#GiveThanks

Last Friday, President Russell M. Nelson posted a brief YouTube message (posted below), asking people (members of the church and non-members, alike) to make a switch in their social media approaches. Basically turning the attention to things they are grateful for, one post a day for a week, with the #givethanks tag.

I don’t know how big of an impact this has had for people outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I’ll say that for me personally, it made a tremendous difference in my feed on Facebook. Suddenly all the contentious posts disappeared, replaced by a stream of people talking about their families, their hobbies, their pets, and more. Granted, it comes at a good time, when many people are focused on thankful posts in the leadup to Thanksgiving, but that had already been happening before President Nelson’s message, and the flood of posts after it was still night and day. It’s been especially nice to see some people start posting who I haven’t seen posts from in years.

Of course, I have to admit that I haven’t participated in a #givethanks post. I planned to write a blog post about it (that you’re reading right now), and I think there must be something inherently contrarian in me. I really don’t like doing things everyone else is doing, and I didn’t want to do it just out of a sense of obligation. (I don’t know. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m not going to take the time to psychoanalyze myself . . . Is it hypocritical to appreciate the #givethanks posts and not be participating in them myself? Perhaps. But I also write this blog each weekday, and I’ve only got so much in me I suppose? Who knows.)

In any case, the posts have helped me reflect on what, exactly, social media can do well. Connecting people is definitely a strength. Changing minds? I don’t think it does that well at all. It’s more of a forum for argument. If there were one holiday Facebook would typically represent, it would be Festivus.

Big on feats of strength and airing of grievances, light on warm fuzzies (sometimes, at least.) I’m confident everyone posting these #givethanks posts still has the same beliefs and opinions about masks, Trump, politics, and everything else that they had a week ago, but because we’re not constantly shoving those opinions into other people’s faces for a bit, it’s easier to start viewing people as friends and family again instead of as enemies or wrong-headed. (I’m overstating it, but probably not by as much as I wish I were.)

When we can view other people as people and not as debates waiting to be won, we’re much likelier to reach compromises with them.

So as much as I typically don’t like to follow the crowd, I’m going to put that feeling aside and follow suit for the week. I really do feel like there’s something beneficial there both for myself and for others. I invite you to do the same if you haven’t started, and if you have, thanks for making my week a bit brighter.

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