Glancing at social media this morning, a post about increasing levels of COVID19 caught my eye. I proceeded to scan a few comments but stopped at one that read “Why 3#$&* should I care?” Why do most of us feel compelled to comment – we might say contribute – to social media in this way?
C’mon. Admit it. When we browse our favorite platforms we just can’t help but comment. Depending on our mood, the ongoing pandemic and maybe the political climate, we add our two cents on some days more than others. And it’s not just a ‘like’ or an emoji here and there. We are determined to have our say. Even if on a total stranger’s post.
My son and I have been sharing a timely and enlightening audio book on narcissism. In it, the author talks about types of narcissists. He contends that we all have a degree of narcissism in us and that there is really nothing wrong about wanting to be special as long as we keep ourselves in check. Is that what this commenting is all about? We make a comment and get that rush of endorphin-infused satisfaction of speaking our mind and sending our opinion into the universe. We get a like or two, get a rise out of someone and sometimes even start a good discussion. Whatever the result, we get the sense that we matter. That we have something to contribute.
Lately, I’ve slowed my avid following and contributing to social media. I am weary of the constant comments and opinions of others. I long to put an end to my inner voice and critic that gets scratched by social media. Over the years, my main contributions were to post monthly writings and blogs, share some of what I deemed to be valuable knowledge, network for the community and catalog the saga of an adventurous Muslim woman. My goal was to contribute something worthy – not what I was cooking for lunch or some snarky comment. But snarky is bound to surface in such divisive and uncertain times.
If the end result is to feel special, to matter, surely we can find other ways to contribute that are not only healthier but build our self-esteem in a more positive manner. Live fundraisers are interesting. Here, audience members are called on to donate to a worthy cause. In a beautiful banquet hall, filled to capacity, many will raise their hands and call out their willingness to chip in, happy to be seen as contributing. There’s that sense of ‘special’ again. Most organizers will tell you that the follow-up to get those contributors to pay up after the banquet are not always so successful. It was the moment of being seen to contribute that spurred their generosity.
The real test of contribution is perhaps whether we are seen or not. Can we give as willingly if no one knows? Do we put in our time, our money, our energy even if there is no one there to record it and pat us on the back? Having been a musician taught me a lot. We had to show up, prepared and ready to fully contribute our talent, our part. Whether as a soloist or within an ensemble, one still worked with others. The recital or concert was only as good as its weakest contributor.
Maybe that’s a good analogy for our time and our country. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our contributions to society and to the universe. Everyone wants to matter. Everyone wants to feel special, to be heard. I get that. Maybe we can contribute what’s positive rather than what’s negative, what’s respectful rather than what’s offensive. Or better yet, as our moms always told us, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Maybe we can find a better way to matter, to be special, to contribute.