psychology, social media

“We’re at war with the virus, not each other”

Yesterday, I ran across an article in the Washington Post about “Friendsgiving”, a trendy holiday that developed pre-pandemic involving young people gathering for a potluck meal. The article was about how canceling Friendsgiving was “hitting some young people hard”.

For some reason, it seems that a lot of people have lost the ability to empathize with others. Based on the comments for the Friendsgiving article, many folks are very grouchy and heartless. Here’s a quote from the article, which I think sums up its main idea:

The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving’s younger and cooler cousin famous for potluck-style meals among friends. While it is a wise public health decision to cancel Friendsgiving, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, experts worry that its absence may exacerbate loneliness among young people already isolated from classmates, separated from co-workers and longing for touchstones of burgeoning adulthood.

Nowhere in that paragraph is there any mention of people gathering anyway. I’m sure some people did get together, against all advice, but I’ll bet more people than not decided to skip it. But that’s apparently not good enough for some people. I read comment after comment from people who wrote things like “Cry me a freakin’ river” and “Get over it”. Or they pointed out that some people, like medical staff or military, have it much worse.

These were the most recent comments on the Washington Post’s article.

I don’t understand why people can’t acknowledge the pain that some people are dealing with during the pandemic. A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post that mentioned how some young people are having trouble coping with being so isolated. People are actually committing suicide because they’ve lost hope and the will to live during the pandemic. Some people may think that’s stupid, but what right do they have to discount other people’s legitimate pain? Why not just be kind and understanding?

Is it really helpful to call someone a “snowflake” when they’re struggling? Is it really necessary to be snarky and nasty to people who feel hopeless and depressed? Would these eye rolling assholes like to see people killing themselves because they’ve lost hope? Do they like it when they experience loneliness and someone discounts their pain?

I’m sure a lot of these unsympathetic attitudes come from the fact that 2020 has been an unusually difficult year for many people. People are angry, and anger causes grumpiness and lashing out at others. I’m not immune to it myself, although I haven’t suffered as much this year as a lot of other people have. I have, however, been young, scared, anxious, lonely, depressed, and wondering if it was worthwhile to go on living. I experienced those feelings years ago, when I suffered from clinical depression. Fortunately, I had a good therapist and effective antidepressants, as well as good friends and a weekly voice class. With time and effort, I overcame depression, but I didn’t do it alone.

Today’s young people are denied even a face to face conversation or a gentle hug from a loved one. Telling them to “get over it” seems especially unkind right now. In fact, it’s cruel. And yes, I get that many people have it “worse”– but one person’s version of worse might be different than another person’s is. No one person gets to tell another person what should or should not be painful for them. How hard is it to simply acknowledge that someone is having a tough time and wishing them well?

More “get over it” comments.

I get that we’re all suffering to some extent and it’s good to be tough and upbeat in the face of difficulties. But why is it necessary to be so shitty? Are people really incapable of stopping to consider, for just a minute, that everyone has a different pain threshold? It costs nothing to be nice, and show some understanding toward other people. There’s no need to engage in “whataboutism”. Acknowledging a person’s specific struggle takes nothing away from someone who is supposedly suffering “worse”. Who really decides who’s got it “worse”, anyway? Someone who dies of COVID-19 (which they hopefully picked up innocently while fully masked and socially distanced, lest they not be worthy of any sympathy) is no better off than someone who dies of suicide caused by depression. Both people are gone and will likely be missed by others, right? Both deaths are ultimately tragic.

Depression is a real thing. It can be deadly. Being bored, lonely, and cut off from support can push someone to the brink. As President-elect Joe Biden has said, “We’re at war with the virus, not each other…” These are wise, welcome words from someone who wants to be a leader. He’s shown more leadership in two and a half weeks than Trump has shown in his entire lifetime. And I’m going to listen to Mr. Biden and have a heart for those who feel lonely, anxious, and isolated right now. Those are valid concerns.

Just be kind. Show some decency and basic humanity. If someone is feeling sad or lonely and dares to express it, don’t invalidate them by telling them to “get over it” or “stop being such a snowflake.” If you were hurting, you’d want the same consideration, wouldn’t you?

Standard

2 thoughts on ““We’re at war with the virus, not each other”

  1. I, too, feel angry, scared, and depressed about a lot of things this year, but I do empathize with young people whose lives have been majorly disrupted by the pandemic. I’ve seen – in the house where I live – the last high school student in our family group graduate (literally) in a drive-through commencement ceremony. She’s not exactly isolated; she goes out to her boyfriend’s place and hangs out with friends (and I am not sure if anyone wears masks or does the social distancing thing, nor do I pry). She goes to college locally; part of her classwork is done remotely, and lab work is done under strict supervision on campus. In that respect, my friend’s daughter is much better off than a lot of her peers, here and around the world.

    What truly bothers me is the same thing that bothers you…the lack of empathy that seems to have made social media so toxic and divisive. People tend to get argumentative over a great many things, especially in the realm of politics and political philosophies. And, as we who have been online denizens for decades well know, many individuals tend to use their keyboards to “say” things or express views from a distance that they (probably) wouldn’t dare say to others in person. It’s quite an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re angry about X, Y, or Z and don’t feel the need to censor yourself on Facebook or the comments section of WaPo, NYT, CNN, or The Hill.

    I love technology. I love social media. I love all the sites and blogs – including yours – where I can exchange thoughts and ideas and keep connected to others.

    But I can’t deny that the Internet and the vast distances that separate Person A from Person B have also contributed to a lot of problems in our world, and one of those is the loss of civility and polite exchanges of views and ideas.

    • Very well said, Alex. Later today, I read another article about children having meltdowns and getting depressed because they aren’t in school. The comments were much the same. Totally shitty and unkind.

Comments are closed.