Updated: Oct 23, 2021
This past week I found myself embroiled in local controversy in Aspen, Colorado, and I decided to write about the situation.
When I mention “Instagram” in my title of “Instagram and My Mental Health,” I really am using that platform as a proxy for all social media. Instagram is also the social media platform with which I have the most unhealthy relationship.
In Part Three of this series on mental health, I specifically am speaking of Facebook, which owns Instagram.
If you missed my previous posts on this topic, you can find them here: https://www.socialmusingsbyaustin.com/blog/categories/instagram-and-my-mental-health
Paradoxically, I need to harness the power of social media as a Creator even though I am addicted to it, and I have been modestly successful at limiting my social media usage to business purposes. Turning off notifications, removing apps from my home page and leaving my phone in another room are tactics I have utilized to limit the time I spend passively staring at a screen.
Yet, the perils of social media still exist even when you try to have a healthy relationship with it.
I have the incredibly good fortune to live in the Aspen area starting next year. I have spent almost three months total here in Colorado in 2021, and I am approaching a potential move with the same trepidation we all have when we move to a new town and know no one. This recent trip to Aspen was to perform due diligence on whether I want to move away from my amazing hometown of Austin, Texas.
So I decided to announce my future arrival in an Aspen, Colorado Facebook group to try to make friends and receive valuable information about my new future home.
Little did I know that there is significant anger amongst some Aspen residents about outsiders moving in and taking up the minimal housing available.
As soon as I had made my post, someone posted a message to the effect of “No one wants you here.”
While this person was ridiculed, and countless scores of people came to my defense, I decided not to let this verbal abuse continue.
I do not want someone else to walk into this kind of negativity when they may be in a transitional moment associated with moving to a new and unknown locale. I do not want others to feel the initial anger and subsequent sadness that results from judgmental and mean behavior.
Here is the full text of my Letter to the Editor of The Aspen Times if you missed it, along with the web link: https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/wheres-the-aspen-love/
Recently, I decided to move to Aspen on a more permanent basis, where my mother has owned multiple properties for years. I joined an Aspen, Colorado Facebook group and announced this fact in the group. I was welcomed by many friendly members; however, there were some who basically said “We don’t want you here.” Sadly, I am not alone in this experience. I have reviewed others’ posts where they have received similar backlash simply for wanting to share this wonderful place in the world. These online haters I encountered seem to think that Aspen is “theirs” and are unwilling to share it with anyone. What is wrong with our society today where we have turned our back on our founding principles and instead replaced them with a selfish, zero sum game mentality? Is there so much resentment that we are close to an internal conflict resembling a civil war? You can hate me all you want, but I promise I am not responsible for your plight. In fact, I am protesting income inequality and corporate greed by giving up my high-paying career to live more austerely, and I am writing inspirational stories (for free on my blog) that I hope will help society. Trust me, I am not the one to blame. I would love to dialogue with you to discuss potential remedies to the housing crisis facing our collective home. I am sure with all the bright minds here, we can find some sort of solution.
I know that we all encounter uncalled-for, mean-spirited remarks from time to time. However, I aspire to make the world a kinder and more accepting environment, and I decided to take a stand. For all of us.
Here is an example of how communities should operate.
Recently, I watched LinkedIn’s inaugural Infused event, which can be found here: https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/webinars/21/08/infused-by-linkedin
At the beginning of the event, which was moderated by Trish Lindo, Senior Creator Manager at LinkedIn, Ms. Lindon told the audience about the rules that governed the conversation:
“We are here to support and uplift...We welcome open, honest and constructive feedback, and we will maintain a safe space for this community. We do not support minimization of our experiences or invalidation of others."
Obviously Facebook Groups do not operate under similar guidelines, but they should. I get that freedom of speech is an American right, but I also was raised to treat people with kindness, respect and acceptance.
The conversation about my situation is continuing in the public arena, with The Aspen Times publishing someone's absurd response to my letter. You can find it here: https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/living-more-austerely-exactly-how/
Besides the fact that this response reeks of judgmental passive aggression, I read these comments with amusement and just laugh. However, many people must feel the same, as I found this sticker on Main Street in Crested Butte.
Have you ever moved to a community and had to justify yourself to your neighbors by answering a) how much or little money you have and b) what you plan to do for work?
How about if I am gay or straight? Want to know my religion or ethnicity so you can hate on me even more? Do these traits matter when you are deciding whether someone is a good person or not?
All of this dialogue sounds ridiculous and judgmental to me. I will be thinking long and hard about living in downtown Aspen; I am sure I can find a friendlier locale to make my home base of operations.
But again I ask, can we all please just try to exhibit more kindness and acceptance in our lives so that others can avoid a similar experience? Might we try to create safe spaces for dialogue when we have inevitable disagreements?