I run a local interaction design group, aimed at providing continuing education and community for designers in New Jersey. At a social event, a fellow designer commented on how she noticed, on my LinkedIn profile, I seemed active in social justice.
I have been…but to be honest, it never occurred to me to not be involved. The source of this is not clear…but, I found myself seeking ways to help the local communities in which I was part. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I became involved in volunteering at a food bank. Later, I led a group within my church to support Interfaith Hospitality Network. The good this organization was doing was so evident. Families and individuals who recently became homeless were provided housing, meals, child care; and the support of financial planners, housing specialists, and lawyers to help them move to permanent housing. I convinced the small church I was part of that, though small, we could be part…I prepared food for the families, helped children with homework, and stayed the night there, as a volunteer overnight staff person.
I had no real interest in becoming a social worker (I was studying information technology in graduate school), so such involvement may seem strange..but for some reason I was compelled to. These were the (perhaps) halcyon days before social media, or before I was on social media. I was never broadcasting my efforts to anyone, beyond the immediate community in which I was part.
2016 is starting to be a year of questioning…my nature has been as an active person. What I am finding now, though, is that there are numerous time wasters I have let myself be part of…and one, I must admit, is Twitter, or, to be more precise, focusing efforts on having dialog on social media about social justice. These conversations seem to inevitably be a lot of “me too” comments…or someone from the other side attacking the view. It’s quite clear that the person on the other side of the argument will not change their mind based on this exchange; if anything, their position is probably more entrenched…as they have written out their beliefs and defended them. I wonder, really, what the dialog has achieved? Who has it helped, really? Has it brought more justice to the world, or just more noise?
This has led me to take a social media hiatus for a year. This is in some ways a practical need…I want to be better at programming, design, and really get at how I can be a better person…I’m not sure that this will be achieved on social media. Life seems to always direct me to a life advocating for social justice; have my prior efforts been worthwhile? My activities at Interfaith Hospitality Network are just now being recorded on a blog, but for many years prior the only people who knew about this were the families I spent time with, and the church members I volunteered with…and, now, some may remember me, but it really is just something I did, because I felt it the right thing to do.
My Facebook account is (thankfully) deactivated, and I will significantly decrease my activities on Twitter, judging whether this is useful for my goals. Life, one of my role models said to me once, is action. I feel an incredible sense of needing to act; to create, to participate..and, to paraphrase the poet, I really want to discover how to use my one, wild, precious life.