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On expressions of grief in the Age of Social Media

This post was originally shared January 28th on Medium.

Photo – Mike Labrum on Unsplash

This past Sunday in the wake of the news about Kobe Bryant, I had a lot of thoughts. Among them, I was wondering whether or not I should post something on Instagram, and if I did, what would I say?

In the midst of my questions, there flickered an idea. It was one that I’d had before: “If you don’t post, people might not think that you care…” Deep down, I know that this isn’t true. And in the past, I’ve been silent regarding certain events.

But honestly. Those words capture the kind of world we live in. For some reason, a small part of me didn’t want to seem like I was some sort of unfeeling soul.

For a moment, I mulled over the idea that perhaps this presumed need for statements from people — including regular folks like me — is a reality I need to accept. I shared two posts about what happened on Sunday. And although I certainly don’t feel like I was forced, I know that nothing I say will ever be enough.

But earlier today, I opened my Instagram feed, and saw this:

In an instant, I was captivated and comforted by Demetria’s honesty. I agreed with her fully and completely. I began to stop feeling bad about not knowing what to say about Kobe.

A moment later, I learned that people have been upset with another celebrity for not commenting on the tragedy via social media. My curiosity was piqued, so I ventured over to said famous person’s account. (For now, I’ll call the person I’m referring to “J”. Although I didn’t know it until today, J is a friend of the Bryants. )

In the comments section under their latest post, J made their perspective clear. [I’m purposely not going to quote this person. I feel gossipy enough as it is, writing about this incident.] To J, social media is a business tool. Hence, they’ll post about their particular branch of the entertainment industry, and their work in it. But they believe that none of their personal life — including their response to the loss of people who meant a lot to them — is ANY of the public’s business.

The more I saw J graciously dealing with trolls, the more a wave of relief seeped through my soul.

Since late last year, I’ve been reevaluating my relationship with social media. An obvious part of that equation is my “WHY?”. Literally.

Why am I posting something? Is it out of a genuine desire to share, or am I being performative? Or, as some might feel in the shadow of a tragedy, is a post being composed out of a sense of obligation?

Here, I’ll offer a caveat. If you feel the need to memorialize someone, I don’t mind. I think a well-worded tribute can be beautiful. But if you don’t want to share your thoughts on a loved one who has passed away, please know that that’s absolutely, perfectly ok.

As I think of a years-old personal loss that I still haven’t publicly discussed in detail, something about J’s comments set me free, and I hope they do the same for you.

Firstly, I decided to release myself. It’s important to keep things in perspective. Going forward, if something terrible happens, and I don’t feel like commenting on it via social media, I won’t. (And I won’t feel guilty about it, either.) I don’t have to, and my not commenting does not mean that I don’t care.

When words fail us, in this era of free communication, we deserve the freedom to say nothing at all.

Secondly, it does’t matter to me how famous or non-famous you are. Our phones have us literally living in each other’s back pockets. And sometimes, that proximity is a bit too close. Please remember: whether you’re feeling overjoyed, or absolutely horrible — you do not automatically owe strangers pieces of your life. We are not entitled to your intimate details, whether whole, or in fragments.

There was a bit of a presumptuous tone in some of the comments directed at J, and the audacity of them threw me off. If nothing else, I hope that certain people will evolve beyond using folks’ status as “public figures” as an excuse to invade their privacy. “Public figures” are still people, who, like the rest of us, bear the weight of their own humanity. And this burden can be especially overbearing when the unthinkable happens.

In Jesus’ name, have some compassion.

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Can we talk about racism in the church?

How about now?

In the wake of one of gospel’s greats finding the strength to share his story, I wonder how much longer it will be before he receives an appropriate response. I also wonder about the kind of opposition he might be facing. I keep imagining Christian celebrities and civilians muttering behind the scenes, warning Mr. Franklin not to rock the boat.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank him for his bravery.

The way that TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network), the Gospel Music Association, and the Dove Awards has behaved is proof that these institutions can be just as racist and cowardly as the rest of society. The pattern is typical: Enjoy Black people’s time and talents. Delight in our worth, on a superficial level. So long as we entertain you, all is well.

Yet let us honestly discuss issues that cause us real trauma. Suddenly, we’re too much. Suddenly, we don’t deserve your support. The pain that we feel shouldn’t be expressed. Our realities deserve to be eliminated.  

If you participate in this kind of erasure, perhaps you may not realize it. But when you tell Black people to keep quiet about what we’re going through or what we worry about, you tell the truth about just how much you really care about us. In spite of your statements about being one in Jesus’ name, the truth is evident. Your love is not sincere. Your concern is not genuine.

I want to say more about racism in the Christian community. I’ve felt an urgency in our political climate, as people have begun to reveal their true colours.

Back in the day, before putting pen to paper on this issue, I felt the way I usually do whenever I’m about to write something: There were moments where I caught myself wondering if I could find the words to express what I was thinking. However, now, I realize that what I really need is the nerve.

Will Kirk Franklin’s honesty embolden me? I’m not sure. But if nothing else, I know this: The way that the predominantly white Christian church–and therefore, white Christians–in North America regard people of colour needs to change. People on the fringes of the faith have known this for years. The question is, now that racism in Christian contexts has been mentioned in the mainstream, what will happen next?

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Wicked Words

As a content writer, I’m committed to my clients’ success. I remember when I first threw myself into this field, I was incredibly enthusiastic. I didn’t anticipate any problems.

I mean really. Content’s all the rage. I’m an amazing writer. How could business owners not understand that they needed me?

It didn’t take long for me to get knocked off that pedestal.

“Do I really need to be on social media…?”

“People like photos, why should I have a blog?”

*headdesk image*

At first these kind of attitudes took me by surprise. (Who wants to spend their workdays pushing a boulder up a hill..?) But deep down I know some folks might not see the point of regularly creating content. If you’re on the fence about whether or not it’s important to your business, here are three things to consider.

1. Remember: You’re not like anyone else. Content isn’t merely a trend. It’s a useful tool. In various industries there are hundreds of thousands of companies. What can set you apart from the competition? Your output, aka your content.

The way you express yourself in your marketing materials will influences the way that your potential clients view you. Through an effective content strategy, you can develop a relationship with them. Sure, it may only be virtual. But virtual relationships still have power.

Say you’re a contractor, and someone out there wants to renovate their house. Who are they more likely to trust? John Doe–whom they and their friends have never heard of–or a professional who’s taken the time to reach out to the community at large?

Whether on your website or social media, every post that you share can be used to establish your voice as a unique force in your industry. When you take the time to offer your audience helpful, interesting information, that’s bound to be more meaningful than a wall of silence. 

And how do you use your content to show people that you care?

2. Tell your tales.

Plenty of companies do the bare minimum when it comes to advertising. They give their customers the cold shoulder until the day they come knocking. Meanwhile, when it comes to sales, storytelling matters. So why not make that story about you—your employees, your company’s values, etc.?

When it comes to content, there are a few ways to go about this. You could look at “storytelling” in the literal sense: Why not share the history of some of your products or services?

You could also take a figurative approach to storytelling. Consider the voice you use throughout your branding. (Do you use a whimsical approach, or is  your company formal?) Recognize that it has the power to tell a story. Wouldn’t you like yours to reflect quality and positivity?

3. Remember: Words still work.

It’s easy to get dazzled by the “media” in “social media”. On apps like Instagram, images and videos are king. But they aren’t the entire kingdom.

In spite of the proliferation of images online, people still read. Writing is a critical part of content marketing.  Consider the statistics.

Source

Can there be any doubt that mediums such as blogging still matter?

So long as there are words in this world, people will find a way to publish them. I guarantee it.

The question is, will your work be included in the things that they read?


This post was composed for my online portfolio.

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Who’s baking your kid’s biscuits?

Somewhere in America, an elementary school teacher let a feminist bake her class some cookies.

I’m a feminist. Hence, I can understand looking at that sentence and thinking, “So what?”

Well…There’s more.

This woman didn’t just bake any cookies. She made VAGINA cookies.

From Reddit:

…Friday rolls around and the kids are excited. Autumn Lily Speaker [pseudonym] comes into the classroom with a pan full of treats and brings them to me and says with a smile “I decided you can use these to teach the kids about the woman’s vagina today”. Baffled and completely caught off guard I slowly peel the aluminum foil off the pan to behold a plethora of sugar cookie and frosting vaginas. Not just any old vagina, but ALL KINDS OF VAGINAS…

I wish I made that up, but, well…If you didn’t already, click the link above.

Now, I didn’t post this to insult feminists. Like the redditor who posted it said

Feminism is about gender equality and shouldn’t be grouped with off the wall people like this.

All I can do is shake my head. I am seriously concerned for that woman’s children.

HT: Kari, an online friend who linked to the story via MadameNoire.

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“Looking back, looking back, looking back…”

Over on Blogging While Brown I learned that Bee of 83 to Infinity was hosting a blog carnival devoted to posts that celebrated the year gone by and the year to come.

Every day offers another chance to close the door on what you don’t want, and open another one. The media reminds us that the new year supposedly gives us the ultimate opportunity to start over. And quite honestly, I can’t deny it. Twenty-fourteen seems like the perfect time for me to keep giving my life a reboot. There’s a lot that I’d like to embrace…And leave behind.

Twenty-thirteen has been good to me. I started to pursue my dreams in a city that I love. I’m making new friends and meeting new people. Basically, my life is taking a turn for the better, and I’m thankful.

I also can’t help but be pensive. Over the past while I haven’t updated this blog. That’s partly because I haven’t had time. But I’ve also hesitated because I’ve been thinking about my content. Lately I’ve had questions about whether or not my site offers an accurate depiction of who I am or who I want to be. Last week I made a decision–to either scrap my blog and start over, or write a “that was then/this is now” post. This type of change is actually new territory for me, so I asked an unbiased source for feedback. She suggested that I could go either way. In the end, I decided on a bit of a compromise.

Friday night I went through this site, removing and otherwise suspending a ton of old posts. If you’ve been here a while, you know that I’ve written quite a bit about religion. I’ve often railed against the establishment–I’m no right-winger. Yet lately I’ve been concerned about the meaning that religion of any kind has in contemporary society–even religion lite.

Furthermore, currently, I’m on a bit of an alternative spiritual path. Some of my thoughts are bound to upset old friends and close family. I’m processing how I’d like to explain my evolution.

Ultimately, as I look ahead to 2014, I’d like my blog to offer a more accurate representation of myself. In the future I may or may not be more transparent…We’ll see. The longer I live, the more I understand that I need to make self-care a priority. It turns out that all those clichés about what it takes to keep a human being in one piece aren’t pretentious BS. They’re actually true!

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Get ready?

I have one week before school starts. You’d think I’d be more prepared. 

One final but vital detail needs to be sorted out. If you’re spiritual at all, pray or send out positive vibes.

In spite of that concern, the other 99.9% of me is overcome with excitement.  I’m really looking forward to experiencing the city, especially its FREE offerings. (No matter how expensive Toronto is, you can always find something decent there–to see, to do, or to eat–that won’t cost you a penny.)

In the months to come I look forward to featuring more local content.

tea

It’s weird. When I blog from where I am now, I’m preoccupied with my privacy. I haven’t publicized certain posts because I’ve worried about readers stalking me figuring out where I live. Yet once I’m in the city…I don’t know what it is. There’s more to do, and more to share. Something about that space really inspires me in spite of myself.

As for this blog, a few nights ago I caught myself stalling. I know I’m supposed to be participating in 31WriteNow, but I was torn between two blog posts.  Although both were important to me, I couldn’t bring myself to post them. I kept wondering if I’d regret sharing my thoughts later on.

Even as I type that, I hate realizing that my old friend fear is trying to maintain his hold on me. Deep down, I know I need to shed a lot of my old post ideas before I get to the good stuff. I feel like my writing has a deeper purpose, and I can’t wait to find out what it is!

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I need a break.

Don’t you?

I joined Luvvie’s 31 Write Now challenge a few days ago. After yesterday’s post I decided to exhale. After all. It’s Friday.

*ahem* 😉

I’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy. But this video confirmed it…

I need SoA in my life. ASAP. Sesame Street parodies rule.

And here’s something for those who want to brush up on their classics.

What do you get when you combine slang (including random bleeped-out words), comedy, and literature? Thug Notes!

When I was younger, I read Jane Eyre twice. For fun. Sparky Sweets’ analysis slayed me. All I remember is thinking that Rochester was a pig for not telling Jane the truth.

HT – The Huffington Post

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Justice for Trayvon

trayvon-martinSource

Stacia wrote this poetic and poignant post.

I honestly don’t know what to say. Although I’ve been upset, all along, something has kept my soul from making an absolute connection to the anguish that others have expressed.

In all honesty, to me, the end of this trial felt more like a cliffhanger than a conclusion.
On Saturday night, I felt that a just outcome was still possible.

Since then, my hope has been emboldened by the news that the United States Justice Department is going to review the proceedings.

In the meantime, if you would like to make a donation, you can visit the following sites:
Trayvon Martin Foundation

HopeMob’s Trayvon Martin page

Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation

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