The Thin Line of Judgment

Source: Damon Winter/The New York Times
Source: Damon Winter/The New York Times

Late last year I decided to see what it would be like to spend an entire year staying off of Facebook. The site had slowly become a place where I was developing an unhealthy disregard for people and their opinions. Instead of something fun or positive, I ended up casting negative judgments on friends and family for whatever it was they were posting.

I was fast turning into a living caricature of the proverbial “angry old man.”

I thought it best to spend time away from all of that, read more books and magazines, etc. Except for this blog, of course, I unplugged a wee bit. I closed my Facebook account and its remained that way for all of 2016.

Where I left a little wiggle room, however, was to keep my Twitter account open. Unlike Facebook, I use Twitter as a way to stay current with journalists and op-ed writers who I enjoy reading. I find it easier to go there to find their latest article or column rather than trying to remember the name of the newspaper, magazine, or web site on which they are published.

But now, though, I’ve come to question even that activity in recent days.

The revelation of Anthony Weiner’s sexting relapse, coupled with the news of his marital separation from Huma Abedin, opened up the floodgates for anyone with a social media account to scrawl out a 140 character invective about Mr. Weiner’s indiscretions. What I read before I finally closed the browser for good was incendiary enough to once again remind me that there are limits to my own tolerance for trolling.

I have no idea what’s wrong with Mr. Weiner. I assume that he has some kind of addiction to risky and prurient behavior. I also assume that in some measure he must have known that continuing with the very same practice that ruined his career in the first place would eventually be discovered again. The comments he made to a reporter prior to all of this being disclosed does make me wonder if he wasn’t telegraphing those very intentions.

But again, I don’t know anything about him. No one does except those close to him.

We all have opinions and theories, and some of us– myself included obviously — are free to theorize because that’s what we do. Social media makes it all so easy to play psychologist and therapist (again, myself included).

Or maybe we just come out with a harsh appraisal based on our gut feelings. The guy’s a jerk?  Okay, yeah sure, just tweet your thoughts; others are sure to agree with you and possibly even re-tweet what you’ve posted. There is nothing like validation after all.

I even had to admit the New York Post’s headline was clever. Okay, full disclosure: I laughed and snapped a pic of it for this blog before I really thought through what I wanted to say.

NY Post Weiner

But the reason I really don’t see any of this as funny is that I find all of Mr. Weiner’s actions as acute addictive behavior, and I don’t find addiction to be very funny. More important, I don’t feel I can sit in judgment for someone who is publicly suffering.

For those of us who have lived with an addictive person, a story like Mr. Weiner’s is all too familiar. We know so well about how promises are made and later broken, and how lies are so easily given. Addictive behavior is also often enabled when we look the other way and not acknowledge it.

Often we are pushed away by those we sincerely wish to help. In the end there’s really nothing a loved one can do but  hope and pray that some kind of miracle — either divine or cognitive — can break an addiction. We patiently wait for the person that we remember and love to come back into our arms.

Back when Britney Spears was suffering from her own demons in a very public manner, I stood up and cheered in my living room when talk show host Craig Ferguson eloquently refused to join the chorus of those who were making fun or criticizing her behavior. He used his own powerful story to explain why. For me at least, he instantly established a standard of allowing someone who is suffering publicly to do so privately. Not everyone will follow his wonderful example, of course, but it was nonetheless a powerful moment for those of us who understand the pain of what addiction means when it involves someone important in our life.

I do wish Anthony Weiner well. I hope that he gets through this awful time, and is somehow able to find a way forward.

Until next time…

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21 thoughts on “The Thin Line of Judgment

  1. I have an opinion of him…just as I do of Clinton and Trump and a plethora of other people and issues.
    I keep my opinions to myself. I never discuss politics…and that does not just hold true for WordPress or any other form of social media or forums.
    There’s an abundance of bashing…especially here.
    I just read…and move onto the next post.
    You know what they say…”opinions are like noses. Everybody has one.” Doesn’t mean they all have to look alike, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a bit addicted to social media and I freely share my opinions on everything. Has it cost me friends? Oh yes. Has it introduced me to new ones. Oh yeah! I do try, more successfully these days, to make sure anything I post or pass along is from a reputable source and that I have evidence backed by hard research.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have blocked quite a few folks, and I know many have blocked me. My politics have cost me a good many blog readers on FB, even though I seldom talk politics in my writings here. One “friend” told me on FB that she hoped no one ever read another word I wrote. This was after I posted something praising President Obama. Sigh.

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  3. Why does it have to be an addition? Why does it have to be medical at all? Why can’t it be that he’s an ass and a bad person with too much hubris? Because I’m pretty sure that’s the case.

    I’ve never been on Facebook and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. That’s my benchmark for being OLD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, then maybe I like being old too. I was young once but now I’m old… sounds like a Dylan song if you ask me.

      Not to parrot the now-hilarious “I am not a scientist” line from politicians, but I’ll just respond by saying I am not a therapist. I’m sure hubris does play a huge part of Weiner’s personality make-up. But his repeated behavior to me anyway is simply not normal. I find it hard to believe it’s not an addiction. But I guess that’s between him and those to whom he hopefully seeks some kind of counseling.

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  4. Great post. I try to not judge (as best I can after all, I am human!) especially on social media. When I saw it my first instinct was not “what an ass,” it was “OMG! He has a real problem.” I hope he gets treatment. I’m glad I’m not a public figure because I’m sure someone would make judgements about me (if people do now, at least it’s not public). Some things are joke-worthy and some things are just tragic. He’s got a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree Mr. Weiner has an addiction. And by the way, thanks for sucking the joy out of my judgementalism (did I just make up a new word?). I’ll admit it, judging is my addiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for your insight my friend. Despite shutting off social media, I’m glad you kept this forum open and forthcoming. Although I know you paint me as the angry, right-wing zealot (who has been on the receiving and giving end of the dreaded “unfriend”), I too feel a certain angst and compassion when I see people piling on what is clearly a problem of addiction of some kind. I know some people say “if you don’t want to be under this kind of scrutiny, stay out of the public eye…” but the internet and social media in general has created an angry, negative cheap-shot society where trashing people has sadly become the norm. Yes, I will probably write something again in the near future that is critical of some public figure but I hope it will be policy, faith or standards-based and not just a mean-spirited, personal hack job with no regard for feelings or circumstances. Some day I hope to grow up to be like you 🙂

    I hope this finds you well. Let’s talk soon!
    DK

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me you’re not angry. You’re a lovable right-wing zealot!

      I think you’re right, just as Janice at the Retirementallychallenged blog points out, that we’re all a little too perfect behind our social media facades. It’s just too easy to make blanket statements because there’s really no accountability in the wild, wild west of the Internet. But for those of us with scruples ( and that includes you too, my favorite fascist!) we do try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

      Yes, let’s catch up soon… and thanks for reading!

      Like

  7. Not that I’m never judgey but I agree with you in so many ways. It’s so easy to throw stones at outrageous behavior but a true addiction is a horrible prison to be in – for everyone concerned. I think that judging others by what we THINK we would or would not do is a mistake. It’s easy to hide behind the mask of social media where we all are, of course, perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved hearing about your social media journey! It’s both a blessing and a curse – you just have to learn to tame the beast to make it mostly a blessing! It’s taken me quite a few years to find my equilibrium on FB – I post much less than I used to, stay away from overt political statements (although I have been know to make some “passive aggressive” comments now and then…) and I block people who make offensive, rude and untrue statements. I’m a much happier FBer and it’s actually fun now. I probably spend about 5 minutes a day on it than that seems to be the perfect amount of time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for reading… I think once I get back on FB (probably next January, if I want to remain true to my self-promise), I’ll probably be okay with it. I will take your suggestion about having a more passive existence on it and avoid those offensive people. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I too became disgruntled and in my case cynical about FB which is why I closed my account 2014 through ’15. Recently I opened a new FB account which is very limited (I have 10 FB friends whom I actually want to hear from) and in the main for groups I enjoy contributing to. Great read again Marty. I always enjoy your pieces: well-written and always something to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

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