Hard Truths, Chapter 4.5:
How to Be a Better Human

Well, you made it to installment 4.5 of my fourth year of writing a post a day for my birthday month. BOOYAH for you. If you want to follow the entire series this year, click here. Otherwise, click this.

Social media is a cesspool.

For creators and businesspeople, it’s become pay-to-play. For a single post of mine to reach 10% of the 30,000 people who have opted into my page, it costs me $20. That means $180 to show you something that I wrote for free…and for you.

Respected news outlets can’t bother to moderate their comments so anything resembling a civil and respectful conversation has been sprayed over like a urinal cake in the men’s room at a dive bar selling $1 PBRs.

Truly fake news and memes are both shared like wildfire with partisan politics and outright lies littering our news feeds.

We seek our news from a single source most of the time.

When we hit our three free articles a month, we just go elsewhere, refusing to subscribe to a fucking newspaper that employs journalists who actually research, report, and fact-check articles because goddammit, I shouldn’t have to pay. It’s on the internet and “free” is my birthright.

Our friends often agree with us. Else we “hide” or “unfollow” them so as to not offend because why would we want to offend the racist, sexist, mansplaining, misogynistic turdonut (that’s a combo of TURD and DONUT) who’s our “friend”?

And we take the bait. We walk right into no-win situations because we need to be right and we contribute time, knowledge, and energy to people who have no interest in discourse and respond to every opposing opinion with contempt.

Sometimes that person with contempt…is you. Me.

Me. Because I can’t see HOW you don’t get this. I do not understand how you think this is a good idea. Do you not see how this impacts you?

You. Fucking. Moron.

So — that was the easy part of this post to write. The rant. Naming everything that’s wrong with discourse and audiences and how we share and respect information.

But the harder part is getting past all the bullshit above and getting to the business of being a better human.

And, I mean, if anyone tells you they have this “be a good person” thing all figured out, that person is full of shit. Being a better human is a journey and one we’re going to fail on likely as much as we succeed.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. And here’s how I try:

  1. When you fuck up, own it. Last week I fucked up. I fucked up to the point I was fairly sure I’d lost a friend and damaged something they’d put inexplicable energy into building. To tell you that my spleen felt turned inside-out is an understatement. But I parked my car and buried deep in a parking garage with barely a cell signal, I dialed the phone. Owned it. Listened. Put every ounce of grown-ass adult I had on the table — as a punching bag and apologizing. I was given more grace than I deserved and could I rewind time two weeks, it’s so entirely obvious how I could have avoided the fuckup. But since I don’t have a fancy-ass time machine, I do have integrity. And integrity is owning up when you fuck up. OH — and the person to whom you’re fessing-up? They don’t owe you anything. They certainly don’t have to accept your apology. They’re gracious as it is to listen to you apologize and not walk out of the room or hang up on your ass. The work is on you (and me) to do the un-fucking.
  2. Spend less time on social media. I have been firmly latched to Facebook’s teat for three years and I truly need a weaning. Spending more time on social media hasn’t made me a better person. It’s made me a worse one. I get sucked into conversations and rabbit holes, rants and RARARARARARARAARRRRSSSS and everything that is wrong with the world we live in. And by doing so, I lose everything that’s right in MY life. I forget about my goals. What makes me feel worthy. The Petty Express is a relief to hop on with a friend when you need to vent but god knows, it’s nothing I want a monthly pass to ride. Starting December 10, I’m going to be spending a lot less time on social media and more time on ME (more about that coming soon). But if you’re interested in getting off the social tit and on with your life, here are a few questions I’ve asked myself when it comes to what I engage with on the social webs: (1) Does that make me happy? (2) Is this a cause I care for deeply? (3) Does this engagement I’m about to undertake further my art or heart? (4) Will spending energy on this advance a DREAM towards a DONE? If the answer is NO, join me in hitting the Fuck It button. Pass. Hard pass and get on with your LIVING, you gorgeous human.
  3. Add to the conversation. I just (re)watched an episode of Peaky Blinders (GUH, SO GOOD) where a dude who as just hired in a bakery felt the need to make a quip about not seeing any bread. It got the guy next to him clobbered and he got to stand there, being the dude whose comment got the guy next to him a tire iron in the jaw. Some moments need levity and god bless you for bringing it. But not every conversation out there needs the material you’re working out for a standup comedy act or for you to reiterate what 17 people above you have already stated. If what you’re saying isn’t adding to the conversation in a positive way — and no, that doesn’t mean to always agree — maybe it doesn’t need saying. Contrarian for contrarian’s sake ain’t a good look on anyone and in this world of muddled conversations, the least we can do is be a small part of contributing to stories that don’t suck.
  4. Research. If you do nothing else above, just do me one thing. Before you share a link you find online, do a Google search and see if you can substantiate the information in the story from at least two reputable news sources. Don’t get on my shit about OMG ERIKA THE MASS MEDIA CAN’T BE TRUSTED AND THERE ARE AMAZING INDEPENDENT BLOGGERS OUT THERE WHO….just stop. Cool. You like alternative news outlets. But they’re a huge fucking problem because they don’t research and fact check. Don’t contribute to the huge fucking problem because you’re too lazy to verify if you’re sharing something that is, indeed, based in fact or some giant pile of meme-filled crap because it just happens to be what you WANT to believe. Also — I’m guilty of this. And I no longer share news stories unless I can find 2 additional credible links to back them up. Cuts down on what I share, lemme tell ya. Need help on what’s “credible”? Check this chart.
  5. Get folx pronouns right. Ask someone what their pronouns are (binary is so old school) and make an effort — a real goddamned effort — to not fuck up their pronouns because that’s THAT PERSON. A human telling you how they want to be addressed in this world. Pronouns are as personal as a name. When you had that nickname you wanted everyone to call you because THAT is who you knew yourself to be back when you were nine-years-old? That’s how personal pronouns are. Misgendering someone because they don’t identify as binary isn’t “silly”. It’s not “too much work” to learn new pronouns. It’s unlearning something we all learned and it’s hard work and you’re going to fuck it up and I just try to fuck it up less and less until it’s part of my DNA. And if you don’t know someone who uses pronouns beyond she/her/hers or he/him/his, check out this cool piece from the University of Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center. It includes an FAQ and you can read it wherever you feel comfortable exploring pronouns. Who knows — you might even find one you feel fits your YOU better than the ones you’ve always used.
  6. End each day by reminding yourself one thing you didn’t fuck up today. I’m the worst at this because I have busy brain. My brain will go and go and go and rehash every minute fuck up of the day until I’m swimming in a fucked-up sea. But when I turn off the light and my (thank you, pharmaceuticals) sleeping pill is about to shut my brain off, I say one thing I didn’t fuck up today. That’s a nice life preserver in a fucked-up sea to float off to sleep atop.

Six things. Pick one. Three. All six. Tell me to fuck off and go read nine articles on how to make your own cold brew coffee. I know it’s easy to be a shitty human and if you live in the U.S. right now, shitty’s been given an undue level of permission to proliferate as of late. That doesn’t mean we have to contribute to it.

OH! And one more thing. Subscribe to a newspaper. Your local paper. A national paper. If you’ve ever clicked away from that three-article-limit firewall, you’ve told a journalist that you don’t want to support their efforts to find the real story. And I know the real story might not be one that validates our version of the truth.

But that doesn’t make it less true. The least we can do is support their careers, which they’ve dedicated to digging, debunking, and bringing us information we can trust.

Shit. One more thing. Hate newspapers? Support your local NPR station. Mine in Chicago gets $30+/month from me because I listen the shit out of that station. I just want to be a small part of making sure that station stays on my dial.

And finally, you’ll notice I didn’t say, “Tell someone thank you.” I assume you’re already doing this.

Thank you, amazing human, for being the best part of why I do what I do.

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