Be the Wall You Want to Be


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I’m worried about the wall. It feels like it could collapse any minute. Let’s hope the center holds.

Do they still call Facebook timelines a “wall”? The term feels so MySpace.

Whatever it’s called, I’m worried about mine. I can’t stop posting and sharing political stories. I increasingly feel an obligation to help any undecided voters understand what a travesty a Trump presidency would be (oops, I did it again). I know political posts don’t change minds and I should stifle myself, but I can’t help it.

Inevitably, the stories I share—Trump as a sexual predator, Trump the liar, Trump the draft and tax dodger, Trump the petulant, insecure, small-handed blow-hard—elicit strong reactions from both sides of the aisle. In particular, friends I grew up with in Cullman tend to be, to my great dismay, unabashed fans of Trump. As is most of Alabama, I guess. Less universally so in B’ham.

They rush to defend him and slam “Killary,” which in turn elicits incredulous responses from my more liberal friends, especially those I’ve met living abroad.

In one post I wrote this: “Need new expression describing when friends from diff times and politics (e.g. high school in Alabama v. work in Beijing) ‘meet’ and argue on one’s FB page. Any ideas?” Zucker-punch is my favorite. There was also “past present tense.” And “cluster book.”

Trump supporters far and wide (not just in Bama) seem to frequently post that “all lives matter” not just black lives (missing the point), interspersed with pro-rebel flag nostalgia, as is their right. As is their brand.

Do these kind of comments reinforce stereotypes about Alabama to friends around the world? Absolutely. Do they also reinforce to my friends in Bama a liberal and progressive bias I’ve developed since starting college and through living abroad for 13 years? No question.

So what do all the arguments say about my wall? One’s wall is a reflection of oneself. We curate what we like. Its bespoke-ness is the whole point. Certainly I can delete any comments I want and control what’s
posted there.

Top managers of social media brand sites around the world understand that the best practice isn’t to simply delete complaints and negative comments, but to let them stand and respond to them quickly and
accurately. A brand’s presence and its conversation should be credible and authentic.

Shouldn’t this be the same with my brand? I’ve already culled and defriended a fair share of folks I barely remember after tiring of their nonsense (see: Twin Towers fell in controlled demolition, etc.).

What about the actual friends with whom I disagree?

Fitzgerald wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Should my wall reflect this intelligence as well?

Do I have an obligation, like brands do, to let comments stand, as long as they aren’t too offensive? I’m sorry to say, but more often than not, a pro-Trump post will be an incoherent rant, riddled with typos with no hope of subject-verb agreement (there I go again). Let the gibberish stand and speak for itself, I think.

A dear friend who is a PR professor at a prominent university, who I met as a student (and who is African American), wrote about the debate raging on my wall, “I was thinking, man, your page is a diversity fight club. I stayed out of the fray. My Yanky behind was safer and silent in NY.” It was a
telling comment.

I like healthy debate, but curator/ref of “diversity fight club”?

Social media has of course made it easier to selectively pay attention to media outlets catering to a particular political view. Isn’t it healthier to pay attention to what both sides are saying?

A lot of folks have lost a lot of friends, virtually and in reality, in this election. If I didn’t care so much about the election, I’d simply shut up.

I’ll leave you with a quote a friend posted in response to some snark: “I must have missed the swearing in ceremony where you became sheriff of my wall.”

No matter what we wake up to Nov. 9, I’ll still love my Cullman peeps even if I disagree with many of them. The nation has a lot of healing to do, and I need to cease and desist with the political posts. I hope the
center holds.

Trevor C. Hale, a Cullman native and UAB alum, is casting his ballot from abroad.

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