“I’m tired of arguing with former branch members who are only going to argue with me on Facebook anyway. I’m too old for this. It’s Facebook and doesn’t even constitute reality.”
—Shermeeka M.L. Mason
Student, Writer, Activist Founder and Author of The Possible World–Life After Traumatization
For those who don’t know me, I am a Facebook Fiend.
In fact, never a day goes by without me attaching an Occupy link on my (or someone else’s) page, tying “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!” on a friend’s page, or talking to my Boo Boo Bear and best friend, Chris (we’re in a civil union on the site. So it’s like, one-two-three…we’re soulmates). Facebook has connected me to my siblings back in the Midwest as well as old friends my glasses haven’t set on since I left for Rochester, New York. I use this site to network with political comrades from all over the country, creating a radical virtual soapbox to verbally attack the status quo and its necessity to be annihilated.
Speaking of radicals, I was once an active member of a Revolutionary Socialist group called the International Socialist Organization–or the ISO. The majority of its members are not only top-notch cornerstone cadres armed with knowledge on Marxism, Trotskyism and Leninism, but view revolution as the only alternative for the working class to obtain true political and personal power. In addition to obtaining such power, the main goal of the organization is to transform the United States–the world even–into a vanguard state, where every decision made is based on majority rule. Of course, this idea would not exactly fit into the plans of the 1%, so the ISO–or at least the majority of the members I spoke to–believe that firearms will have to be used to protect themselves.
Despite all that information, I joined the organization because I thought it was another way for me to help rebuild entire communities. Through the ISO, I learned extensively about workers’ power, The Communist Manifesto and the reality that I and many disenfranchised citizens have the absolute power to battle the corporations and the governments that wrong us. I went to two ISO conventions in Chicago, wrote a few articles for the ISO newspaper, The Socialist Worker, created a Facebook page that I constantly posted in, co-organized a pro-Planned Parenthood rally at the Liberty Pole back in Rochester (I was one of the few speakers. I would pop my collar, but that’s so fuckin’ 2000). I attended almost every meeting and was an active fraction member of Take Back The Land Rochester, a housing movement that spread throughout the country. In fact, I was active in TBTL in Rochester and in the ISO Rochester Branch.
Yet something felt very off. I found myself not agreeing with the world being run by militant vanguards or majority votes. Or the split between Liberals and Radicals…or the fact that I could not question the organization’s politics without getting into a intense debate with either a member or those who support radical politics. Furthermore, I found myself not being able to trust my own comrades. I understood that we were never going to skip down to the ice cream shop holding hands, but when I was hurting emotionally or concerned about the fact that we have not reached out to the community as a group, my words were blocked by deaf ears most of the time. Last summer was the time when my depression was strangling me, so I wasn’t going to meetings or anywhere else, for that matter. Very rarely did I receive a phone call and I don’t remember anyone asking if I were ok.
What annoyed me the most was the constant debating that took place between the ISO and other Leftist groups in the Rochester area. I am not afraid of the occasional intellectual sparring, but most of the time, we all went after each others’ political stances to the point of not respecting one another. Even I found myself going on Facebook, arguing with my Liberal, Conservative and Libertarian friends–all to the point them unfriending me on the site and in real life. At times, I would think to myself: “This is fuckin’ stupid. Like, for real and not for play.” Yet I would continue to lash out until the Occupy movement made me realize that this is not how I want to interact with my fellow human beings.
I took a break from the ISO after witnessing a balls-to-the-wall Facebook dispute between ISO members, a certain trouble making Anarchist, and members of Marriage Equality New York. It’s a long story and I don’t want to bore you with the details, Reader, but the name calling and the words “slander” and “elitist” being thrown around pretty much turned me off to Leftist politics for a few days. I called up an ISO member and informed her of my plans. I walked away from the organization, but considered myself a member until months after moving to Buffalo (I got a phone call from an active member stating otherwise).
Why am I telling you all of this and WHAT does this have to do with trauma? The lack of boundaries, that’s what. When I was in the ISO, I witnessed how members–myself included–crossed the intellectual boundaries of other people to basically demonstrate political dominance. Not all members were like this, of course, but many of the Leftists I hung out with didn’t take into consideration the stance of others. Imagine that same type of behavior in a home where a family member or family friend demonstrated their dominance by violating your body, mind and spirit. If you fought or threatened to speak out, you were told that you were wrong, that no one will never listen to you and–if something did happen–it was “your fault” because you opened your mouth. So we let pain happen and we kept silent; meanwhile, our boundaries completely disappear and–as adults–we are at the mercy of attracting unhealthy individuals who will more likely be no different from those we grew up with. When boundaries are crossed by those who call themselves loving/caring about us survivors, that individual (or group of people) no longer has our trust. Survivors of trauma usually have issues trusting others–as well as being hypervigilant–so the latter would always be eyed with suspicion.
I won’t live with that. And I know you won’t, either. So, Reader, I have formulated a method that has been inspired by Facebook: Unfriending.
When you have a person or group of people in your life that are not only bat shit insane crazy, but extremely abusive–poisoning you with their toxicity, delete them. I’m not encouraging you to go do something to anyone resulting you catching a prison sentence. But what I am saying is to walk away from the nonsense permeating by that person or group of people. When you keep toxic folks around, they stunt your personal growth and personal power. They violate you time and again with their dominance, personality and–in worse scenarios–violent tendencies. However, you do NOT deserve that, so why revictimize yourself? Get rid of these people as SOON as possible. If your situation is not an easy one (i.e. being in an abusive marriage, a runaway dictated by his/her pimp, etc), please get help as soon as possible from your church, local battered spouse shelter, or local agencies dedicated to aiding such a demographic.
Please, Dear Reader, I beg of you to note that the ISO only represents a spectrum of Socialism and not Socialism as a whole. And not everyone in the ISO is militant to the point of being close-minded. I have wonderful relationships with members of this organization and I love these folks like their my own siblings (I’m hoping to see my D.C. comrade this coming April during a Feminist Conference. Love you, Z!). And I have learned soooooo much from the ISO and I am proud to be a Marxist. But I used my behavior and that of most of the members as an example to demonstrate how we almost resembled abusive people by demeaning thoughts and opinions of another. I may even get into hot water with ISO members about this post, but those who go off on me will sooner or later have to examine the crux of their reactions.
In the meantime, Readers, examine your friendships. Whether you are a survivor or not, ask yourself if the people in your life serve your Highest and Best. Do they have your back when you are about to catch trouble? Are they with you when you feel the waves of life are about to swallow you whole? Or are they just social leaches who just want to steal your energy to fuel theirs? If so, you know what to do.
And you don’t need Facebook to do it.