a letter i just wrote to the peoples of facebook
…because it’s been getting kind of hot over there, people yellin’ and all that.
but everything applies here on this blog, too.
this is a short letter to you guys on facebook. i hope you read it and share it if you feel moved to.
i started posting more directly here on about three or four weeks ago. up until then it’d been a more impersonal page run by sean or whoever was helping me in internet-land at the time. i like being here. actually, i love being here. i love being anywhere there are people who are sharing, and talking, and connecting the dots of the world, and there seem to be some amazing things happening here that i didn’t know about.
i’m going to be posting here a lot over the next month, asking you guys for help on the book i’m writing, asking lots of questions. and i figured it wouldn’t hurt to discuss, for a second, how i feel about the internet.
like a lot of you, i’ve been using the internet to talk to people for years – livejournal (awww), myspace (ah…myspace. remember myspace? o myspace), blogging since 2001, twitter, what have you. platforms come and they go.
when i came over here, i sort of took for granted that any community around me would reflect a certain degree intelligence and kindness. and i’ve been really happy to see: it mostly does. facebook seems relatively NICE. i pay close attention to the temperature on different parts of the internet. tumblr, for instance, seems to have gotten increasingly haughty & cannibalistic in tone, not really towards me, but towards itself, like a snake eating its own tail – i started being appalled on a daily basis over there at the sorts of things i saw people saying to each other; twitter remains a haven of wise-cracking intelligence, helpfulness, and generally maturity. (except, y’know, when it isn’t.)
i’ve been through enough shit in life (and on the internet) to know what kind of behavior works for me.
do i fuck up? sure. you could probably find me-fucking-up examples up the wazoo. still, i try to stick to these general rules:
i don’t scold people.
i don’t insult anybody.
i don’t start bickering when someone scolds or insults me, especially if their voice sounds frightened.
and this is a big one:
i try never to invalidate someone’s feelings.
i was raised by my mentors to believe one huge, giant, important thing: everybody’s feelings are valid.
their pain, their rage, their sorrow, their grief, their shame, whatever.
you don’t have to like their feelings, and you may hope their feelings change over time.
but if you face a person and say: “your feelings are not REAL. they are not TRUE,” i think it is the most unkind, dehumanizing thing you can do.
since i started posting here, i’ve seen some wonderful things happen. just last night i was looking through various messages and people were telling me how moved, solaced, and strengthened they’d been because of the antony song i posted the other day, or because of the john grant song i shared last week, or because of my video for the bed song…because they happened to be going through a hard time; a death of a friend or a brother, a coming-out-to-parents, whatever it was, the dots connected in the right way and the music guided them through a moment where it was needed, like a helping hand, or a balm.
and it works the other way around. people here help me. you share things with me, you support my art and buy my songs when i put them out, you give me comforting words when i’m going through hard times, you make me laugh.
this, for me, is what the internet is for. at it’s best: it’s here so we can connect, as fellow human beings all stumbling along on our fucked-up paths, it’s here so we can help each other, hold each other, so that we discuss the world around us with awe and with wonder, or with sadness…or with hope.
i see my job as a human being – and as an artist – to look around me all the time and to connect the dots i see between This Thing and That Thing, and to share the connections with the world. sometimes through a song, or a poem, or a play, sometimes through a blog, or a tweet.
i especially love sharing other artists’ work and the beautiful things they’ve found and created, their dot-connections.
sometimes i just take what i see in the news of the world…the good, the bad, and the ugly (like the woody allen articles the other day) and feed it into the ongoing conversation about what is around us, for better or worse.
i will never stop doing this.
and i hope that i can make my little corner of the internet like an extension of a living room, not a courtroom.
like my blog, i hope the discussion and dot-connecting here is based on friendship and understanding, not hostility.
i can’t control anything, and i certainly am not going to change the general behavior protocol of facebook. it exists.
but i can ask. so i’ll ask.
it’s a simple request:
be kind to each other.
i love you guys.