Mental Health and Leftist Facebook Don't Mix

More reasons why leftist/progressive/social justice Facebook contributes to mental illness.

IF you want to participate on Facebook while being viewed as a good and progressive person, you must a) be completely articulate of your thoughts at all times, lest your words be misconstrued, b) be available at all times to respond to criticism if something you say is interpreted as bad - whether due to not knowing enough about a niche social justice topic or just due to a mistype, and c) be mentally and emotionally well enough to respond without hurt or defensiveness to criticism, even when that criticism comes loaded with disdain, hostility, or insult. If you fail to follow these guidelines, your advocacy, activism, and general moral character becomes up for debate and your credibility as a progressive person is questioned.

No wonder more people aren’t with us on leftist/progressive/social justice Facebook. We demand quite a lot of people who aren’t already up-to-date in every little thing. Not only do we know that, but we also hold ourselves to that standard CONSTANTLY, while our mental health crumbles and we don’t understand why.

Maybe the reason our mental health seems to collectively suck is the constant demand from the moment we wake up to the second we go to bed for us to have all of our social justice knowledge on standby while also articulating it perfectly AND while resisting being emotionally reactive. You never know when you’ll be tagged for questioning on a post you’ve made or even a react you misclicked. It’s like having to know every step to the complex dance of trying to do no harm to an audience of hundreds of complex people. When you take a step back and look at the demands we place on ourselves, it’s rather a lot that we seem to take for granted from ourselves.

So those friends of yours who are totally great and cool, but who don’t engage on here like we do and you wonder why? It’s because they can see the stress that we put on ourselves trying to know everything while harming no-one, and they understand better than us that it isn’t always worth that stress-to-knowledge balancing act. In fact, to have good mental health, it often isn’t worth it.

And then (this is more specifically more peeps in leftbook groups), when someone has a disagreement and leaves a group, we view them as morally inferior or even weak for not sticking it out and potentially learning and growing. First, this goes back to the idea that someone has to be emotionally and mentally available at basically all times. That is simply not sustainable from a mental health standpoint. This leads to my second point, which is that if we hold others to that standard it means we hold ourselves to it as well. This means we feel we have to do everything in the first paragraph I wrote, not just because we want to be better people, but because on some level we fear being judged for not engaging properly or enough.

We use this self- and community-imposed judgement of morality to force ourselves to engage endlessly and flawlessly with complex topics and audiences of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. While plausible in moderation, the amount of time that we demand of ourselves being that perfect person is unsustainable from a mental health perspective.

No wonder our collective mental health is in the gutters. No wonder we all seem to be burnt out. And hey, no wonder other perfectly good people don’t join us. They can see all of this happening, and they have no desire to slowly destroy themselves like we do.

If we continue down this path, we are destined for failure - either we 1) continue to strive for the impossible and burn ourselves out, or we 2) slip up and fail to meet community expectations of humility and openness when we are criticized, resulting in our being ousted and shunned indefinitely for being a moral failure.

The ONLY solution that I see to this is to stop judging ourselves and each other for not being consummately available emotionally and time-wise. To be kind to yourself and others, engage less. Take long breaks. Allow yourself to be flawed when you do engage sometimes, even when the judgment from others pressures you be flawless when your mental health won’t allow it. There’s a reason that the most active people you know on leftist/progressive/social justice Facebook also seem to take the most burnout breaks. It’s because demanding perfection AND openness to criticism ALL DAY is absurd and unsustainable.

So, fellow leftbookers, do yourself a favour and rethink this strange moral standard that we seem to be developing of CONSTANT flawlessness and emotional inertness. It is unsustainable for us, which means it’s also an unfair standard to hold to others. Give yourself (and others) a break.

*This is a copy, with light edits, of a Facebook post made on March 11th, 2019.

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