Photo by Kevin Tosh
Things I’ve been thinking about in the time that I was away: how social media (and blogs) can give us only snippets of a person’s reality; how getting to know people as human beings humanizes them in ways that even the best literature or the best films or the best interviews cannot; how much knowing people– actually knowing them– takes them from a flat idea to something much more concrete, more nuanced and more complicated. And, how liberating it can be to not carry the burden of being a nice person.
The first: I “met” someone a few years back. By which I meant, I found their blog, stalked them obsessively, tried to befriend them and was sorely disappointed when they didn’t share this interest in being my friend. And then, I met them in person and it was a different experience. In a really good way. And well, it’s happened a few times which gets me thinking about the way in which I sometimes make snap judgments about people based on social media or one-off interactions. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think what someone says online can be a pretty good indication of their offline politics. But it’s not always a full picture of who they are, sometimes for good and other times for bad.
The second: I used to know a person who’d declare without any shame: “I’m not a nice person.” It seemed to me like a really ridiculous thing at the time. If you say you’re not a nice person, what are you then? A mean person? Who wants to be proud of being a mean person? But I feel differently about it in retrospect.
See, it’s very easy for niceness to be not about truth or about honesty or character, but about respectability and appearances. This is something I see as much in the conservative Christian circles that I was raised in and in the more liberal activist spaces that I discovered in college. It’s alluring to focus on appearances: on saying the ‘right’ thing or looking the ‘right’ way or being perfect. Because it sucks and is shameful when we fall out of line. But when we care so much about appearances that we’re not honest, then we fall into the same traps that we’re trying so hard to avoid. (Side: this reminds me of the whole idea of “sanitizing” our social media)
We all mess up and we’ve all been hurt and we’ve hurt others and we’re not (always?) nice people. And maybe that’s not a bad thing because guess what: oppressive systems have always existed in spite of (or maybe because of?) nice people.
In other news, and related to the title of this post, Just a Band had their final two performances this last weekend before going on a 2 year break. I’m 1. excited to keep up with their individual projects in that time, 2. a little sad but 3. holding on to hope that their break will be like primary school break time that was over so fast that the bell was ringing before you could even properly finish a round of I Call Upon A Country (anyone out there who was a child during the 90s and played this?).