I first heard the word apologist as an adult living in Decatur, Alabama. It is the title of a class or group meeting where Catholics learn how to defend their faith against comments and attacks. I thought the base word, apology, seemed wrong. Why feel the need to apologize for something you believe in or live?
I do it all the time but not about religion.
Someone saw my husband’s car with my brother’s old Vanderbilt sticker on the back windshield after we first married. We bought that car from him with well over 100,000 miles on it. We needed a commuter car. My social neighbors saw it, also found out my dad was a doctor, and invited me to a social event. I played it down the whole time. Pooh poohed our family’s participation in a country club. This was in the ‘80s, so even a general practitioner in a small town lended prestige. I wanted to hide it all.
I have written about my father and his determination that his children appreciate people of all walks of life. His kindness shone like a bright light, illuminating the specialness of people regardless of their status in the world. But I went overboard to appear one-of-the-crowd. I became the world’s biggest apologist.
You like my new bauble? I got it cheap from TJ Maxx! This old thing? It was 65% off at the clearance Dillards. My dining room is impressive? I could only afford the window treatments because I made them myself. Oh, and I couldn’t have done it without my cousin, Doug Augustin, who taught me everything I know.
On and on.
Why can’t I just say thank you, accepting the compliment, and move on?
Recently I found myself apologizing for being on social media. For enjoying Facebook.
“I don’t get into that silliness,” someone sniffed. (Silliness is one of the milder of the criticisms I have heard of late.) Needless to say, each time, the apologist has emerged, brandishing her defense of something that really could be criticized in the very terms of the accused.
Because there is a dark side to social media. Oh, not the stalking thing or the privacy thing. I know they are scary, but I take those risks with open eyes. Sort of.
What I am referring to is the oftentimes deep-seated issues people carry that erupt on posts.
Which leads me to the snarky comments, alas.
One downside to social media is its propensity for anonymity. People can comment, scold, and hurt people without expressly confronting them. I see this stuff all the time, sometimes comments, sometimes in memes: “Uh, fat woman at Walmart, you are giving me road rage in the aisles.” (This one usually has a photo of an obese person dressed shabbily.) “I don’t talk to stupid.” “Sometimes it’s not family but friends who appreciate you. Cut the naysayers.” And so on. Fighting with each other with sound bites. I have received them, or sometimes just think they are targeted at me, and it cuts like a knife.
So I usually ignore them, scrolling past wishing people were kinder. I rarely unfriend, and never for such a small infraction. Because, you see, I quite enjoy Facebook. It’s like discourse that polite society can indulge in with solitude that used to take letters and travel to accomplish. And, with polite society, there are things better left unsaid, things that hurt people even if unbeknownst to the perpetrator. People just don’t get that anymore; our human communication seems broken. Much of this is due to social media, of course. Hiding behind words. Behind computers and phones.
Yet, there is a brighter side to social media that I navigate because it brings joy. With my writing career, Facebook and social media have been a lifeline. I have found my like-minded soul mates, my writer friends. Being on a farm in a wee town in Tennessee was depressingly isolated until along came Amy Wise and her band of merry writers. From them came musicians, folks in the public eye, some famous folks. From her came lifelong friendships too, like with Mark McEwen, who inspires me over and over with his grand delight in life, his kindness, and his words of wisdom. I laugh when I think that we are friends second or third removed. Kind of like the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon. That’s me and Mark. Friends from Facebook, oh yeah.
As I approach 53, I realize now, today, that I don’t have to be an apologist any longer.
To people who don’t read my words and plainly just don’t know me, I won’t backpedal anymore. When it comes to politics, I am an op-ed writer, so I will share my feelings on certain aspects when issues arise. I am not targeting anyone but people in the public eye and pertinent legislation. Taking my comments personally where they are not intended is someone else’s problem, not mine. I won’t hide behind anonymity. And neither will I put up with others’. I just won’t participate in people’s public bashing or rows with friends and siblings in innuendo-filled comments.
I am a champion of my friends and will sing their praises to the hills (even if they are well-known). I will promote friends’ books, blogs, records, or shows because I am proud to do so! If you don’t like to hear or see these things, please scroll past me on Facebook or unfriend me (if you must).
So thank you Facebook friends, like Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Madge Stein Woods, Deborah Jiang-Stein, Elizabeth Geitz, Lisa Phillips, Zetta Brown, Maya Spier Stiles North, Jean Sheldon, Yvonne Foster, Marilyn Lee, Roger Jackson, Eizabeth Kennedy Blackstone, Linda Heller, & Carol Butler Crawley, who have made me unafraid to speak out for important things. I will forever be grateful for the voice you helped me find.
Thank you, Facebook. You may be the root of most social evils, but for me, you have been a godsend.