I know that social media is not the real world, just as Kim Kardashian is not your average working mother. But we have all started to spend parts of our days in the virtual world, and in the post-pandemic era, some of us spend the majority of our waking hours communicating with avatars, digital creations, and shadow-humans. So the things that are happening in that environment do have an impact on our emotional health, and the way we view the actual world.
After the news broke on Friday evening that President Trump and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19, I held my breath. This had nothing to do with my fears for their safety and health, although I managed to get off a quick prayer to St. Jude. The reason my esophagus seized up was the thought of what was about to happen in that virtual world where so many of us manifest our real characters.
I don’t need to reproduce the comments here, for you. My Facebook friendship tally is close to the 5,000 limit, with a good mix of liberals and conservatives, white and minority, male and female (but no “questioning”) Christian, Muslim, Jew and atheist, college-educated and high school grads, native-born and immigrant, Eagles fans and (one) Dallas fan. It’s a good cross section of the country. To be honest, there are some Trump supporters who travel over to my page who I barely tolerate, and some Bernie supporters who are dearer to my heart than blood relations. I can deal with a lot, and I have.
Lately though, I have taken to blocking better than Chuck Bednarik on one of his better days, because people have simply lost their minds. The number of folks who have either wished death on the president or engaged in some sick sort of schadenfreud because he is now infected with a deadly virus is scarier than the virus itself. They are not the faceless shadows that populate the comments sections of some online newspapers. They are not folks who have used pseudonyms to create online personalities that bear no relation to their actual selves. They are people I have actually met, or at least, would have like to have met in kinder times.
You might argue, as some have, that social media is a distortion of the real world. I would have agreed before social media became the real world for so many people who were trapped in the fabricated amber of the COVID shutdowns. Classrooms have become virtual for many children. Good friends have been told that they will not be returning to their offices until at least the beginning of next year, so their kitchen tables and their laptops are now their conference rooms. Online shopping has bumped the thrill of walking through an aisle in a Hazmat suit to search out the perfect tomato.
Virtual is real, now. And even in the real world, you have Hollywood and political folks wishing ill on the president. One of Hillary Clinton’s campaign managers actually expressed a desire that Trump die of the virus. There have been smirky, smarmy attempts by cable news hosts to show how “evolved” they are in wishing the president who caused all of this by ridiculing masks a “swift recovery.” And Democrat-leaning pollsters are gleeful at the thought that the election is over.
Ironically, one of the few public figures who gave authentic wishes of hope, luck and recovery to the president and his wife was Joe Biden, who tweeted out his and Jill’s solidarity moments after the news became public. He also vowed to pull negative campaign ads. That shows class, decency, and humanity. It is a shame that so many of Joe’s supporters lack the qualities reflected in their candidate, in this troubled moment.
Right now, it is important to point out to all of those folks who say that hate has no home with them, that they need to check the front door: Hate left, so hypocrisy could take over the lease.
Copyright 2020 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]