When will we all stop criticizing each other online and accept that everyone’s path is different?
The buzzing is so loud sometimes.
So incredibly loud.
Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t all little bees, buzzing away throughout our days, trying to please the queen and not sting anyone. We’re little bees, flying from flower to flower, from home to work and back again, in search of something. All the while buzzing, buzzing, buzzing.
I don’t think that the buzzing itself is necessarily a bad thing. We buzz about our jobs and how to be more efficient and how to give up junk food and get more sleep. Heck, it might even be a good thing, but lately, it just seems so damn loud. So loud that I can feel it vibrating in my bones, rattling my brain and unsettling my heart a bit too.
My newsfeed is filled with articles that criticize everything from parenting and politics to food and fashion. The world seems a little too much like high school, with impenetrable cliques and stereotypical labels, those who are “in” and those who are “out.” There are millions of buzzing bees all trying to be heard.
And lately, it seems like the buzzing might be getting angrier, with lots of stereotyping, finger-pointing, and insulting. What not to say lists shame us for a multitude of conversational faux pas. Articles screaming “motherhood isn’t a job” go viral. And then even a tidal wave of response articles shouting back, “Yes, it is a job!” and “stay-at-home-parenting is not a luxury!” surge through the Internet.
Buzz, buzz, buzz.
There is so much more comparing and competing and defensiveness. Angry words get thrown around like confetti, and the biggest rewards go to those who can spark a controversy or poke a stick at the hive. Insult someone, instant Internet fame. Retaliate against that insult, more fame. And the cycle continues. There is so much judgment and noise, so much energy spent on arguments and criticism and assumptions, so many piercing words hurled into cyberspace that I can’t hear myself think sometimes.
Maybe I’ve just become more sensitive to the noise lately, more susceptible to the fiery sting of all the insults, negativity, and nasty comments that are on the Internet. Or maybe it really has gotten louder and angrier. Whatever the reason, I have noticed that when I spend too much time amidst the noise—whether it’s on Facebook or reading certain websites or just trying to conform to certain “ideals” (set by who, I’m not sure)—I become angrier, more judgmental, too quick to point the finger as well. The more I read articles that jump down someone’s throat for saying the wrong thing, the more likely I am to react with antagonism than with empathy. The more negative comments I read on Facebook and blog posts, the more likely I am to be cynical in my own conversations, forgetting to listen with both ears open and neglecting to hold space for our inherent differences.
Like an eager bee, I have my own internal buzzing to deal with as well. Sometimes it’s an excited vibration of possibility over a new writing assignment or the happy buzz of gratitude for my family and friends and the fact that I get to write in the first place.
Other times I feel a jittery twang of envy pulsating. Why is that writer so popular? How did that post go viral and mine didn’t? I want to find my path, but I’m not always sure how to do that. There are so many options, so many other bees in the way making so much noise. There are plenty of days when I feel like I’m not enough this or that. I’ve got my own doubts and questions, insecurities and soft spots, buzzing about in my brain—am I good enough wife-mother-writer-friend-woman? Am I making the right choices?—and I can only take so much noise.
So how can I—a tiny little bee, with my own buzzing to deal with—block out the rest of the noise? How can I learn to silence all the negativity, critics, and the naysayers?
Sometimes I wonder if there is no blocking it out, if it is impossible to succeed in this big and noisy world without being big and noisy myself? Like they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Right? Should I adhere to the finger-pointing and jump on my own soapboxes to be heard? Should I contort myself to fit into the prescribed criteria? Should I be a hard ass and thick-skinned and do all the other things that they say one needs to do to be “successful?”
Maybe. Except none of that rings true to me. I don’t want to be big and noisy. I don’t want to be a hard ass or thick-skinned. I want to stay soft and open to possibility. I want to observe and absorb without feeling an intense need to rush in and shout in order to stake my claim. I want stillness and simplicity. I want to connect, not divide. I want to build bridges, not walls.
I wonder if the buzzing might have something to do with our desire to answer this one essential question: What is my purpose? The bee wonders it, as it flies from flower to flower. I wonder it as I go through my day, making lunches and carpooling and writing blog posts and returning emails. I suspect we all wonder it. How do I fulfill my purpose? In the words of Mary Oliver, how am I going to spend this one wild and precious life of mine?
But the noise, and the angry buzzing in particular, seems to come from an even deeper question and a harsh fear. Deep down, I wonder if we’re all asking ourselves, Am I doing this right? Am I living my best life? Am I being my best self? And I wonder if we aren’t just a little scared of the answer.
So we buzz louder and angrier. We get defensive and self-righteous. We seek validation and judge those who make different choices than our own. We make assumptions and criticize. We deny what we know in our hearts to be true. We tell people they are making the wrong choices about how to parent their children or spend their money, about what food to eat and what clothes to wear. We stir up the Mommy Wars (again!) or start a new one. We spend more time making noise about what others are doing, than we do trying to make the best damn honey we can make.
I started writing to better understand myself, and connect on a deeper level. I wanted to surround myself with people and writers who would uplift and inspire me to do that. I was drawn into a hive of possibility, where words could be like a salve for the soul. And though it seems harder and harder to find these places, where the buzzing isn’t quite so loud and angry, I know that this is where I want to be.
And despite all the noise, despite all of the vitriol that I read lately, all the blaming and criticizing and judging, I still believe that these places exist. I still believe there are places where there is no queen to please, where the support is a sweet nectar that sustains. I still believe there are places were bridges are built, and quiet voices can be heard. I still believe there are places where words heal instead of hurt, places where the honey is sweet and the stings are minimal.
And maybe it is there that we can quiet the noise just enough to hear the answer that was there all along: Relax, you are doing all right.
Christine Organ is the author of Open Boxes: the gifts of living a full and connected life — a collection of stories that celebrate the human condition. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, her two sons, a gecko, and a couple of naughty-but-lovable dogs. Her work has been published on the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and Mamalode, and she has appeared on HLN (a division of CNN). She writes at www.christineorgan.com.