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Category: Life and Lessons

Why I Left the Left

This pretty much explains the bizarro world in which I now find myself living. I literally have a Conservative Party of Canada membership card in my wallet with my name on it, but I consider myself a liberal. It didn’t make much sense to me when I sent my $15 and joined, but I felt that the Conservatives best represented how I saw things.

This video explains it very well.

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The End of Social Media

Crazy prediction time: I think 2017 will mark the year that social media began a significant decline.

I’m seeing many blog posts and stories on the mainstream media about people checking out of Twitter, Facebook and other services. Millennials already don’t use them in a lot of cases and Generation X is getting a clue as to why. It’s a waste of time, energy and it’s terrible for your mental health.

My own experience with quitting recently has been positive. I don’t miss Twitter, and I never really cared for Facebook anyways. Instagram is still enjoyable, but that’s a carefully curated stream of photos of things I want to see and nothing else.

Imagine if Twitter declined to the point that it was no longer relevant. Would you miss it? I think the only thing I thought I was giving up was the ability to get news updates and real-time information about services I use like the TTC and some web services.

It turns out that most of that was noise. It seemed useful, but in reality it was a stream that contained far too much useless and unimportant information to be really useful. I thought I needed to know, but the truth is, I didn’t.

Here’s a challenge for you: go a week without using Twitter and/or Facebook. After seven days, honestly assess whether you’ve gained or lost from the experience.

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I’m Out

I think I’m done with social media.

I don’t check Facebook anymore. The app is gone from my phone and the bookmark is gone from my browser favourites. Every one of my “friends” has been unfollowed. In Facebook parlance, that we are still “friends”, but I don’t see any of their posts, likes, and other Facebook activity like article shares.

I held onto the Facebook Messenger app since some friends use that to contact me now and then. I’ll check a lone Facebook group now and then for the Sunday running routes.

On Twitter, I’ve unfollowed pretty much everyone. My timeline consists of TTC notices, and tweets from a few select people and services whose tweets I find interesting. If the TTC provided those notices some other way, I’d probably kick Tweetbot to the curb as well. I’ll see if I still check those updates. I think I probably won’t.

What I used to see on Facebook years ago is vacation photos, some updates on friends lives, a birthday, some pics of a dog or cat, maybe a Dailymile run or two. You know, actual stuff that I’m interested in hearing about so I can get a glimpse into the lives of people I care about.

What I get now is endless shared articles, mostly political, hurled into a vast echo chamber. For years I’ve been carefully pruning my Facebook feed through the “hide all from website” feature. Hide all from BuzzFeed. Hide all from Huffington Post. Hide all from OMG Facts. You get the idea.

It’s become too much. Despite my constant pruning, Facebook insists on showing me article after article about how the world is ending, and how society is breaking down around me.

Do I blame Facebook? No. Because that is literally all it has to show me. That’s all people post these days. See an article, share on Facebook. Comment. Like. Shake head. Rant and rave. #whatever.

Twitter is the same thing.

OMG, this is INSANE! Retweet some celebrity going on about some cause. Someone died. RIP. So sad. Some company gave me bad service. Call them out with “Hey @starbucks…” so everybody knows that Starbucks messed up my latte in some awful way. RT to try to win some contest.

I’ve been guilty of some of this over the years. It’s too easy to just type out 140 characters and send it out into the world without thinking whether a) it needed to be said, or b) anyone either read it, or cared.

I write a blog post, link to it on Twitter, see a few likes, and when I check analytics, it turns out that nobody actually read the post. What’s the point? There isn’t one.

No time to actually read or learn or investigate or come to your own conclusions. Read clickbait headline, retweet and like. Repeat.

The value of these social networks to me has been diminishing and a tipping was reached where I don’t think the value I get out of being a part of it is greater than the cost I’m paying in time and mental health. Ironically it was #BellLetsTalk that really pushed me over the edge and got me thinking about quitting.

I’ll keep my accounts for now, but don’t expect any posts on Facebook or Twitter from me. If you need to reach me, Twitter direct messages aren’t a good way anymore. I’ll be on Signal, iMessage or Facebook Messenger (if you must).

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Stop Hating, Start Listening

My hope today is that everyone will drop the hate and anti-Trump or anti-Hillary rhetoric and talk to the other side instead of writing them off.

I believe in my heart that even the worst of Trump’s supporters have the ability to change. I’m talking about the ones that were attracted to him by the racism, sexism and all the other ‘isms. Dare I say it, even Trump himself has shown an ability to change over the course of the election campaign through dialog and through (he says) talking with his wife, and children. He has much work to do before I’d consider him a changed person, but that means only that we all have work to do to help him change too.

Attacking people for how they think and forcing change on them doesn’t accomplish anything. Working to learn about the roots of their hate and addressing the issues that brought us all where to we are at can lead to real change.

Consider where people grew up and the environmental factors that influenced them throughout their lives. Believe and offer the benefit of the doubt that they are fallible humans with the real potential to understand and change. Realize that they may be right and accept that you may be wrong.

Much to learn

As a Canadian and as a Torontonian looking south, this week has shown me that I have much to learn as well. I’m just as guilty of attacking those with other viewpoints as our American neighbours on both sides of the debate.

It’s been a real tough week of introspection for me and at the same time, it’s been very good for the soul for me to start questioning myself on things like how I reacted to the election of Rob Ford, and the problems we face in our city.

I’m one of the “fallible humans with the real potential to understand and change” that I talked about three paragraphs back. It’s been tough to admit that, but it’s also true. I’ve also realized that in some cases, I’ve been wrong and accepting that has also been difficult.

Sadness slowly turning to hope

Many tears have been shed since Tuesday in conversations with my wife, my friends and with myself. Mostly I’ve been terribly sad and upset by the hatred that I’ve heard around the office, out in public and also coming through in the posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

At the same time I’m slowly feeling more encouraged by the number of great conversations that I’ve had over the last two days as the tone changes, and the rhetoric slowly fades from view in favour of exchanges of viewpoints and ideas. Minds are opening through real conversation and minds are being changed on both sides.

I’m finally hopeful. In a weirdly fucked up and backwards way, the election of Donald Trump has brought me the hope that we can figure this all out and make a better world for everyone.

Progress

We can’t all agree on everything and that’s fine.

Discord is good for our communities and our country; it is these differences of opinion which can lead to changes of opinion. With that comes real progress.

Discord is also dangerous. Screaming at, and writing off others because of their opinions, or shutting down in the face of disagreements, leads to both sides digging in and refusing to acknowledge the other. That, in turn, sows the seeds of division and perpetuates the cycle of hate.

Listen, learn and then maybe engage. Stop fighting. Rise above it and extend a hand or offer a hug.

At least in my social circles, we’re slowly starting to learn from each other and it’s so great to see. Spread it around.

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Where is the Hope?

We all need to come to grips with the fact that there are tens of millions of people in one of the richest countries in the world that feel hopeless.

They live in cities that were once beautiful places to live and work and raise a family. Those cities, like Flint, Michigan, are now empty places with lead in the water, factories in ruins and where there is no hope for a future. There are “Flints” all across the USA.

They live in ghettos where unemployment is so high it’s easier to count those with jobs than without. Where gun violence kills more in a single night than are killed in Toronto in a year. Where the only escape is gangs and crime.

Look where the election turned for Trump and you’ll see exactly where the pain is the worst. In Michigan. In Pennsylvania. In Ohio. All through the south. Once proud blue collar towns…abandoned and crumbling. Coal towns…dying and dead. People with no jobs, and no hope for a job. No future.

To those people, a vote for Donald Trump represented a vote for hope. To the millions that voted for him, Donald J. Trump is Obama 2.0.

Except this time, they hope, it’s actually going to be different. Obama promised change, but didn’t deliver. His eight years in office brought them nothing except another trade deal they see as the final death blow to their towns and lives and health care that can’t afford but are now forced to pay for under penalty of law.

Clinton offered more of the same Obama rhetoric combined with more of the same Bill Clinton policy of globalism and free trade that ruined their lives. Can you see why they walked into that voting booth and filled in the line or checked the box next to Trump/Pence?

Think what you want about Donald Trump. I’m not going to try to convince you he’s anything different from what you believe him to be. I agree he’s no saint, and if even half of what was said about him is true then it’s clear he’s not the kind of leader anyone wants. His views on women, immigrants and minorities and his abusive tone is disturbing to say the least.

But no matter what you think of Trump as a person, consider that millions of people across the country have lost hope to the point that they were willing to stand up at the table and push their meagre chip pile “all in” on the one person in the election who came to their towns and came to their cities and towns and told them, “I hear you. You are hurting. I’m going to fix that…we’re going to fix that.”

Watch this Trump video and tell me I’m wrong. Look at the faces of the people at those rallies. Tens of thousands were out at each rally over the last few nights, but their story was ignored by the media who instead showed footage of Clinton rallies with millionaire celebrities and singers. I’ve watched it over and over and it makes me emotional every single time.

Look at those people. Are they racists? Do they hate gay people? Do they believe they can treat women as objects? Maybe some are. But you can’t paint the whole lot of them with that brush. If you did, that would be bigoted.

The people in that video, and the tens of thousands at Trump rallies and the millions who voted for him saw a vote for Donald J. Trump as their only hope. Think about that for a minute. The worst candidate probably in the history of the USA was and is their only hope.

Are they right? Is Trump offering real hope or just more of the same story that they’ve lived through for the last 24 years?

Trump may be more of the same, and the disillusioned and demoralized will have lost even more faith in the government that they desperately need to give them hope. Or he’ll actually come through and bring everyone together to deliver on his promises to put them back to work building up the country to what it used to be.

The American Dream died under Clinton, Bush and Obama. Donald Trump says he’ll bring it back to life. Tens of millions made a bet that this self-proclaimed, foul-mouthed, asshole outsider can bring it back.

Here’s hoping.

p.s. If you are from Toronto, think about Rob Ford for just a minute. Consider the hopeless in our city. The ones living in public housing that is falling apart, riding buses across Rexdale and Scarborough where decent rapid transit to take them to their minimum wage job is still years away.

Remember how Rob Ford was the one person who went to their buildings and told them not to lose hope? Right. And the very people who failed the most needy and vulnerable amongst us turned around and literally tore Ford down, brick by brick until he was dead. And we were all secretly happy.

Shame on us all.

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