Sunday, May 3, 2015

Dear Open Letter...



Does anyone remember when Facebook was about seeing your friend's and family's pictures and updates and quirky little minutiae where everyone spoke about themselves in the third person.

Updates like, "Rachel is seriously considering cheating on her diet," and the occasional cat meme?

How I miss those days.

I'm glad we've made the leap to first person narrative. At least we are now honest about our fascination with ourselves in the lead role of our own piece of social media. However, now it seems like my news feed is chock full of videos of crazy You Tube antics, photos of people's food, and a ton of viral (or trying to go viral) blog posts or even "news outlet posts" of someone or a group calling out and shaming another person or group that they feel is overstepping.

At first they were couched in an "open letter" format.

I did a bit of research and found the open letter format is fairly old. Martin Luther used it while he was in jail. Ralph Waldo Emerson has used it, and so has Bill Gates. Historically open letters have been written and published publicly as a way of sorts of having a voice where you don't have the opportunity to speak, or to speak out against or draw attention to an perceived injustice.

Like the American Revolution, the Cherokee removal order or a call for medical reform.

Until lately.



Now the open letter has been hijacked by bloggers and even guest writers for news outlets to share their feelings of exclusion or judgement for their life choices. What is worse, in my opinion, is that the standard format of titling your words "An Open Letter to...." has disappeared and now these "letters" (really, diatribes) have just become a targeted attack on someone or a group you don't agree with or...or annoy you.

In the last week, I've read open letters from a mom to other moms who hover over her children and their children at the playground; a letter from a pro-vaccine family to an anti-vaccine family; and many in regards to the events that occurred in Baltimore last week.

And I've also read a letter that a father wrote to his child's principal in response to her informing them that their week-long trip to Boston would be counted as an unexcused absence.

However, I don't have a problem with this last letter. For one, I totally agree with the father's perspective (don't get me started). However, his letter was written in response to one he received.

And here is the crux of what bothers me about all these open letters.

No one mailed one to you. No one took the time to sit down and either type or pen their thoughts about how you do or do not interact with your children at the playground. No one put a postcard in the box to you about how your child's vaccine card is too full or too empty.

We are spoiling...literally spoiling for a fight and we will pick one and start raging just to vent and be heard and "stop the judgement."

But in reality, these open letters are all about judgement. Because the person writing them is in full judgement of someone else's actions, words, glances.

And, if you think about it, the ones that are positive can usually be classified as true open letters to strangers who helped or didn't judge and now the recipient of that kindness is reaching out afterwards to say thank you. Yes, they may have some measure of knowledge impartation to them (for example, thank you for interacting with my unruly/bored/special needs child on the airplane and not rolling your eyes in frustration instead), but for the most part they are a kudos of sorts.

But this is not what I have seen clogging my news feed of late.

Yes, we all have opinions. Obviously, I'm sharing mine right now. You might even be saying, "aren't you judging and shaming open letter writers right now?"

And maybe you could look it at that way. Maybe I am sermonizing a bit. Maybe I need to take my own advice. And maybe, just maybe that judgey part of me is as ready for a cease and desist as yours is.

Life is difficult enough with putting our passive-aggressive thoughts out there for all to see and ultimately be brought down by. Because negativity doesn't beget change, it begets only more negativity.

So, I am turning over a new leaf. I am pledging to refrain from clicking on anything that looks like an open letter post -- overt or otherwise. And if I find myself reading something like it, I will stop and go pick up my Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13 and other encouraging words to replace the negative ones.

But before I do, I'd like to send off one last open letter of my own:


Dear Open Letter, 
I cannot wait until your popularity fades and you settle into the obscurity of time. Your subject matter is vague and passive-aggressive and you sway public opinion too easily. Most often you come off as superior and judgmental and make me feel bad. 
The current over-used format of you in social media also makes me feel bad about the state of the world. I would much rather read your cousin, Editorial, or estranged-relative, Reliable News Sourced Article. 
I confess I will not miss you when you are gone. Wherever you go, please feel free to stay there. 
Sincerely,
So Done With You

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