A tree falls in the forest

By Kamrul Khan 

You know the old philosophical question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? It’s such a profound question because it creates doubt in our minds about scientific certainty, only because it’s not validated by a 1st person observance.

FOMO or “Fear of Missing Out” is real. We can feel it often on social media; when others post pictures of that dream vacation we always wanted to take, or go to that restaurant with the entire group of friends on a night we weren’t available, or when that “couple goals” couple posts their made-for-social-media love notes for the world to see. All of this just triggers anxiety in many of us. But due to the global pandemic and now the deserved focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, the “what” we are missing out on has changed a bit since we are all staying inside; it’s the feeling that we aren’t doing enough. 

So much of social media is looking for validation. There are so many examples of people doing good deeds, helping people, providing funds, speaking out, and just doing stuff. However, if everything a person does is public, it may just be a performative allyship. But what if your focus is on being there for your family and friends or if you’re doing things your own way to help people in a way that’s private and not validated by social media? It’s not the same as others, the vocal activist friend who attends every protest, and is up to date with every social issue, but is what I am doing enough? It’s human to compare ourselves to others, and ask yourself if what we are doing is enough.

It is enough. It has to be.

All of us have a moral responsibility to call out racist, xenophobic and other forms of discrimination, but we also have to accept that we’re going to miss out on things that other people don’t—we can’t attend every rally, or be able to donate to every fundraiser, or post philosophical posts on every single social issue. It’s not physically possible, it’s not healthy to try to do so, and beat ourselves up over not being able to do it. It’s like when you are on an airplane, and the flight attendant asks you to put the mask on yourself first, and then help the person next to you. Your first priority should be your mental and physical health and that of your family and close friends. Then, help others and the causes you care about.

So if you are taking care of yourself, your family and friends, and focusing on the cause(s) you care about in your own way and you are both sincere and intentional in how you do that, there is no reason for validation from others or from social media. You and what you are doing is enough and no status update, tweet, or IG story should change that. The tree makes a sound even if no one is there to hear it. 

Below is a very detailed post about the dangers of Performative Allyship.


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