Robin Williams, social media & the end of my rapidly fraying rope….

Photos of Barbie Angell by Rodney Smith - Tempus Fugit Design © 2013

There’s a bumper sticker which reads, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”…. Well, I’m paying attention and I am absolutely, unequivocally outraged.

To those of you who are attacking people for being upset about the death of Robin Williams…. STOP.

Social media is a community, not a dictatorship. It is not your place to decide how people feel or what they choose to post. The irony is immense. You want to shame people into having empathy for people who are dying in Gaza or our military, people they do not know, and yet you berate them for having empathy for an artist they did not know. How exactly is that different?

I don’t post anything political on social media because I find it as useful as stapling my hand. It’s painful to do, it’s painful to watch and if I’d thought more about it, I would’ve put that staple in the appropriate place…. in a real life conversation. That’s not to say that others cannot post about politics online. However, for me, it always ends up with my blocking someone.

I use social media to make people think and to make them laugh. I’m a poet, a writer, an artist and a comedian. And if you want to say that I don’t care about the world around me because I am absolutely heartbroken over the suicide of a brilliant, witty, generous, honorable and caring man, that’s fine. If you feel that way, then obviously you don’t know me. To be quite honest, I don’t particularly care what anyone else thinks of me. I judge myself more harshly than you ever could.

If you want to use the death of Robin Williams to make a difference, talk about mental illness. Talk about suicide prevention. Talk about the work he did for our troops, for the homeless, for any of the non-profit work he did. For the characters he brought to life on the screen so that we would be touched by these difficult aspects of our culture. In The Fisher King, he played a mentally ill homeless man; a victim of handgun violence. In Jakob the Liar, he was a Jew, beaten to death for speaking out. In Good Morning Vietnam, he showed us the insurmountable loss during war. Don’t equate him to some celebrity who died. This was a giant of a man who cared deeply and put his fame and talents to real use around the globe. If you want to use the death of Robin Williams to make a difference, do it…. because he made a huge difference for a great many people.

Lastly, shame has never been an effective way to persuade someone. If you want people to know about social injustices, tragedies and the living horrors that are happening around the world, use whatever means you can to spread the world. Get involved in organizations that are trying to effect change. Have honest, open, non-judgmental discussions with the people around you, but don’t use shame.

Social media is a tool to build a community, it is not a weapon. If you cannot use it without trying to inflict hurt upon others, you will be removed from my community.

Thank you.


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