Something is Rotten in the State of the World: Social Media, Tragedy, and Coping With it All

I was on vacation in Ottawa when I heard about Christina Grimmie. An artist I admired greatly had been shot, senselessly, after a concert, while she had been signing autographs for fans. It was the first thing I read that morning, shaping how I approached the rest of that day. I remember being glad I lived in Canada; although we are nowhere near perfect, gun violence does not occur anywhere near the rates at which occurs in the neighbourhoods of our southern neighbours.

I did not post anything on social media.

A few days later, I heard about the Orlando Pulse shooting. Again, first thing I read in the morning. The worst mass shooting in Modern American History, headlines read. I mourned. I mourned for days, for weeks; I could not wrap my head around the number of deaths that occurred that night, in what was supposed to be a safe space. I mourned the death of Gay Nightclubs as a safe space for the LGBT community.

I thought about writing a blog post. I refrained, retweeted some tweets whose views aligned with my own. I did not post anything else on social media.

And then Baghdad, Iraq. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Istanbul, Turkey. More and more innocent people whose lives had been cut far too short. My heart hurt. My heart sank lower, and lower, into my chest. I saw Islamophobic views being shared on my feeds, doing nothing but alienating the victims of these tragedies. I saw Muslim friends forced to mourn their brothers and sisters during Ramadan, a time when that was the last thing they should have been doing.

I still did not post anything substantial on social media.

When the video of Alton Sterling surfaced online earlier this week, I avoided it. I knew it would be the same thing as always: a graphic video of an unarmed, innocent black man, shot by a police officer who made a rash decision based on insufficient knowledge and poor, racism-driven appraisal of the situation.

The next morning, my mother asked me if I’d heard about the black man who was shot by a police officer in his car. I told her I had, and that I had avoided it because I did not want to be upset by the graphic video. I would watch it eventually. I would catch up with the politics eventually. She told me, “No, the other guy. Philando Castile.” Another one? I could not refrain any longer, I researched and read up on both cases. The more I read, the more I hurt on the inside.

And yet, I chose once again to not post anything on social media.

Those who know me well know that I am passionate about liberation from oppressive power structures that harm women, people of colour, and the LGBT community. But these sociological words do not convey the severity of what is happening. We are dying. We are being killed. Hate is killing us. People with hateful opinions and access to weapons are killing us.

These past few months, however, I have been quiet. I was once a vocal advocate for these causes, once a proponent for educating those willing to learn.

Now, I am hurt. I am tired. I do not know where to begin. The evidence is out there. The videos, the first-hand accounts, the piles of bodies that grows each and every day, it is all out there. I do not have words left to explain why these people should not be dying. I do not have energy left to “debate” these issues.

Every day, it feels like I am waking up to bad news. I would be ignorant to pretend that it does not affect the way I approach my day, my life, my choices. I care, and because I care, my ability to function optimally is taken away from me. I do not debate on social media because I no longer have the capacity to consider opposing arguments. People are dying. Too soon, too often. This needs to stop. I do not want our world to be this way anymore. I want to call for policy changes and action, on a municipal, provincial, state, and federal level.

Social media is an incredible tool to congregate, to educate, to share the reality of what is occurring in our world. We can use it to dismantle the narratives that mainstream media constructs. We can use it to fight back against the rampant anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and homophobia. We spread stories, which are so often tragedies. And because of this, these past few months, I have been in a constant state of mourning.

We are bombarded with news of terrorism, mass shootings, and tragic deaths from around the world. I want to reach out to the other exhausted individuals who are tired of fighting for their right to exist in their societies. I know I am.

It is okay to take some time away. And I have. You are not obligated to be constantly on, constantly willing to debate. You do not have to defend your existence just because someone else wants you to.

You are incredible. You have a right to exist, to grow, to love, and to succeed. It is exhausting, I know. But we will get through this, just as the ancestors who fought for our right to exist today got through their horrid, oppressive regimes. It is going to be okay. And until then, you are allowed to go off the grid when you need to. You are allowed to refrain from conversations, you are allowed to put off watching graphic videos and reading graphic news stories, if it is affecting your mental, emotional, and physical health. You do not care less because you are less vocal on social media.

I know we are hurting. We are allowed to hurt; we do not have to defend our pain. Surround yourselves with friends who understand. It is going to be okay.

with love, peace, and solidarity,
and without wax,

v.d.

PS: I don’t have much more to say on these topics in the public sphere. I encourage people to message me personally if they wish to discuss anything, but I request that no one begin debates on this thread. Please, please, if you are not personally affected by all of these events, do not expect us to be able to discuss them with emotionless objectivity; allow us to take time to ourselves to heal. We did not ask for any of this. It is the tax we pay for existing, and it is exhausting. 

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