The Internet is a wondrous place. You can read blogs, newspapers and magazines from all over the world. You can feed nostalgia and find replacements for items you lost, like that old Fisher-Price "radio" that played "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head." (I loved that thing, and I especially loved annoying my brothers by singing along with it ... very loudly.)
And you can find pretty much every conceivable funny photo of a cat. I'm not even kidding. It's the best part of the Internet.
But you can also find division, misinformation, outright falsity, scammers, and other things that might make you want to renounce your membership in the human race; we can be truly awful to each other.
Just last week, an old friend from high school blocked and unfriended me on Facebook, saying I was shaming the unvaccinated. Unfortunately, it happened to be the anniversary of her mom's death from covid-19 and her emotions were high, so when I said I understood what she and her family had gone through, it was apparently the last straw. She changed her privacy settings so no one else could respond on the thread on my page (Facebook, really?), sent me a not-so-nice direct message, and scooted.
I would love to try to talk with her again; sadly, I don't think that will happen. But I think there are few people anymore who don't understand what she's gone through because so many of us have gone through it as well, or dealt with friends and family going through it, experienced it as a front-line medical worker, or reported on it as a journalist, scientist, or public information officer. It doesn't make her feelings any less valid, but places them in the perspective of a pandemic that's killed over 620,000 people in the U.S. and nearly 4.4 million worldwide.
If I remember correctly, my friend's mom and dad and several other members of her family ended up hospitalized with covid last year, with her mom dying. Her dad, who has dementia, was in a coma, and didn't learn of his wife's death for some time. I wish I could say that this was unusual, but this pandemic and the hostile response of some to measures to protect people have made it more common than anyone would like.
Small children have been left without parents. Entire families have died. That's meant that some loved ones have turned around and pleaded with others to get vaccinated before it's too late. Others, however, have dug in.
And where do they go when they're in such an angry state? The Internet, where anyone with an axe to grind can find someone to focus all their rage upon, as well as all the misinformation fit to confirm their biases.
I can understand that, in a way. We all want something to comfort us, especially when we feel taken advantage of or out of control. Many of my fellow vaccinated people have been feeling grief, disbelief, resignation and anger, sometimes all at the same time. We did the responsible thing by vaccinating and following pandemic protocols, so when we're told we're living in fear, virtue-signaling, and victim-blaming, it gets under the skin, especially when our entreaties are met with false talking points and insults.
We're Aesop's put-upon ants who did the responsible thing by storing food for the winter while the grasshopper played the days away and had to beg the ants for food. Except this grasshopper doesn't want to just be rewarded for his lack of action; he wants to salt the earth so nothing else will grow.
Cajoling, bribery, facts ... nothing works because we have a group of people reassuring each other that they're right and every scientist, medical doctor, etc., who implores them to take common-sense precautions and get vaccinated is an agent of a nefarious plan to take away everyone's freedom if not their lives. Between Facebook, Twitter and other social media and the endless memes that are without nuance and quite often factually wrong, it's not hard to see how people can get sucked into a pit with no escape.
Except there is an escape. It's called the power key.
We have smartphones, computers, tablets, watches, etc., which can keep us connected to the Internet at all times. But who says we have to be, especially when what we consume is sure to get us riled up, usually for no good reason? We don't have to always be connected. Turn your computer off (or update your operating system if you haven't in a while; that will force you off for at least a little bit of time), and put away your other tech.
A little time in the garden or out at the park (but not in August) will do you more good than clicking on yet another site that tells you vaccines are just the first step toward total world domination by the libs, the scientists, the Rothschilds, reptile aliens or whoever else is the scapegoat this week.
Unwind. Breathe. Try to figure out what that gray, hairy thing in the refrigerator used to be.
Maybe sing an old tune from your childhood. That's the ticket.
Then, once you get back to the Internet, hopefully you'll be calmer and not so prone to take everything as an insult. Fingers crossed.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.