In the last week, my Seattle social media feeds have been exploding. There’s Dave Meinert and the non-apologies of folks associated with him and the ensuing debate around how to respond as consumers. There’s the furor over the impending loss of a multi-generational cultural landmark. 

And there are the debates around the debates, the endless searches for subtext. A lot of posts starting with some variant of “what you’re REALLY saying is. . ” There’s been a lot of earnest, constructive debate and organizing, and of course, there’s been a lot of hollow outrage and face palmy virtue signaling.

I’ve seen multiple friends chastise other friends for caring about a music venue when there’s so much else going on in the world. I’ve seen one friend equate another’s wanting to save the Showbox with approval of gay conversion therapy torture (this was, admittedly a few posts down the thread when everyone had abandoned reason and was just getting their punches in). One local booker used the occasion to castigate Seattle in general for not going to see enough local shows and not drinking enough while there. Which is not an entirely invalid point. . . except the Showbox isn’t going out of business, it’s slated for demolition by hostile forces.

Over on the Meinert threads, there was a lot of equating a lack of “likes” to a lack of allyship. There were various threads where solidarity turned into circular firing squads and, to their credit, back to solidarity.

Wading through it all– and contributing to the problems in my own unique and clever ways– I couldn’t help but think:

Man. If I didn’t already know you all, I would HATE you.

Fortunately I do know you and don’t hate you because we’ve spent time in the same rooms together. We’ve had soup and sandwiches and coffee and beer, and stood next to each other watching bands, poets, or politicians. We’ve had each other over to watch the game. We’ve shared deep, hard truths, or if not that, cheap, hard laughs. Most of the best of my friendships still occur IRL, where eyebrows and body language still outpace emojis for nuance and context.

Online arguing isn’t going anywhere; for better and worse, social media is where we take our grievances, frustrations, and celebrations around the state of the world. For those with reasons (hello, band, blog, and poetry) to stay constantly online, it’s really easy to forget that the infuriatingly self-righteous or mystifyingly apathetic folks we scroll past are more than the sum of their posts. That some people keep the hard conversations at coffee tables, in homes, meeting halls and churches.

This not to say that they are good and talking online is bad; that sort of luddism is available to very few, practical to even less.

But that everyone has a multitude of things going on they aren’t broadcasting to the world. This is a fact everyone knows, but it’s easy not to feel it those late nights when you know you’re right. Myself, my friends and Seattle as a whole are grappling with how to confront abuses of authority, how to save cultural touchstones, and how to face the many other problems that didn’t pop up just last week. As we reckon and organize, the conversations will continue to be fiery, but for them to be effective, we’ll need empathy and understanding.

Which means some will  need to happen IRL.