A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine shared an article on Facebook that was called something like, “Dear Girls, Stop Wearing Bathing Suit Bottoms that Show Your Butt,” or something ridiculously lame. (I just Googled “dear girls stop wearing” and there is a freaking website called dearblankpleaseblank.com which just exists to tell people what to do apparently – I didn’t click on it because I don’t need that kind of judgmental bullshit in my life.)
My friend wasn’t sharing that article because she likes telling other people what to put on their bodies – she doesn’t, that’s why she’s my friend. She was sharing that article to point out how mean people can be on the internet. I believe I commented something like: “Dear people on the internet, quit telling me what to do.”
The thing is, we all have opinions and ideas and thoughts and beliefs and convictions. And all of these feelings are influenced, shaped, and formed by our experiences, personalities, culture, and belief systems. And the thing about humans is that all of our experiences, personalities, cultures, and belief systems are different. Which is awesome! And hard. And celebratory! And frustrating.
Recently I’ve been seeing a lot on Facebook about Thirteen Reasons Why, a new Netflix original based on a novel about a girl who, before committing suicide, made 13 tapes, each centering on one person in her life that she felt contributed to her desire to take her own life. I myself have posted on Facebook about this show. After watching the first four episodes on my plane ride back from the States last week I was hooked!
Some of the things I’ve seen on Facebook are articles like, “Why You Should Not Under Any Circumstances Watch Thirteen Reasons Why Because Even Opening Up the Tab Will Invite Satan Into Your House,” and, “Thirteen Reasons Why I’m Not Watching Thirteen Reasons Why And Neither Should You,” and “WARNING: DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS WATCH 13 REASONS WHY.”
Here are four reasons why I think articles like this suck and also some reasons why I am really glad I’m watching Thirteen Reasons Why:
-We have to listen to people who are different than us. I hope I shout this until my dying day. Slap it on my tombstone. Because we only get to live life as our one own little selves, we cannot know what life is like as other people unless we listen to them. I have never struggled with suicidal thoughts. So I don’t know what that’s like. I do know that other people struggle with suicidal thoughts – people in my life. In order to understand them better, in order to love them better, I have to listen to them.
-Our actions have consequences. By nature I am not a super nice person. I struggle with compassion and am a real “get over it” kind of gal. I tell it like it is. For a while I thought that when my words or my attitude or my tone hurt someone’s feelings, that was their problem, not mine because this is just the way I am and they just have to toughen up. That is not fair and that is not love. I am in charge of how my words and actions make other people feel. Being mean is not okay, even in high school.
-Ignorance is not bliss. I’ve read a couple of comments like, “This isn’t real life. This is a TV show.” Perhaps somewhere in this great wide world there is a high school where kids don’t have drunk/absent parents and don’t get drunk and don’t put others down to build themselves up and don’t have sex and don’t struggle with depression and don’t objectify or rape each other. Maybe. But I know that all of those things happened at my high school. And I think it’s a lot easier for parents and youth pastor to put their fingers in their ears and pretend like not at my kid’s school, not my kid. But that doesn’t make it go away. It only ill-equips teenagers to handle real life stuff.
-“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” Only you, and the people who really know you and love you, know what is helpful for you. I don’t get to shout at strangers on the internet what is helpful for them and I don’t have to listen to strangers shout at me on the internet about what is helpful for me.
I wrote a while ago about drinking. Someone had shared on Facebook about how all alcohol everywhere is only ever bad. In short, my thoughts are: don’t project your issues on me; I have my own. For some people, adults and teenagers alike, Thirteen Reasons Why might be a terrible idea. For me, it was a great idea – an eye opening and challenging idea. Which is why I think it’s a bad idea to completely discredit the show because you’ve decided it’s not helpful for you or your children.
I know the internet can be a scary and mean place. But I also believe it can be a helpful and kind place where we can grow. I believe that now more than ever before we are in the position to listen to people who are different than us and to grow as humans from those experiences. I hope that, on the internet and in real life, rather than telling people what to do or not to do, we can dialogue with each other. That we can use language like, “Help me to understand,” and “In my admittedly limited experience,” to talk about life and relationships… and even shows on Netflix.