Archive for category Opinion

Using Facebook’s ‘Snooze for 30 Days’ Option

The Internet in our house was exceptionally slow a few weeks ago when I got up early and decided to check my Facebook feed. Because our connection was troublesome, my feed struggled to load and only sporadically spit out images. As I impatiently waited and grumbled, I began to realize that what I was waiting for was not worth the wait.

Facebook, as well as a lot of social media, has become a repository of negativity, anger and outrage. It seems that each side has decided to amp up the vitriol and that they’re racing each other to the abyss.

The reward for my wait that morning was a flood of mostly unoriginal political memes that my friends had shared since I last logged on. That’s not what I was looking for, and it wasn’t a positive way to start my day, so I tried an experiment. I utilized the “Snooze for 30 days” option that Facebook makes available to help users manage what they see on their feeds.

I had used that option before with people with whom I am loosely connected and whose postings were particularly excessive or bitter, but this time was different. This time, I snoozed some close friends, even those whose beliefs closely align with mine.

It’s not easy to snooze a close friend, but I made no exceptions. If you posted something political that you did not create – no matter where on the spectrum that posting fell – I snoozed you. Unfortunately, that means that I also don’t see your family pictures or any positive news that you might want to share. I thought about that as I clicked the snooze option, but I had reached a tipping point. I wanted my Facebook feed to look like it did years ago – filled with pictures of smiling people and updates from people I don’t get to see often enough.

Snoozing people doesn’t mean that I care about them or respect them any less. I understand that they probably don’t post with ill intentions, and I respect their right to share whatever they want. I can handle political debate. I just don’t want to have to sift through it to find the content I want to see.

For thirty days, I enjoyed a condensed Facebook feed, and I didn’t feel uneasy after scrolling through it. I didn’t see anger and bitterness in images that others thoughtlessly shared. I saw pictures of family and friends, mixed in with humor and the occasional recipe. Facebook felt like sitting around a table, looking at photo albums and exchanging ideas, rather than like walking into a shouting match.

The difference when the 30-day snooze ended was stark. The content I had avoided began showing up on my screen, and it bothered me even more, now that it disturbed the peace I had rediscovered.

You don’t have to live like this, virtually or in person, and you don’t have to be on Facebook to “snooze” negativity. If certain people or social situations bother you, do something about it. Redirect the conversation or avoid altogether those whose words and actions irritate you.

If you frequently and thoughtlessly share unoriginal political content on social media, consider what you are accomplishing and at what cost. A few years back, I did the same thing and lost some Facebook friends over it, and I highly doubt that I changed anyone’s mind. It’s just not worth it.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a deeply divided society, but I am hopeful that we can come together and find happiness, if we don’t participate in the division.

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Don’t Pull the Alarm Until You Are Sure There’s a Fire

Earlier this summer I attended a birthday party where the guest of honor was given a cane as a gag gift, minutes before I walked in using a cane. It was a little uncomfortable for all of us, but I dealt with it with humor, and the party went on uninterrupted.

My friend had just turned 60, and his friends gave him the cane in good humor, like I’ve seen at similar birthday parties for people who have reached milestone ages. I get it. Though they mean something more to me, canes represent old age to most people. I’m sure that the gift-giver hadn’t considered that someone ten years younger would walk in with a cane.

I thought about that this week, when reading the news about a suspected noose in the garage of NASCAR’s only African-American driver. That “noose” turned out to be a pull rope to close the garage door, and it was there last year, before anyone knew what driver would be in that garage stall this summer. Unfortunately, that misunderstanding didn’t come to light until the sports world was set ablaze with outrage.

I’m in no way comparing canes and nooses. If it was an actual noose put there to intimidate and demean a minority athlete, I would be outraged too, but indisputable evidence shows that it wasn’t. What I am comparing is the rush to judgment and the sudden leap to outrage.

I like to believe that most people are good. Sure, that assumption is occasionally proven wrong, but I want to be absolutely sure I don’t rush to an inaccurate judgment. The cane gift was perhaps insensitive, but I don’t think that insensitivity was deliberate, and even if it was, I can handle insensitivity. People sometimes don’t think before they act and speak. (Sometimes, You Just Have to Laugh and Looking Down on a Wheelchair)

When I first learned of the NASCAR incident, I was skeptical for a number of reasons. When I owned a business affiliated with NASCAR, I enjoyed the benefit of having a garage pass at many races; however, despite what the name implied, the garage pass didn’t give me access to actual garages. Instead, I was able to move around behind a rope with other pass holders. Only people who had a purpose in a garage were allowed to be there. That meant that, if a racial incident occurred, it was perpetrated by someone who had been cleared for such access. Though it could happen, I had a difficult time believing that someone with that very exclusive access would be capable of such a hateful act.

Unfortunately, many others didn’t have such faith in humanity, and they immediately stoked up outrage, which an edgy public quickly adopted.

I was relieved when the truth was revealed, but fear that too many of us are walking around looking for reasons to be outraged. If you are looking for reasons to be outraged, it’s not difficult to find them. All you need to do is look at both mainstream and social media these days. They’re filled with both actual and manufactured reasons for outrage, and it comes from all angles.

To me, outrage is like a fire alarm. Before pulling that lever, we should be reasonably sure that there is a fire. If we pull it often and without enough caution, the alarm begins to lose its effectiveness.

I think that, instead of looking for outrage, we should make a concentrated effort to find goodness, while ignoring the noise of those determined to divide us. That might take a little more effort, but it’s worth it.

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It’s Not as Black and White as You Might Think

A few days ago, after watching a Netflix documentary called, “Heal,” I felt inspired and hopeful about the healing power of positive thought and stress reduction. When I asked my son and wife to watch the same film, they had very different reactions.

My wife is a certified physician assistant, and my son just graduated with a physiology degree and is starting the medical school application process. While they have deep scientific backgrounds, I barely passed Biology 101. While they viewed the documentary with scientific skepticism, I emotionally embraced the theories set forth in it.

Though all three of us have quite a bit in common, our experiences caused us to see what we want to see, while shrugging off alternatives.

A few days later, I watched a local county attorney explain how he made a controversial decision not to charge a business owner who had a confrontation with rioters. Unfortunately, that confrontation ended in the death of one of the rioters, and the aftermath divided the city.

In the press conference, the attorney very carefully presented the evidence he used in making his decision, including surveillance video of the incident, which viewers were able to watch. I had hoped that there was video evidence that could tell a story that justified a decision, one way or the other, and that’s what I saw. I saw a business owner in a high emotional state defending himself from strangers who were attacking him with evil intent.

I watched the press conference on Facebook, which meant that I saw live comments from other viewers, and almost all of them didn’t share my opinion. Later, against my better judgment, I looked on social media to see what others thought, expecting most to agree with me. While a lot of people agreed with me, I also saw some very different interpretations, this time by people I know and respect. That’s when I thought of the different ways that my family and I viewed “Heal.”

I watched “Heal” on the recommendation of one of my friends from the gym. She’s a registered nurse, and we often talk about the benefits of exercise, limiting stress and staying positive. She said that the documentary reminded her of me and our conversations, so I sat down with the remote and the anticipation of seeing something that would reaffirm what I believed. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what I saw. When the scientific people in my family watched the same film, they picked it apart. Though I knew that their criticism was founded in science, I held true to my interpretation.

The same thing happened in that press conference. I watched the press conference from the perspective of a conservative business owner from the suburbs who is deeply angered by the violence and wanton destruction happening in the city in which I take great pride. With that perspective, I completely agreed with the county attorney’s decision not to press charges. Meanwhile, others watched from far different perspectives and preconceived notions, and they came to a much different conclusion.

I learned from both experiences that things aren’t always black and white – maybe I’m not always as right as I think I am and maybe those on the other side are not always as wrong as I think they are. It’s often hard to see and admit that, particularly when we are so emotionally attached to our beliefs, but maybe, if we could step back and respect everyone’s right to have their own opinions, things wouldn’t get so ugly so quickly, and we would all be happier.

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Follow this – Why I don’t do Facebook politics – any more

nohostility

I did it again. I unfollowed a Facebook friend. I didn’t want to do it – I enjoyed seeing pictures of his growing family, and he was occasionally witty – but I grew tired of the bitterness and hostility of his posts. It’s ironic, because it was this kind of behavior that led to me to be banished by some of my own Facebook friends a few years ago.

It was in the depths of the 2009 economic downturn, and my business was struggling. Meanwhile, political leaders seemed to do everything possible to weaken the economy and the country I love. Social media made it easy to lash out.

It’s easy to find pictures, articles and video to give voice to your hostility. It’s much harder to think of how others might perceive them. It’s easy to involve yourself in fights with strangers who are hundreds of miles from your keyboard. It’s much more difficult not to add to the hostility. I did the easy thing almost every day.

If I saw a picture that was critical of the other side, I reposted it. When a political commentator wrote what I was thinking, I posted it, often with my own snide comments. When someone posted an opposing view, I challenged them. I made social media my battleground in a war to win minds.

Sure, some of my friends applauded my efforts, but they already saw things the same way I do. I wasn’t changing their thinking. I was fueling a wildfire. Likewise, those who I offended with my posts didn’t change their thinking. If anything, bitterness from the other side only strengthened their beliefs. I really wasn’t accomplishing anything but anger, and I got myself unfriended by a few who grew weary of my crusade.

I hate that I no longer see updates from the people who unfriended me. Social media is a fickle place, and it should never replace live human interaction, but it has brought me back in touch with several people. We might not ever talk or see each other again, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t care about each other’s lives. Social media allows us to stay in touch without really being in touch.

Because I value my friends, I won’t unfriend someone because of their political beliefs. I don’t care if you think our current president is a messiah or that conservative is another name for redneck. You might think that guns are to blame for crime and that trophy hunters are scum. It doesn’t matter to me. If you’re my friend, you’re my friend.

Initially, I was offended when others didn’t feel that way and unfriended me. How could someone be so petty to snub a friend over political views, I thought. Then, I backed off and observed the noise that continued. Some of it I agreed with, and some of it, I didn’t. If I agreed with it, the post usually incited me to anger, and if I didn’t, it still incited me to anger. I don’t want to be angry on social media or anywhere else for that matter, and I sure don’t want to spread that anger.

That’s why I unfollowed my friend’s posts. It’s not that I don’t respect him or his opinion. I just don’t want to be angry.

 

Note: You can unfollow someone and still remain Facebook friends. When you do this, you can still visit their page and see their posts, but their updates won’t appear in your newsfeed. It’s like not giving your obnoxious cousin your home address. If you don’t know how, it’s worth figuring out.

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Ask a Hunter

Legitimate hunters, particularly Nebraska’s recent mountain lion hunters and the winner of a Safari Club auction, have been unjustly criticized and misunderstood. The Nebraska hunters were called killers by a senator from their own state, while the auction winner, who will hunt a black rhino in Namibia, has had death threats. Understanding the roles hunters play in conservation and the purpose of these hunts might ease this tension.

It appears that there are three main contentions with these hunts: 1. The animals that will be hunted are beautiful, and as such, shouldn’t be hunted; 2. There aren’t very many of them, so they shouldn’t be hunted; and 3. The hunting methods used aren’t sporting. As an experienced hunter, I would like to address these misperceptions.

I’ve had the good fortune to hunt successfully some of nature’s most beautiful creatures, starting with a Nebraska icon – the ringneck pheasant. There are few birds as colorful and statuesque as a male ringneck pheasant. Hunters are captivated by this beautiful bird and fascinated with its canny behavior, and they will travel from all around the country and spend thousands of dollars for the opportunity to hunt it. The same thing could be said for Nebraska’s two deer species: the whitetail and mule deer. These are beautiful and graceful animals, and they are challenging to hunt. We don’t hunt these animals because we want to eradicate them. We hunt them because we enjoy being around them, and we hope to give younger generations the same opportunity. If we thought that hunting them would hurt the species’ survival, we wouldn’t do it.

With every license we buy and much of the equipment we purchase, we contribute to government efforts to preserve wildlife and protect habitat. In addition, hunter-funded groups like Pheasants Forever and the National Wild Turkey Federation create sanctuaries for wildlife. Hunters are directly responsible for the resurgence of some species, like the wild turkey and whitetail deer.

Nebraska’s mountain lions have made a huge resurgence in the state. There is an established population in the northwest corner of our state, so that’s where the majority of the hunting is done, but they are all over the state, being captured in Omaha and spotted everywhere between. Not every mountain lion spotting makes the newspaper. Just this past year, a trail camera on land I hunt near Burwell captured the image of a mature male lion, not just a juvenile looking for a new territory. The Game and Parks has chosen to take a few out of the population to minimize conflict with humans, as well to ensure as survival of the species.

In the case of the black rhino, while it’s true that the species is endangered, that’s not due to hunters. Rhino poaching is an enormous problem in Africa, as demand in Asia drives desperate people to profit by killing these creatures and taking their horns. The $350,000 paid at the auction will be donated to the Namibian government to fight the poaching problem. In this way, one rhino will be sacrificed to save several others. Furthermore, the hunter isn’t able to take just any rhino. He must take one of the older males that wildlife managers have determined is past breeding age, and even more importantly, a threat to other rhinos in the area. The animal taken will be in his last days, and a bullet will be a much better way to die than sickness and starvation.

Lastly, Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers and others have criticized hunting mountain lions with dogs and shooting them out of trees. Those who have experienced this will say that keeping up with dogs on a lion track is one of the most physically taxing hunts a person can experience. Shooting them out of a tree is the anti-climatic end to the excitement, and many hunters often pass on the animal they treed, if it isn’t mature or the wrong gender. In fact, there is no better way to determine a cat’s gender and maturity than observing it in a tree. This keeps hunters from accidentally shooting a female or immature male.

I am passionate about hunting, as are most of my fellow hunters. If something doesn’t seem right, please ask us before attacking us.

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