Empathy Scrum

You can't curate empathy. Social media is not a responsive platform, especially as we run full speed toward this orb of empathy that glows brightest during times of global trauma. But let's say—in order to survive a few more years on this terrible earth—humans are inherently good. We all seek empathy, in our own bruised and inscrutable ways.

So we're not galled by the lack of empathy in others. The true gall that inspires screeds and jeremiads and endless moral positioning in the moments during and immediately after trauma, is that our social platforms are not calibrated to map the infinite paths toward empathy. 

Should you unschedule those innocuous tweets? Should you avoid politicizing a tragedy? Should score some brand points at the expense of the xenophobes? Should you change the logo of your company to the colors of the French flag? Should you tell a story about that time you were in Paris? Should you just say one thing to show you're a human being? Should you say nothing? When is it ok to talk about something else again? When we all feel like just this once we could rally around this one beautiful point of empathy, it's a scrum to get to the middle of it. 

This is not a fault of us humans, or your collegue who you temporarily muted, or your friend from high school who you rage-unfollowed. It's the fault of technology. Neither Facebook nor Twitter (nor blogs for that matter) are built to handle the byzantine pathways of how we deal with trauma, and how each person seeks empathy. One person's path towards do-goodery is another person's worst nightmare, and this dissonance is laid out in two-dimensions surrounded by the scheduled and promoted tweets, event notifications, crass opportunism, trolls, racists, the unaware, and the vast sums money that underly each byte of data.

This is the scrum, and it will never be perfect. The thing is, when we all focus on this empathy and we strive to understand and write our words of wisdom and platitudes of lesser wisdom, we see that finally that we are indeed human beings, in wholly different in terrifying ways. It shatters the binary dialogues of twitter into thousands of pieces, impossible to parse.

What is the root of this person's behavior, and why is it not like mine? This empathy scrum transcends politics, gender, race, profession, and suddenly we see that the stakes are raised on platforms that are chiefly used for dumb conversations and Michael-Jordan-crying-memes. Now, we have real human moments, and the folly of social media is that no platform could possibly capture us as humans. No level of curation could prepare us for that. 

The way we cope and deal with this ancient, biblical trauma ranges from singing Papa Roach at karaoke to laying in bed and doing nothing. This was the difference between me and one of my best friends. In our offline conversation, it was a mutual understanding, even if maybe deep down inside we were a little disappointed in each other. But we knew what the other needed, and we loved and respected it nonetheless.

But to know how others deal with trauma is to let them, and not judge them, even if it seems insanely stupid or extremely prescriptive.