I had brunch recently with a colleague before going to a gallery on a fun spring Saturday afternoon. Over eggs Benedict, we gossiped about our workplace and discussed issues regarding our aging parents. When I got home, I realized we had not discussed politics at all. It was a much-needed relief.
Now that the weather is warmer, people on Twitter are urging folks to get outside and enjoy the spring weather — to get off the computer and stop fighting online.
As I read the tweets, I debated a pro-Donald Trump teacher in Michigan who misspelled Melania’s name. Even worse, she used to be a Democrat. But why was I wasting my afternoon arguing with a woman churning out fallacies? (I teach critical thinking, so I have developed a finely tuned fallacy-detection meter.)
I took the Twitter suggestion to heart, and I put down my cell phone. I grabbed The New York Times’ Sunday book review and went to a café on Hudson Street. As a die-hard member of “the resistance,” I’d feel guilty if I were not posting, retweeting and arguing for hours a day. That was how I spent the long winter after Trump’s presidential election win.
But I’ve come to realize my obsession with debating online is not an effective strategy for making change. There is no point in getting into pitched arguments with right-wingers who are not inclined to understand my point of view. The gay Trump supporters, for instance, were among the most obnoxious as they tried to convince me he is an ally of the LGBT community because he once held up a rainbow flag at a rally.
Although I had a few civilized exchanges with members of the other side, I’ve concluded that I was on Twitter more for my benefit. I needed reassurance that I was not alone in my distress over the 2016 election. My online followers are allies from around the country, and now I know they will be there whether I am glued to my feed, or not.
I still read several newspapers a day and still plan to attend demonstrations, but I’m taking a break from the stupid online bickering.
I’m spending as many spring days as possible visiting museums, walking in the park and reading escapist novels. I’m renewing my spirit for the battles ahead.