by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson
I was done…I had to quit. For my own mental stability (whatever was left) I just couldn't participate in the world of social media any longer. I've heard of others quitting, and removing themselves from the vitriol, but for so long I found humor and comradery in social media that brought me closer to friends past and present. However, within the dumpster fire of 2020, the good no longer outweighed the bad. In order to maintain a connection, I had to disconnect.
As I've written about before, I've been struggling with depression for years, most likely the vast majority of my life. The Brotherhood I found in Masonry helped with a great deal of those struggles, finding like minded men, socially interacting, and learning to accept our differences with an unconditional Love. Oftentimes, trying to understand these differences, the intent of their actions, causes doubts in our own personal evaluations. The Brotherly charity we exercise usually provides a bidirectional Love and understanding, but in the world of social media, sometimes even among Brothers, that charity seems to fade.
I started realizing that the more I saw on social media, the more upset I became. There was no opportunity for discussion or understanding. As the articles and posts arose, I found myself researching and trying to understand the motivation, the intent. The urge to understand each side became almost an obsession, and eventually, every post, every article, I found to be offensive and hurtful. I'm putting this out there because I found it hard to believe that I'm the only one that feels this, that struggles with the understanding.
With the perception of offense and hurt, I started wondering if I was just too weak, too sensitive. My own personal value dropped, further impacting my already low self esteem. I knew that no matter what I wrote, no matter how I countered, it wouldn't matter. I wasn't going to change anybody's mind, neither did I feel like I had the right to try.
Don't get me wrong, there is a clear positive side of social media. You are able to keep in contact with past and current friends. You can learn through incredible online lectures and presentations to entertain and educate. Especially now when our ability to interact in person has been so stifled, our dependency on social media has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the common issue of "fear of missing out," sometimes referred to as "FOMO," grows with that increased dependency on electronic socializing. Even to the point where we hear about lectures and presentations after the fact, there is a sadness in not being able to attend, or worse, not being invited.
This fear of missing out, fear of exclusion, has driven mankind to horrible actions in the past. Is it possible to wholeheartedly believe that the world you see is curated, and what you’re seeing isn’t real? Or do those images settle within the recesses brain, always making you wonder if you’ve made a wrong decision, or just aren’t worthy? Almost as if you’re an outsider, unable to gain access to the inner circle of life without the proper password. That inner circle, however, is filled with little more than perception and imagination. These fabrications of the mind germinate and fertilize our pain, thereby feeding the FOMO.
There is another fear within the realm of social media, seemingly much more rare than FOMO, and that's the fear of rejection. Fear that whatever you post, whether serious or intended for humor, will offend or hurt somebody. At best, they will appreciate the humor, and laugh with you. Others may keep their feelings to themselves. At worst, however, the judge and jury of social media commit you to death. Before you know it, you've been labeled with one of the many labels we seem to inflict on ourselves and those around us. For many it appears they can compartmentalize these rebuttals, and shrug them off. To me, it's a horrible feeling of rejection, denial, and suppression of thought. When I see these attacks happening among Brothers, friends, acquaintances, the pain becomes personal, regardless of my involvement in the ‘conversation.’
The engineer in me must identify the source that drives these attacks. Is there an anger embedded so deep within humanity that continues to grow unchecked? Or perhaps the problem is solely within myself, being too ‘soft,’ allowing the worst of humanity to penetrate my own Sanctum Sanctorum and discounting the ‘good’ in the world. It just appears to me that an increasing number of people want the anger, the fighting, as the best way to conquer a people is to divide them. This belief brings about a level of contempt for the attacker, and likely my current disdain for "news" (and now social) media. It seems like in these areas all we see are the attacks and wrongdoings of the 'others.'
The contempt that grows within myself, however, doesn’t eradicate the need to understand the motivations and the intent of the attacker. My heart, however, lies with those being attacked. Even if I disagree with their position , I feel they deserve to be heard and as humans we should work to understand. The communication and charity, true tolerance, must happen if we are going to dampen the anger. However, in the world of COVID 19, loss of freedoms, and severe racial disputes, it feels completely hopeless. The rage and hatred, regardless of where people lie on the political spectrum, feels like a poison spreading through our society. The problem is, legislation, social distancing, and required face coverings appear to spread the poison, rather than curtail it.
When I discuss with an effort to understand, and perhaps appear to defend those attacked, I feel the hatred and anger directed to me. What have I done? I just want them to see the other side, try to understand where people are coming from, but now I've hurt the very people I care about. What I want, my desires, and through my actions, have now caused more pain; and I do hope that we can all agree that this world needs less pain. What consistently eludes us all is the path to get there.
I firmly believe that path is hidden within our rituals, within the lessons of Freemasonry. A path that has been laid out by some of the greatest thinkers of humanity. However, only those that seek the path will ever find it. Even upon search, it is possible that we’ll become lost within our own thoughts. I truly fear this cycle of pain will continue, progressively getting worse, until the very foundation of humanity, true Charity, crumbles to dust. My Brothers, my Friends, I need help. We all need help. How do we arrange the Harmony within this Chaos? How do we uncover the Benevolence in the face of Anger? Can we even right this ship, or shall we simply release the tiller, embrace the suffering, and allow the wind to carry us to that “undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”
Robert Edward Jackson is a Past and presiding Master of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at email@example.com
I'm with you. I left Twitter first, finding it to be a level worse, then left Facebook a couple of months ago. I could no longer stand the anger and name-calling. Even the Masonic groups were no respite from it. I miss some family and friends, but for the most part my life is better without it.ReplyDelete
On both a rational and emotional level, you are expressing what I and many others I've counselled with are experiencing. Some people, perhaps those who are most vitriolic, may be breaking under the strain of isolation, while those trying to maintain decorum are carrying even more of the weight of civility in each exchange.ReplyDelete
But this enables us perhaps to discover what is in the hearts and minds of men when the prohibitions we inculcate are remote or weakened. Part of it is unpleasantly finding reasons to like a Brother less, but even worse, that some Brothers, maybe even ourselves, need to look within and say are we willing to be worthy of the Craft when we meet again.