A couple days ago the news of Cecil the lion’s murder hit social media like a bomb. For the last two days, my whole news feed has looked like a wildlife safari.
The story made me so angry. Here’s a guy paying $50K to go to another country and bag himself some big game. He’d like to invoke the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt except he isn’t out in the wild tracking wild beast. His guides wait until nightfall and draw the lion out with a carcass tied to a vehicle where they blind it with bright lights so the powerful hunter can shoot it with a bow from the safety of the spotlight.
But that doesn’t kill Cecil, so they have to track him for 40 hours and shoot him again. When he’s dead, they skin him and cut off his head as a trophy and leave the carcass in the sun. Anyone who loves animals and has a heart for conservation is going to be heartbroken about this story. This isn’t the 1950s anymore. Poaching, encroachment, and excessive hunting are screwing with earth’s delicate ecosystem.
As I watched Jimmy Kimmel talk about the story, I choked up with him.
But because the story on social media becomes about destroying the life of the dentist, I never post anything about it. The problem isn’t one privileged fool immorally using majestic wildlife as a souvenir; it’s about how we all feel entitled to exploit nature for whatever advantage we have.
The fact that this has gotten so much press is because Cecil was well known and beloved in Zimbabwe. But this crap happens all the time, and it generally goes underreported. I’m generally thankful when something happens that shines a light on this industry.
The tide shifts
After the first day I began to see tweets with this sentiment: “If you care more about Cecil than you do about [insert issue here], I’m unfollowing you.”
Then I someone shared this update from Glen Beck in my time line:
“Here’s what social media is teaching you today: If you kill babies and sell their body parts it is okay. But if you kill a lion make sure it doesn’t have a name.”
Then moments later someone else was saying that the outrage over Cecil’s murder was irrelevant in comparison to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Not to be outdone, Matt Walsh weighed in on Cecil’s murder also comparing the indignation surrounding abortion, and saying that only liberals cared about Cecil. (Pssst . . . don’t tell Newt Gingrich).
I’m genuinely afraid that social media is making me crazy. Its never-ending rage carousel is constantly working at giving me emotional ADHD and crippling my ability to know what to do.
There was a time when we were all pretty isolated from what was going on in the world. When I was a kid, you just got the evening news and the daily paper. In June, 1980 when CNN was launched we were introduced to a 24-hour news cycle. This was a dramatic change, but we were still pretty isolated since most of the news at the time was about milking huge, national stories for all the interest Turner could get out of it.
Social media (coupled with the fact that everyone’s always carrying a video camera with them) has completely changed the game. Now we’re deciding what news is and it isn’t necessarily being dictated by media conglomerates who are just trying to make advertising revenue. In many ways social media is informing major news networks about what they should be reporting.
By and large this has been good. Marginalized people have a platform and voice that they’ve never had before. The black community has been telling us for decades that when it comes to police, they’re afraid for their lives. Thankfully social media has provided a venue for them to say, “See!? We told you!” (It breaks my heart that we’ve been so quick to speak and so slow to listen that it’s taken this long.)
It’s sad that social media is doing its job so well that I just can’t keep up with the crippling speed of all the world’s predicaments. I’m starting to have a hard time remembering what it was like not to feel frustrated and hopeless all the time. And to make matters worse, I’m told to care about this new issue, and then browbeaten by someone else because they don’t feel like it’s as important as the issue driving them.
What sucks is that so many of these dilemmas are important. In my mind, the #BlackLivesMatter discussion is our most important social issue, but does that mean that I can’t discuss another news story?
Stop telling me what to care about
Social media doesn’t really reflect my innermost concerns. You can’t look at my news feed and think you know exactly how I feel about everything. I don’t have to prioritize or create a hierarchy of issues I want to discuss. It’s wrong to assume that because I’m talking about a current story that I don’t care about anything else. I promise that I have the capacity to care about multiple things at once.
We have to stop being condescending when a story flares up and everyone’s talking about it for a moment. When you post your update about how ridiculous it is that we’re all talking about this low-priority problem, you’re contributing to the noise.
Most of the problems we’re dealing with are symptoms of the same illness — privileged people feeling like they have the right to exploit others and do whatever they can afford to get away with. This means we’ll abuse minorities, the unborn, and nature if it suits us, and it’s got to be revealed for what it is.
I promise not to stop caring, but I beg you to let others express their grief in their own way.