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.
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…