Talk Less, Smile More
I remember the first time I ever tweeted.
I didn't totally understand the point of Twitter, or what hashtags were, or who I was supposed to follow yet. I signed up mainly to follow authors and musicians I loved to keep up with their new projects.
My first tweet was wishing Harry Potter a happy birthday #Muggles.
It took me a while to get into the swing of things, but soon I was sending tweets regularly. I followed more than just my favorite authors. I found my own online voice and even found people to befriend in real life.
If you're not a social media person, maybe all this Twitter talk sounds strange. What's the big deal, right?
I have this theory that the new 15 minutes of fame is 1 viral tweet. Twitter can be an equalizer in that way, anyone can go viral, many do. Twitter is more than that, though. It's a place to voice your opinions, to change your opinions, to hear from people you never could've met in person in a pre-digital age. It's a place where, it doesn't matter what town you're from, you can open your mind to new voices, new perspectives. It can be a great tool, if you use it carefully.
Recently, though, I've noticed myself saying less and less on the platform. It's not because I'm spending less time scrolling through my timeline. It's not because I have less to say (I'm just as talkative as ever).
I don't think I'm the only one feeling this way, at least I hope I'm not.
I feel overwhelmed sometimes by what's going on in our world, and in our country. I can be a very research-oriented person. I like to collect all of the facts, make my own opinions, read as much as I can about a topic before I come to a conclusion. So, I find myself diving deep into the impeachment trial, the Supreme Court, climate change, the Australian wildfires and... I have really strong opinions on so many of these hot button issues.
But I can't bring myself to send a tweet containing my own opinions. (Which, by the way, is a representative of how I feel when speaking in person as well).
I'm afraid that someone will judge me for what I think. I'm afraid that I'll say the right thing in the wrong way, use the wrong terminology, get the facts wrong, get everything wrong. Or maybe I'll say the wrong thing in the right way and hurt someone or offend or isolate someone.
I feel like the more things I feel I know for sure, the less I'm able to express my feelings out loud.
There's another part of this too. I'm not just analytical, I'm also emotional. I'm emotionally invested in so many things I deeply care about, and I'm afraid I won't be taken seriously if I'm emotional. I'm afraid of being shut down. I'm afraid that when I'm confronted with challengers I will give in to emotions and lose the rational parts of me.
But there's this quote I'm thinking of:
“Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind--even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” --Maggie Kuhn
Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.
My voice may be shaky at times, or all the times. But I'm really tired of pressing myself inwards, forcing my body to stay silent when it's begging me to speak out.
I say this all the time, and I know it to be true, but I struggle to live it out in reality -- if you can afford to stay silent on things that matter, it's a privilege. So many people simply can't.
I'm vowing to start speaking up more.
I know I'm not the only one feeling this way. I know, because I see you all out there too. I see you liking or retweeting something, but staying silent in person. I see you because we talk one on one. I see you. I am you.
I've given a lot of explanations in this post, a lot of excuses I've used for years.
There's more I hear all the time:
"I don't like getting involved in politics."
"I don't understand why we have to be so divisive."
"I don't know."
I want to encourage you, and myself, to stop making those excuses.
I truly think that the only way we'll ever make a difference is if we speak out and share our stories. I think that if you have a story, if you have an opinion, if you have something you care about enough, that it's time to start sharing it.
More than just in subtle ways, more than just retweets, more than just when you're in a room where you know most people agree with you.
This is for me, more than anyone else.
But if it feels like you too...
Speak your mind --- even if your voice shakes.
I don't know what your action steps are going to be, but here are mine. I'm so much better at writing than I am at speaking in person, so, for the entire month of February I'm going to be sharing about the things that matter to me.
Until next time, thank you for reading this. I hope in the coming weeks you'll learn something. I hope you'll stick around, even if we disagree. I hope you'll use your voice too, with grace and compassion and conviction and strength.