I love fall, I really do. But, there’s one part of fall that comes every two years like clockwork that makes me cringe: elections.
What was once a time to express opinions in the polling booth and to your inner circle of friends has now become an all-out shouting match on social media and with strangers at public events. Maybe it’s because we now have the opportunity to type what we say and hit send before re-reading our words or even imagining someone in front of you receiving those same words. Maybe it’s because we are simply fed up with being told how to feel by complete strangers.
Over the last few years, I have gotten into my fair share of Facebook argument and Twitter wars and I now regret every single one of those tit-for-tat conversations. After each of those social media arguments, I didn’t change anyone’s mind or make my voice sincerely heard at the time. I was simply shouting (yes, I used all caps sometimes) and then finding myself unfriended or blocked. There was no glory in any of it and I bet the other people I spoke to felt the same.
“Why can’t you just ignore it?” That’s what my husband would ask and all I could muster up was, “Because they’re wrong!” In reality, I was right in my world and they were right in theirs. It wasn’t healthy to have these debates online that would crawl their way into my body – my heart would race, my hands would shake and I would genuinely be enraged.
Then, one day, I had my daughter. Everything changed for me. I went from a fiercely opinionated woman to a fiercely aware woman. I’m aware that this little woman who follows me around all day is learning from me. I’m aware that my words will become her words and that my thoughts and actions will shape her. I’m aware that I have the responsibility, along with my husband, to instill the values of respect, kindness and understanding in this precious human. I’m also aware that I need to raise her to have her own voice and to convey it in a way that garners her respect each time she voices it.
Remaining calm and not indulging in Facebook debates is a challenge I face every week, but I’ve been diligent in making sure that I practice a few ways to handle this election season. Here they are:
Do Not Engage
This isn’t to say that you should just stay quiet like a perfect little housewife/mother, but choose where you place your energy. If you know a family member or friend has a strong political view and you completely disagree and you know there is no way that the back-and-forth will end well, do not engage. It is not worth your time and it is not worth your anger.
Choose a Group/Organization to Join
Whatever it is that you are passionate about, find an organization that you can support. There is power in numbers and you will find a safe place to shout your voice and be heard together. It will be much easier to share you voice on a platform that allows you to have one cohesive voice. And, you’ll feel empowered to keep fighting the good fight (whatever that fight may be for you).
Disconnect from Social Media
Take a timeout from everything social media related (maybe not Pinterest because Pinterest is life), but just step back. Do you really want to subject yourself to comparisons and online dialogue that will only enrage you before you’ve even had a chance to finish your coffee?
Remember the Little Ones
Years ago I was asked whether I would act the same way if I had a five-year-old me walking behind me. I instantly knew that if that was my reality I would speak and act quite differently every single day. Now that I do have my own mini-me mimicking everything that I do I know that it’s important to watch how I debate with others.
There’s a way to disagree and there’s a way to be heard and I assure you it does not need to involved humiliating someone else or spewing hatred simply because it’s our first amendment right.
My hope for you (and your family) this fall is that you enjoy the leaves changing colors and cool fall breezes while on your way to the voting booth with a more peaceful heart because you’ve done what YOU CAN to not churn any more negativity into this world.