Shian is a Scottish woman living in London
10th June 2020
Gah, I stayed up till 4am last night arguing with an ignorant, racist, stranger on Facebook. I should know better. I never used to get caught up in these pointless online arguments with people who are clearly never going to change their bigoted opinions, no matter what facts they are presented with. Social media has been getting to me in general at the moment. I guess that makes sense given the current situation, without any real life social interactions happening, my main connection to the world is via social media. So no wonder my reactions to everything happening on there are going to be heightened. I've found myself suddenly much more concerned with how I'm coming across online, in a way that is quite distasteful I think. We are all susceptible to this of course, it's well know us humans get an addictive little dopamine rush when people give us a like, but I'm definitely feeling it has been becoming more important to me now that my offline life is so inactive. And yes, I am also finding that I am becoming much quicker to anger and more likely to get engaged in arguments with random strangers... not good. Never read the comments, don't feed the trolls! I wouldn't have engaged in those types of pointless online sparing matches before lockdown. Of course, there are also a lot more infuriating comments going about at the moment, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining so much traction. I have surrounded myself in such a liberal bubble that pretty much everyone I know is on the same page as me about these sorts of things. When one is in such an echo chamber, it's easy to be naively ignorant about just how many people see things differently. This means that I'm finding it shocking the sheer number of racist comments I'm seeing on #BLM posts. Of course, I knew #racism was alive and kicking, but it was too easy to think of the perpetrates of those attitudes as a much smaller minority, when now it's really clear that whilst most don't go around actively inciting racial hate, there are huge numbers of people who clearly hold at least low level racial prejudice. Perhaps we all do, there is a theory that it's impossible to live in a racist society without having some level of subconscious racism ingrained. I can see the logic of how there may be truth in that. It's the same with sexism, the idea that we can't live in a patriarchal society without internalized sexism. That would be true even for me as a woman and feminist. Potentially manifesting as feelings of shame and fears of inadequacy. I mean, imposter syndrome is much more common in women. And whilst intellectually I am completely committed to the belief that woman should do whatever they want with their bodies and should embrace their sexuality, when it comes to myself I probably do have some internalized shame about my own. It's something I think I have looked at more closely than many, the sex positive circles I move in certainly encourage me to embrace all aspects of that side of myself. However, due to some negative experiences and living in a society that absolutely still slut shames woman and puts constraints on the acceptable ways for us to be sexual, I must admit that there is probably some internalized feelings of shame there.
I went to one to of the BLM protests. I did 'um and ah' for a while over the morality of going out to a crowded environment, but the fact is, we are now allowed to meet in parks, which everyone, myself included, was taking full advantage of during the nice weather last week, and people there are not respecting the distancing rules. In fact when me and a friend met in a park the other day, the whole place had a festival atmosphere, and we even had drunk guys coming right up to us to try and chat us up, trying to hug us and stuff. I was telling them off, that they shouldn't be going around hugging woman they don't know even at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a pandemic! One guy's defence was that he didn't believe the virus was real, as he hadn't met anyone who's had it. I told him that I'd had it, so now he had. They then made a joke about wanting to keep away from me as I'd been infected, and I was like 'You're joking about it, but yes you should be keeping away from people in case they are infectious! That's the whole point!!!' Anyway, the parks are crowded and the government are saying that pubs and shops should be able to open next month, so my point is, that people are meeting up and interacting anyway, for unimportant reasons, and here we have these protests that are so important and feel like they could actually make a much needed change in the world. So on balance I decided the right thing to do was to go to the protests and support. Especially seeing as personally, I am sure I've had it, so hopefully I'm now immune, and I don't have any contact with vulnerable people, so I am in a better position to go to them than many. And of course, I wore a mask and kept my distance from others as much as possible. It was a pretty powerful experience. So many people coming together with passion and strength to demand a better world. The police presence was not overly dominant when I was there, they seemed to be mostly hanging back and letting us do our thing. And the crowd was passionate but peaceful. There was a lot of love in the air actually. Even from the hundreds of people who were stuck in cars backed up for miles as we marched through the streets of London blocking off the roads, there were cheers and honks of support accompanied by smiles and waves of encouragement, and only a few disgruntled faces that looked annoyed at their journeys being disrupted. I consciously didn't take any photos or videos at the protest, I didn't want to be there for the reason of having footage to post on social media about it. I guess there's been a lot of talk online of virtual signalling and such, which made me quite self-conscious about what I might be posting online in reference to the movement. Which brings me back to what I started writing about today, and my current relationship with social media. I have been feeling a bit of anxiety around my use of those platforms in general recently. Though I have been loving the online poetry community that has been thriving during lockdown, that has been a powerful positive experience for me during this pandemic. Anyway, yeah, virtue signalling. Of course, it's natural for humans to want praise or acknowledgement for good deeds. And all the posting online is exactly what has got so many people talking about these issues and taking action. So it's important that people do keep posting about these things and spreading the message, whither it's 'virtue signalling' or not. Yet still, something about it sits uncomfortably with me. I was on a group WhatsApp chat the other day and someone mentioned something about the protests and then loads of people started chiming in under the pretence of giving advice based on their experiences, but most of them were not adding anything new to what had already been said, it seemed to me the real reason for their comments was just a disguised way of them saying, I was there too. It's unfair that that irked me. It's understandable that people would want to say they were there. Plus, it may encourage others to take action in some way, if they see that so many of their peers are involved, so it serves a positive purpose. But still it grated on me. I think that's partly due to the pretence of these messages being worded as if they were giving advice, when I didn't feel that was the real intension. More a humble brag or low-key flex type thing. Also, if I'm being honest, it's because part of me wanted to jump in with a similar message, to let everyone know I'd been there too. I was projecting some of the things I find undesirable in myself, on to them. There is a part of me that wants to show off about any good I do, not just during this current climate of speaking out about racism, but in general. I am aware that whilst there is definitely a degree of altruism in the things I do to try and help others or make the world a better place, there is also a degree of wanting people to view me as a good person attached to my actions. I would do these things anyway, even if no one would ever know, but I can't deny that a part of me wants people to know. I don't like that aspect of myself, I wish I cared less what others think. I intensionally don't post things on social media about the volunteering I do or stuff like that, even though a part of me wants to, as I don't want to be the kind of person that shows off about those kinds of things. So I guess that is why I was uncomfortable with the people I felt were showing off about their involvement in the protests, because in them I see a part of myself I am not keen on. The meditation course I have been doing recently has been talking about that actually – how we tend to get annoyed with others when we recognize aspects of ourselves that we don't like in them. At least I'm aware of where those feelings are coming from! There you go, the meditation practice seems to be working. Now perhaps I should do some meditation on reducing my social media use...