DEAR NATALIE: When should I hit “mute”? A friend called me recently in tears about her friend’s roommate and an infographic he had shared online about the crisis going on in Israel and Palestine. Basically, what he had been posting online seemed like a red flag to her and she was upset that he was posting without having a lot of knowledge on the situation. Later that day, another friend called me upset about what their friend had shared online! I feel like people expressing their political beliefs or perspectives on global events is tearing apart their relationships. I don’t use Instagram much but it seems like it’s doing more harm than good. How can I talk to my friends about this? I don’t think it’s healthy for them to decide it’s time to kick people out of their lives because of what they’re sharing online, even though I get where they’re coming from. What would you do? – HEAVY HEART
DEAR HEAVY HEART: What I have been noticing on social media over the past few weeks is a desire from people to be heard – but not a desire to listen. The media being put up, pulled down, contradicted and retracted is enough to make your head spin. With AI, posts traveling at light-speed, and disinformation spreading at a furious pace, it's a recipe for disaster. Passions are running hot right now. In moments of despair, fear and utter disillusionment towards the state of humanity, it is easy to see why people are spiraling. What we need right now is deliberate action. We need it in the real world context as well as online. Before posting, ask yourself – is this kind? Is this true? Is this necessary? If not – is my voice needed at this moment? I want to give everyone another level of space and grace right now because people are being bombarded with terrible news at every turn and we are not able to process this amount of grief, rage and fear. I would encourage you to take this approach with your friends. Let them know that you are here for them. You want to listen to what they have to say, but you want them to take time away from the internet so that they can take care of their own mental health. Help them find causes they can donate to, organizations they can join or events to participate in that can direct their energy into something useful and productive. You don’t owe the world a meme or a post. Sometimes, there is something to be learned from the silence.
DEAR NATALIE: My new sister-in-law has kids from a previous marriage and I absolutely love them. They are these incredibly sweet little girls and I am so happy for my brother. He has this “instant family” that he always wanted. His wife is a little strange and very religious while he is not. It seems to work for them fine and so I stay out of it. As long as he’s happy, I’m happy. The girls – ages 5 and 7 – came over last night and I thought it would be fun to watch an age-appropriate “scary movie” since Halloween is almost here. They loved it. They had never seen “Hocus Pocus” and we had the best night eating candy, popcorn and snuggling. Well, I woke up this morning to a very, very long text from my brother’s wife. She doesn’t believe in Halloween. She thinks it is demonic to watch any scary movie and has never let her daughters participate in the holiday. She was incredibly mad at me because the younger daughter has been playing “witch” in the yard with her sister, making spells out of the mud. This is adorable kid stuff. But now my brother is upset with me because he doesn’t want to rock the boat with his new wife. I get it – but how was I to know that this would cause such an issue? I also don’t agree with her or her beliefs and think it will do a lot more harm than good in the long run with her daughters. How do I apologize for something I don’t feel as though I should have to apologize for? I want to have my step-nieces in my life. I want to get along with his wife. How do I make this right? – BAD SPELL
DEAR BAD SPELL: While you may not agree with how she is raising her daughters, you may have to accept it in order to keep the peace. Having you in their lives will at least provide a different perspective on how there are many ways to live and be happy. I would call your sister-in-law and tell her that you didn’t know she didn’t celebrate Halloween. Make it clear that in the future, you will respect her boundaries and ask if there are any other things you should be aware of when hanging out with your nieces. You want to be mindful and respectful of her and how she is raising them, while also still having as much fun as you can together. Tread lightly and get to know your sister-in-law. It takes time to build trust and mutual understanding. Keep an open heart and an open door for your nieces to share with you, as well.
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