I’m ashamed to say it now, but one of the things I was most looking forward to on November 9, 2016 was getting my timeline back.
Election coverage exhaustion was already a universal condition well before November, and as a privileged Canadian following the upcoming election from what felt like a safe distance, I couldn’t wait for my social media timeline (i.e. the stream of posts by people I follow on social media) to return to fun. The people I follow — friends, celebrities, comedians, musicians, writers, podcasters — are not political pundits. I’d skim the occasional opinionated post, but my quest has always been to disengage from everyday stresses via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I was tired of articles, shared by pop culture radio hosts, comedic actresses, professional creators of YouTube videos and the like, about why Hillary was the candidate to vote for (which felt obvious to me), why it was important to vote (which felt obvious to me) and most especially, anything about what the Republican candidate and his supporters were saying or doing (which felt like something I didn’t want to clutter my energy and headspace with at all).
When I opened Twitter on November 9, 2016, I realized, for the first time, that my timeline would never be the same as it once was. And that I — we — can no longer maintain a privileged perch, a safe distance. There is no safe distance; there are countless people who are now literally not safe in their own country. I feared that the noise of political engagement would overwhelm me; there are countless people who now acutely fear their fellow citizens. I selfishly wanted my timeline back, but too many who have made a choice I thought impossible. There was and is too much at stake.
I’ve always been a passionate supporter of human rights for all and equality in all its forms, but have also always been humble in my views and never much of an activist. I don’t know how to be. But I realize now that I can start with my timeline, the new timeline. I can dig in and learn and listen and understand. My timeline can no longer be a place to disengage, but instead a place to be taught and to teach. It’s a starting point in a world where we all have to actively contribute, to try to make a difference. And I know now that getting my timeline back is something I never should have looked forward to in the first place.