Some people have looked at the calendar and determined that it the holiday season, but I see it differently. I’ve been tracking the movement of El Nino upon the west coast and it is not fucking around this time. Therefore, according to my meteorological predictions, we are about to experience thoughts and prayers season.
Thoughts and prayers season is a transient one. It can occur multiple times during a year, and it comes about when people feel the need to state their helpful opinions on large scale tragedies and then do absolutely nothing about them. Allow me to specify.
When tragedy befalls a part of our globe, natural or otherwise, without fail I will see Facebook statii like this: “What a horrible thing that happened! My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of ———.” The following is a two-part academic study into just what such a status entails. And get real fired up about this one, because this is the post that I’m pretty sure is going to lop my already ailing readership in half.
Bring the noise
In 2013, two fraternity brothers and I drove some cans we had accumulated in a fundraiser from Orange, CA to the victims of the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes. We also spent a day or two in the area doing odd tasks. I’m not saying this because I want you to see a halo above my head, I say it because I’m going to cite examples later and I need you to be up to speed. For the record, I am a reprehensible person. I once told a girlfriend, to her face, that one of her friends was more attractive than her. Honesty is not the best policy.
That out of the way, I’ve thought about this a while, weighed the power of good vibes against the power of prayer, crossed some “I”s, dotted some “T”s, and near as I can figure it, the following are the five most plausible reasons people keep flopping this platitude out there like a limp dick:
- Proving to yourself/others you’re not a serial killer
2. Proving to yourself/others you’re doing your part
3. Staying up on current events
5. Invoking the power of the G Man
These can be bifurcated into their respective categories, thoughts (1, 2, 3, 4) and prayers (5)
I’ve always found the “thoughts” portion of these statii to be the more perplexing of the two. Whereas the power of prayer is entirely predicated on the forces of an otherworldly being (pick one), the concept of helpful “thoughts” appears to be balanced squarely on the human capacity for telekinesis. This portion of the status is, at best, a belief in witchcraft, and at worst, kind of a dick move.
For the majority of this post, I’ll be using “you” to address the poster of such statii.
So the good news is, utilizing fingers and a keyboard, dear poster, you’ve demonstrated basic human empathy. This is convenient for me because it means I can use your status as reason enough to cross you off of my “potential serial killers” list. Congratulations. You are neither a hatchet enthusiast, nor a Murderbot from Vogon-Delta, how terribly convenient of you to inform us using a public forum. Other than this obligatory fact, this status tells me that you: want us to see what a good person you are, want to show us that you’re doing something to help, cannot fathom the event with such a magnitude that you had to admit so publicly, or want to remain in the zeitgeist.
Now, call me old fashioned, but I like my shows of support like I like my girlfriends: tangible. I believe any empirical physical outreach, no matter how small, is capable of aiding a person’s healing process. This is because physically experiencing other human beings caring for you has the ability to augment the mindset and kickstart the immune system. Human beings are neat like that. People tend to respond positively to such things, human presence, letters, tools, money, Chef Boyardee., etc. There are plenty of physical ways Facebook can get you to a helpful place, but three words isn’t one of them.
When I was in Oklahoma, moving debris and tearing down halves of houses, I saw and heard some pretty drastic shit, but there was a common pattern. A lot of people we interacted with said things along the lines of, “Really, thank you for coming out here, any little thing we can get helps.” Or “We’re really thankful for all the supplies people have been sending us, we’re pretty cut off from the main road.” This, I interpreted, is a basic human being show of appreciation to another human being who is expressing active support towards their current situation. What I expectantly didn’t hear was, “Boy, I tell you what, I’m just thankful for all of those Facebook warriors, really fighting the good fight out there. Fuck these shovels and gloves and water and propane and canned goods and shit people donated. See that man sitting near the pile of wall-shards and twisted metal that used to be his home? He’s been subsisting on FB likes for a whole week now.”
Tangible things seemed to reign supreme for these people, even tangible words of encouragement. Is it possible your milquetoast status or tweet made it all the way to the eyes of a tragedy victim and lightened their load? Yes. But printed out statii aren’t what I saw laying around the main tent of the survivors’ camp. What I did see on tables and taped to water coolers of that tent were physical letters. Letters and pictures of support. Made in crayon, with love, by kindergarteners. Those were the tokens held dear by these people, not screenfuls of platitudes. A warm-hearted kindergarten teacher will run circles around twenty seconds of typing any day of the week.
“But Rick, you heartless husk of a person,” you may be thinking, “These people may have done little to nothing with this portion of their status, but I don’t see how that constitutes a dick move on their part.” Patience, my only reader left, that’s next.
The following are short vignettes detailing how it’s possible to help the forward progress of humanity through the power of positive thought.
Guy 1: Hey man, you’re two months late on rent. You been sending out resumes to any potential employers?
Guy 2: Nah, but I’ve been wishing really hard for something good to happen on the job front. Sending out them good vibes, you know?
Guy 1: You really are a colossal dickpiglet, Tim.
Guy 2: Shh, I’m catching up on my Game of Thrones
Not specific enough? Consider the following
Guy 1: Hey Tim, how was helping your buddy move? Your arms sore from moving some big ass couch or something?
Guy 2: Well, I didn’t physically help them move at all. But, like, I thought super hard about it, and I think that’s just as important.
Guy 1: That’s not at all how that works.
Guy 2: I know, right.
Guy 1: Fuck you, Tim.
Guy 2: Right on, bro.
You see, even if the power of positive thought were to work from a distance, like a howitzer, I’m pretty sure the universe expects you to meet it half way on things like this. “You put good in and you get good out” is an excellent mantra that only works if you apply yourself. No successful person ever said that the best way to achieve something is to wish really hard for it and then sit with your thumb up your ass. Traditionally, getting shit done has always been how shit gets done. I somehow doubt that the betterment of the human race is going to be an exception.
So how does this make you a dick?
I’m open to the possibility that every single person who posts a TAP status goes immediately to a pertinent website and donates money or supplies, but I do find it curious how many (see “most”) of these posts fail to include a call to action or a link. It’s almost as if the status was typed as an end in and of itself. As if they didn’t put forth any money. Strange. Then again, copying links is hard.
So you’ve posted this status to let the world know your grief. You’ve admitted that this tragedy has permeated your consciousness. It makes you sick, what has happened. Your thoughts are with these human beings. All day long you are aware of the suffering of the burn victims, the hungry, the destitute, the wounded, the diseased, the families bereaved, and, most importantly, are doing fuck-all about it. I’d almost use the deeply technical term “ignoring the problem entirely”.
Why in the actual fuck would you want to advertise that fact?
I really hope you don’t address the struggles of your family and friends by ignoring them and telling your friends how bad you feel for brownie points. That’s not heroism, that’s sociopathy. You’ve posted a status saying how terrible you feel about something, how your benevolent heart is aching, and yet you can’t donate the cost of a Chipotle burrito? You must be devastated.
Understand that I don’t think it’s totally rad not to care about other members of the human race. Sympathy is an incredibly important trait, it’s what helps us to progress as a group when other people are falling behind emotionally or physically. I’m not making fun of that. But is there a reason so many people have to feel sympathy out loud for everyone to see? I understand the need to verbalize inner turmoil, but allowing 15 obligatory FB likes to course through your veins like sweet, sweet Morphine is not the same as actual human connection.
At this point, many of you may be thinking the million dollar thought, “But Rick, you’re a sack of shit, here you are typing at people for not donating when you certainly haven’t done anything to help a calamity in a while.” That’s very astute of you, one reader, I don’t deny that. But I also don’t gallivant around like I’ve made the world a better place by merely acknowledging its myriad horrors. I don’t get an erection watching the world burn from a distance, but I’d like it to be known that by posting a status and following it up with no concrete action you’re not dousing the flames. You’re just pulling up a chair next to me to watch the show.
Continued in part two. Coming some time whenever I feel like it.