It appears we are changing how we stay in touch with one another during this pandemic. Churches, businesses, groups of all kinds are now connecting virtually, with online programs like YouTube. Another is Zoom, a portal program that allows multiple users to connect privately by video with a computer, digital tablet or cell phone. A way that keeps us together but appropriately … distanced.
While so-called broadcast media offers good opportunities for news and entertainment, the community at-large has been critical of television shows for years suggesting that the medium influenced us negatively. But in the last decade, it appears Facebook has taken over that role by vastly changing our social behavior. Of course, there’s Twitter and Instagram too, where people share their lives relentlessly. The sum total is an information menagerie of variable importance.
Like many of you, I have seen the dark side of social media during the past several days. I’ve seen pooled delusional (and ignorant) posts by users who simply aim to add misery to others. Vitriolic messages that would never be shared in person are posted by those hiding behind their virtual wall. It has me bemoaning my mostly voyeuristic connection with Facebook.
This negativity only adds stress, anxiety, worry, depression, despair, anger, frustration and fear to an already uncertain world, particularly of late, and robs us of peace. Thus, my conclusion is that social media mostly contributes to our unsettling.
So, why am I dwelling on this? What can we do in the midst of this pandemic? First, I am concerned that our social construct is being built on a mostly hokey format, and that we are undermining our leaders as we face crisis. In fact, I believe we underestimate the value of leaders who will in times of stress, create pathways of hope and a vision for the future in this environment.
Leave it to President Ronald Reagan, who often spoke about his vision for our country, “there are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” In the days after 9/11, President George W. Bush made it clear that America would indeed be resilient, “the course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.” President Trump, often maligned for his discourse, has also underlined a vision for the country. His ongoing reliable message as we face this crisis is true: “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
Before Barack Obama, U.S. presidents served in office without 220 million Facebook users and over 48 million Twitter users. Not to mention a total of 2.4 billion (yes, with a B) Facebook users globally.
Comparing other pandemics in our nation’s history, COVID-19 is virtually under the microscope of social media users everywhere. Critics and information abound. This is definitely a pandemic.
By saying this, please don’t misunderstand. I think there is a place for sharing information and helping individuals to understand risk and best practices. What I am saying is that people must have vision and hope as we sit waiting in our homes. Good leaders do that. It provides paths to victory and helps reduce the anxiety that so many have. It is true that 600 or so of my words here will never fix our problems, but we can be aware how important it is to support our president in his role to address the pandemic of today and provide confidence for the future.
While Thomas Paine meant this another way, his famous line, “These are the times that try our souls,” seems to flow together with our times, as does the next line in his December 1776 message, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” No doubt, we will “triumph” over COVID-19 and it will soon be a thing of the past.
Finally, and more importantly, prayer is something we should all be doing as we face the anxiousness of the day. I admit that social media has been encouraging in this regard as a variety of individuals, churches and other groups post spiritual messages of hope, sustaining act during these turbulent times.
Let the prospect of hope take over as our leaders help us return to daily life.
Greg DeLancey is the 1st District chairman for the Republican Party of Kentucky. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.