I remember very clearly the flood of emotions I felt in the otherwise hazy weeks of November 2016. I was disconnected by so much of what I was experiencing, but the anger—the betrayal—was heavy and thick. I watched the primaries unfold into disarray on both sides of the aisle, culminating into bitter battles from the smallest corners of the Internet to televised debate stages.
I spent more time than I care to admit screaming into the void. I joined the #NotMyPresident protests by blasting my woes at the world through the copy of Instagram posts featuring pitch-black photos—which weren’t quite as original as I had imagined—and arguing with my wife’s family in nested Facebook comments. I warred and struggled against this reality with such veracity that I did not realize something so simple until much later—that this is how the other side felt in 2008 while I celebrated America electing her first black president. I was an undergraduate student in Mississippi at the time, and conservatives all around me at varying levels of political aptitude all shared a common thread of fear, anger, or hatred toward Barack Obama. Even if those feelings were rooted in racism or misinformation, the emotive context of their dismay was strikingly similar, if not feverishly close, to what I was living through a short eight years later.
This realization assuaged my discontent. It added perspective to a heavy heart, and it forced me to ask myself some difficult questions. Was I mad because my “team” lost? Was I being petty? Was there anything I could do to impact meaningful change?
The answer turned out to be a hesitant no. The issues I cared about were at stake, I could not hold my tongue while still being true to my values, and those within my reach were so unreceptive and unwilling to engage in meaningful and mature discussions that it felt hopeless. Once again, I found myself screaming into the void. My attempts to engage with—to understand—those whose views were so diametrically opposed to my own dissolved into regurgitated talking points produced by staffers and pundits. Ideologies were hard and fast, and, especially when hiding behind a social media profile, the lack of immediate consequences gave people a sense of stubborn bravery that fostered unparalleled levels of indignation.
So what was I to do? I talked with my mom, with my therapist, with my boss. These interactions were poisoning me in ways that I didn’t realize until others started seeing how badly it was affecting me. So, I did the unimaginable in today’s connected world—I deleted all of my social media accounts. I removed a major sickness from my life, like a parasite from its host. I feel like a new man, able to live a bit more free from judgment and ostracism, and more engaged with the values that help to define who I am.