’ve strayed from a good majority of the people I know. And, why should I—the junior high social outcast—be so surprised over 40 years later?

There are so many factors that have contributed to my arrival at this sense of isolation—and some of those started with who I was born as. I didn’t agree with all I was raised to believe or that my peers desired.


But . . . it seems to me that maybe one of the biggest steps I took toward not fitting in was turning off the TV. My cultural connections began to diminish when I wasn’t watching shows that many people brought into conversations. By now, I can look back and see how off-the-grid it was not to get cable—and to never watch reality TV (except for in the rare situation where I was around some who was watching it). I stopped watching the local news after Columbine (1999) and I never watched cable news in any format (again, unless when I briefly saw it away from my home). I’ve also chosen never to listen to talk (yell?) radio.


I don’t live in a vacuum, though. It’s just that I like to read my news. That means I get to choose how much of a story to hear—or whether I think whoever wrote the piece is a trustworthy “narrator.” In my day job, I read for a living and spend time assessing the validity of statements and sources.

While I’ve always read news, I didn’t used to get a sense that I personally needed to keep an eye on my country’s actions. I believed in the checks and balances built into the operating of this country (yes, I realize there’s quite a bit of privilege and naivety built into that belief). My philosophy was that you and I might disagree on some major issues, but there was no need for us to get into those kinds of discussions as long as we had other connections in common.

Therefore, when I joined the social media world, I took great pride in keeping my presence neutral. Even my blog was a “slice of life” forum, where I chose to avoid challenging people. I had such a wide variety of Facebook friends that FB couldn’t even figure out what kinds of political ads to give me for the 2012 presidential elections.

By the 2016 election year, I had moved to hiding a lot of content and sources, and I started hiding more people. Facebook finally could “know” me. I was done acting like Switzerland (a country that really gained a lot of benefits from all sides by remaining neutral, didn’t it?).

My media-related sense of isolation came to a head during that awful year when I realized how different what I valued seemed to be from that of those who would support such a cruel and bombastic reality personality as the man who became our president. All those years ago–when I intentionally chose not to watch TV shows where so much of the entertainment value seemed to come from cheering for participants to be voted off an island–didn’t prepare me for how different I was from so many of my peers. While I wasn’t watching, so many were. I never envisioned how our society would change to one where many people would not only accept the backstabbing inherent in getting rid of all competitors, but would also adulate a leader who excelled in a kind of scripted brutal power built on bullying and cheap showmanship while scorning the pursuit of true knowledge and accomplishments.

These days, it’s beyond amazing to me to realize which FB friends have become my tribe. And which FB friends support ideas and beliefs that I cannot.

Now, here we are in 2020, a year all to its own in acclaim. The rhetoric—drummed up to a fever pitch by the bully-in-chief and his misuse of language long before COVID-19 arrived on our shores—continues to inflame how we discuss differences. If our emotions have the ability to manifest in our physical bodies, then for me, the rashes on my ears are saying, “Enough!” Other than a brief healing response to medication prescribed remotely by my doctor, the skin on my ears is burning up. I cannot tolerate all the awful things I hear—both by those in leadership—and by people I formerly respected who support what is being said (and done) in our country’s name.

There are topics I don’t debate—and I am certain for many of you there are other topics you don’t debate. Both sides of an argument are not always equal. We don’t have to pretend to be friends anymore if doing so means constantly accepting words that feel like accelerants on our core beliefs. We come together on social media by choice—ostensibly for connection and entertainment. I listen to opinions that are different from mine but when I consistently feel morally outraged by a position, maybe I’m not being narrow-minded—maybe I am responding in a manner that is absolutely consistent with who I am.

And who I am is pretty much that person who often questioned what I was told. Being in this position is no more comfortable than it was when I was a kid—but I can’t hide it anymore. In 2020, it’s obvious that it’s no longer just about me. I don’t know what it’s going to take to stop our country from burning up, but I have an obligation to speak up.

But I’m not obligated to listen to everything others say in the name of both sides. Choosing isolation doesn’t mean I don’t hear things that I don’t agree with—it just means I get to put boundaries on how much I let in. The only way I can continue to fight for what I believe is right is for me is to stop listening to so many of you who have shown that what you value is pretty much the exact opposite of what I value.

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