Saturday, March 25, 2017

Paved With Good Intentions

I am struggling hard with Facebook lately. It's been a love-hate relationship for a while, but I truly struggle with some aspects of it.

Not the connecting-with-other people, although I am starting to wonder how much actual quality connecting is going on. I have this worry that people THINK they are connected, but in fact interactions have become super shallow thanks to a sense of connectivity on social media that doesn't go deeper than "I like this photo of your dog" or "that post was ha ha funny." Not even the sharing of information, of news-related things, current events, things to be aware of, essays to read, human-interest stories to watch or read (I am very interested in the fact that my feed has quickly shifted from pictures and text shares to more than 50% videos, which I think speaks to the shifts this technology has made in human attention span in some ways). Those are great, and I am a sucker for a good panda-bear-rolling-backwards-through-the-week short video, in moderation. These are all things I can stomach about the book of face.

It's these other things I see spread all over Facebook that put me on the hate side. Things that seem to give a false sense of DOING SOMETHING but in actuality seem to be a 21st century iteration of the chain letter email. It's the cut-and-paste things that are driving me CRAZY, and the proliferation of sharing without a) thinking or b) ACTUALLY READING what is inside.

I cannot keep track of them all, there are so many, but I am going to focus on three in particular that have my ire up for various reasons. Before I go on, please know that I am not against cancer patients or foster adoption. I am also not for #45 in any way (I have yet to find a reason to "give him a chance" since every single new thing I learn gives me more reasons to mourn for humanity). But I just cannot get behind these cut-and-paste things that are spreading like wildfire.

Anything that is supposedly in support of people going through a horrible disease like cancer without actually linking to anything helpful to the cause and/or includes manipulative language. 
I see this one ALL THE TIME, and it irritates me EVERY SINGLE TIME. It literally starts with "I'm going to say goodbye to some of you right now..." and ends with something like "95% won't cut and paste in support of those fighting cancer, will you?" Please tell me, how many chemotherapy treatments were funded through cutting and pasting? Where is the link to donate to scientific research, or organizations that support families dealing with a cancer diagnosis? Oh, that's right. THERE'S NOT ONE. Where is the advice on how to call your representative to insure health coverage for various cancer treatments or screenings to prevent it? Where is the information on how to actually support someone who is going through this experience? It doesn't exist. Instead, the cut-and-paste thing bullies you into spreading it about (and I have news for you, not once have I been unfriended because I did not copy-and-paste, despite the threatening language inside the post). And it "spreads awareness" without actually giving you a concrete thing to do to help at all. This one drives me nuts. On a separate note, the ones about the Suicide Prevention Helpline do NOT drive me nuts, because there is an ACTUAL ACTION ITEM in it. You are spreading the actual 1-800 number (incidentally, 800-273-8255) that someone might need on that day or in the future. Give me a phone number to call, give me a website to go to for more information, give me places to donate money or items to actually help. But cutting and pasting by itself? That is not actually doing anything. And yet, they spread.

The post about how much it costs for Melania and Barron Trump to stay in NYC while the skinny budget cuts the National Endowment for the Arts.
I agree that this is good information to know, and it is hypocrisy at its worst. Self-interest of the wealthy at its worst. HOWEVER. Where is the source? Are those numbers accurate? I mean, I've seen a variety of reputable things about the infinitesimal cost of PBS and the endowments for the arts and humanities among other programs that are being slashed "because we can't ask people to pay for them," but I don't know about the cost of secret service in NYC because of living arrangements I can't comprehend. I am aggravated, but I refuse to copy-and-paste or even "like" this one. You know why? SEMANTICS. There is a line that bothers me enough to not want to have anything to do with it. And that line is this, "So in essence the Federal government is giving the Trump family a $183 million annual voucher so Barron can attend the elite private prep school of his choice." Did you catch that? HIS choice. A ten-year-old's choice. I can understand being super upset at the fact that someone who ran for president did not plan or follow through like EVERY OTHER PRESIDENT WHO HAD SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN IN THE WHITE HOUSE (which is a lot, actually). I do not want to debate whether it's a decision that's best for families one family, yada yada yada, because you know that if a certain 44th president had done this a zillion people would be focusing on being irate about the money and not the "Importance of Family Values." BUT. I do not agree with spreading about something that makes it seem like this is at all the fault of or in the hands of a child. It's not his decision. These are adult decisions. Ones I don't necessarily agree with, but leave the kid out of it. So, um, not gonna do that one, either.

The article about the five siblings in Kansas who want a home where they can stay together. 
Wait, what? What possible issue could I have with this one? SO MANY THINGS, that rub me the wrong way to the point of painful chafing. Hear me out. First off, I have absolutely no issue with the article itself, which is about five siblings in central Kansas who are seeking to be adopted together. It is a pull-on-the-heartstrings story for sure -- they range in age from two to eleven and were featured on a TV show, pleading to be kept together. The older kids talk about their wishes for the family that might be theirs forever -- that they be able to do sports, and activities, and go on vacations and have a loving Christian upbringing. The reason for their presence in the foster care system is not given out of consideration for the children's privacy (this sentence was a big DUH in my book, but I'm sure they had to include an obvious confidentiality concern in the article due to the inevitable morbid concern of humans, and I'm sure they still got a lot of conjecture in the comments, which I did not read). The article also says that the response to their plea went viral, with inquiries coming from as far away as Ireland, and the it concludes with the information that the inquiries have been narrowed down to seven serious contender families who are in the process of being considered.

And this is where I have SO MANY PROBLEMS, because this article is being shared all over with the comments and taglines, "Oh, I'd take them all" or "I would if I could!" or "Anybody?" and I don't believe most people who share this story have actually read the article, or they would know that there are already families who have committed to adopting five children and it is down to deciding, I imagine, who is most qualified and prepared for the task of raising FIVE CHILDREN WHO HAVE SUSTAINED SOME SORT OF TRAUMA IN ORDER TO BE SEEKING A HOME. I don't believe that any of these families put themselves in for consideration on a whim. And yet, people who share or comment seem to think that you can just scoop up these children. In fact, someone I know TAGGED ME in the comments of one iteration of this article. As if I could go, "Oh, you know what? We really want a family, and we think that going from the two of us to SEVEN ranging from a toddler to a middle schooler sounds like the perfect solution, 1650 square foot home be damned!"

I did not know how to respond to that one, so I didn't. I pretended that my name is not attached to that article on the interwebs, in the comments. I don't know how to remove it. The story is a human interest one, and it is wonderful to think that they could all be placed together. But holy jeezum, does it add to the trivialization of adoption in the media, to this Orphan Annie fantasy of scooping up children without homes and you'll all be tap dancing into the sunset together. It makes it seem like, "well, you want a baby, you could have FIVE if only you'd consider these children from Kansas!" It completely erases any belief that we have carefully thought out our adoption plans. It makes it sounds that we are selfish somehow for not wanting to take on ANY situation that comes by. And that we are waiting so long because we want to have a little baby.

My ire, explained.
1) Never in my life has a family of seven been in consideration. Some people dream of giant families. At my most optimistic and idealistic, I never wanted more than a family of four -- two children, two parents. More children, more responsibility. More financial pieces, more space requirements. You know we live in a hobbit house. I have space for one child. Once upon a time we would have made space for two had that worked out, but it didn't and so now we plan differently. I have space currently for one that can be in a crib. Wanting to have a family does not mean wanting to suddenly become the Von Trapps. More is not more for us in this arena.

2) Adopting from foster care is not our choice. This may sound harsh, but it's not. We don't have the correct certification for foster, and we did not choose that path for a multitude of reasons, all of them very well-thought out. There are generally no good reasons why children are removed from a home. There is trauma -- whether it's parental death, parents in prison, neglect, abuse, or a variety of other possibilities, none of them trivial. Those are experiences that require working through, and if you decide to adopt through foster care, you need to be prepared to support those needs. I do not apologize for wanting to work through a process that skips over the foster care system, finding a home for a baby before an intermediary is needed. I do not apologize for wanting to start my family with as much early environment influence as humanly possible. I have so much respect for those who choose foster adoption, and I can tell you that it is not a choice made lightly.

3) There is no acknowledgment that adoption, especially foster adoption, is a difficult, complicated process. For those who read the article before offering it up for other people, obviously not them, to take up on the offer, there are actually SEVEN FAMILIES being seriously considered for these children. Only ONE of those will become their permanent family, and it won't likely be someone who was tagged on Facebook. It will be after significant vetting and foster certification and home study activation, and careful consideration that the family in question is prepared to take on five children, ages two to eleven, who have suffered whatever trauma has them in this situation. We are not that family. Anyone who said, "oh man, if only!" is NOT THAT FAMILY. There are also likely to be court proceedings, possibly intricate ones, depending on the circumstances. So it irritates the piss out of me when people think that it is easy to scoop up five sandy-blonde-haired midwestern children pleading for a home,  that then we'll all be sitting around a farm table in our new giant house before going to gymnastics practice and soccer games together, easy peasy. Cue hazy sunset end credits.

4) Out of curiosity, when did you see such a public plea for a group of black siblings? The children featured are in a picture of white, sandy-blonde, mostly smiling kids. I am not at all saying that white children don't need homes, but there tend to be a hell of a lot more children of color who wait in foster care and age out, and where are the public pleas for them? It reminds me of something I saw (ironically on Facebook) about the epidemic of missing black teenagers in D.C., and that there has been very little media coverage of this. Except now that it is being spread on social media there is more awareness, and the police said that actually this isn't unusual. Which should have people really, really angry -- because a lot of children who aren't white go missing and it's considered just another day, and not really news? What the what? There is disproportionate coverage of human interest stories based on race. There just is. And it's something harder for me to put a finger on for why it bothers me in this case, but I think on all the older children who can't garner morning shows to plead for a home and have families clear in Ireland lobbying to be their parents, who don't have sandy blonde hair.

The point of all this is that I am seeing a lot of information spread about without a lot of thinking first. I feel like social media can be very helpful in knowing things that are going on, as long as you realize that you are probably only going to get the perspective of like-minded people if you get your information from Facebook sources. You are more likely to find things that are biased, or manipulating you into spreading information that may or may not be true or helpful. You are more likely to see something and react immediately, rather than thinking on implications or consequences.

I would far rather support causes I care about through actions than spreading a post around. I would rather send a friend fighting cancer a care package, or donate to the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, or give money to the ACLU or Southern Poverty Law Center to fight injustice. I am short on time, but I have sent letters and called my representatives, who thankfully are in support of the things I care about. If you have time but not money, look into ways to support that are volunteer based. If you know someone who is in the adoption process, do not assume that they are just waiting to have a large family dropped in their lap (not always true, but also not actually realistic or possible).

If I had an adoption website, sharing that would be far more useful than including me in a post about children a thousand miles away who already have families in the process of trying to adopt them. I don't, because we are not pursuing private adoption, so just ask me how things are going. Tell me you're thinking of us. That works out better for everyone.


  1. Well. It's no secret how I feel about fb, and these examples you talk about are just a portion of the reasons why.
    But, someone seriously tagged you in the 5 kids who need a home?!?!?! What the ever-loving hell. That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Because oh, sure. Those fb thing just always pan out, are always that easy. And also, Oh Jess wants to adopt! She might not have heard about these kids! She could be a mom tomorrow!
    Just UGH. So sorry someone was just so utterly stupid. There just aren't enough words to convey that stupidity.
    More reasons to hate Facebook. Smh.

    1. Yup...I'd like to think that not thinking is not the same as stupidity, because I really feel like this person had good intentions at heart, but NO THINKING. It was definitely off-putting. Yeah, there's so much to take with a grain of salt with Facebook, but lately I feel like I am just pouring the spout down my throat when I get on there. Sigh.

  2. Nodding my head to all of this. The most dangerous type of Fake News has elements of truth to it. I think you second point stemmed from the Washington Post article about the secret service not getting extra funding:

    The disease chain posts also drive me nutty. Especially now that NIH funding is on the chopping block and few are calling their congress representatives. You care about cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, etc? Increase funding to NIH instead of slashing it to instead fund weapons manufacturers. I've yet to see how bombs lead to life-saving cures (believe me, scientists are stretching this comparison to gain access to these funds so research can continue).

    And finally, the adoption plea for these 5 kids. So much is missing from this story. Particularly the point that these kids are in foster care with the goal of reuniting them with their biological parents. Anyone who finds that surprising hasn't even scratched the surface of foster to adopt. It takes a specific type of person to weather this system and they aren't spreading these comments on Facebook

    1. I knew you would have more info! :) I think the cut-and-paste thing about NYC predated the Washington Post about the request for more funding, but stems from the same info. If it linked to an actual article it would be better, but I don't know where it originally came from. Thanks for the article!

      Seriously on disease chain. So much funding at risk and so much fake spreading of awareness where actual action will help... So frustrating. The manipulativeness drives me batty. If you say, "I'm unfriending whoever doesn't..." it makes me MORE likely to not do it.

      Amen to the foster adoption piece. People do not comprehend the realities of that process. I am not at all surprised at these additional details, because they are based in REALITY and part of why we decided that was not our path. So much gets trivialized on social media, it's such a shame when it could be used for so much good. Sigh.

  3. I wish I could say I'm surprised. I greatly dismayed.

    Thankfully I don't see a lot of what you're experiencing. But, when I do, I hide and if I feel I have to hide too much, I just un-follow or un-friend.

    Granted, you can't un-ring the bell but the actions serve from helping to keep the bell from being rung again. I also have my privacy settings set to get prior approval before a tag (posts to my timeline) are posted. Doesn't prevent said post (or comment) from showing up on the tagger's timeline.

    Here. Here. re: the black and brown teen girls gone missing in the DC area and the general lack of coverage for this demographic group.

    1. I need to avail myself of hiding more often I think. The problem is when people you respect start falling prey to these things, and it just throws a wrench in that "connection" piece. Argh... Thank you SO MUCH for the tip on tagging -- I am definitely going to enact that. If it means less unflattering photos of me in the world I'm okay with that too! :) Ha ha. I like the option of getting more control there. It felt a bit like a violation to be included in something I didn't want to be included in. I hope that there is more awareness and investigation into the situation in DC. It breaks my heart, and pisses me off that it's considered just another day when it comes to these girls instead of something worthy of attention and funding. Not right.

  4. The manipulative posts ("95% of people won't repost this but....") are very irritating. I try to ignore them because I don't want to waste emotional energy getting annoyed haha. Ditto for most things to do with American politics. Anything to do with DT or culture wars, I get a stream of completely opposite viewpoints in my newsfeed. I'm fine with that, and it's mildly entertaining. On the other hand, I'm not actually learning anything from any of the media people post, because I take a look at it and think, gosh, I have no time or energy to dig through this and figure it out for myself.

    And videos. Videos about kittens or whatever are ok. And video of raw news footage can be informative. But otherwise I do not like watching a video to learn about someone's opinion, or even something educational, because I can absorb the same message/information by reading it in a tenth of the time (that is not a scientifically determined number, but I read fast lol)

    The one thing I ALWAYS respect: when people take the time to explain, in their own words, why they believe something or why it is important. If someone can take the time and write at least five coherent sentences that came out of their own brain, I will listen to what they have to say even if I disagree with it or think it is slightly bonkers. The way to get my attention, and it's as scattered as anyone's, is to BE ORIGINAL and be INDIVIDUAL. I desperately want to connect with people who think for themselves!

    1. Yes, yes! I agree, if you write it yourself, I'm always more likely to listen. Thinking for yourself is something that feels endangered to me. I totally agree with you on the videos and the manipulative stuff. I especially hate the ones that are like, "No one will do this, but like for a hug...I know who will hug me and who will not." Um, I'm not falling for that attention-seeking crap. Ditto to "post one word about me or I'm unfriending you, I'm culling my list." Cull away. Sigh.

      I do enjoy the entertaining stuff, and I think it's important to take any of the videos or articles into account with source and timing and whether it's clickbait or not. That said, I love the things you post! :) I appreciate when people clearly have read the article they share, care about it themselves, or share about their life in a way that's not constantly attention-seeking.

  5. I take everything on Facebook with a grain of salt, and I don't negotiate with emotional terrorists. Meaning, I won't cut-and-paste a message simply because someone puts in their feed that they want me to cut-and-paste a message, pairing it with a guilt-inducing line about how no one cares enough.

    It is too easy to make a statement like, "Oh! I would just scoop them up!" which sounds great but is meaningless without action.

    1. Doesn't it feel like the grain of salt has become a salt mine? I feel like it used to be such a small number of things that irritated me, and now it's SO MANY that fall into that emotional terrorism camp (love that term, by the way). Telling me no one cares enough to comment is a surefire way to make sure I don't actually participate on that one. Such an interesting cultural phenomenon, all this is!

      Absolutely. I agree totally, I feel like commenting that you would if you could (but obviously won't) is actually worse than not commenting at all, because it makes it seem like these kids are a commodity of sorts, or kittens to be rescued. Totally meaningless without action, yet somehow makes people feel like they did something. Argh.

    2. YES! Any comment like "I would if I could" makes me think that people want to take these kids in like kittens or dogs. I can't believe that someone had the NERVE to tag you on that story. How utterly ridiculous and stupid.

      As far as the missing minority girls in DC, from what I have read it is not an epidemic and there are no more missing girls than usual in that area (I think some of the articles wanted you to believe that there were more missing than usual). What I DO agree with is that when a minority child goes missing, that there is little to no publicity...which is the opposite of when a white kid goes missing.

      This doesn't happen often, but I do remember the story of the black teenager who went to his church in hopes of getting adopted.

    3. It was so crazy to get tagged in that. I would argue that that many kids going missing is an epidemic, it's just not a new epidemic. It's not a rise over the past years, but the fact that it hasn't garnered attention is highly upsetting. All the articles I saw said that it was a large number and that police said it wasn't larger than normal, just getting more attention than normal, which is not right. I do remember Davion! Thanks for the reminder.