A Guest Post By Keke Ellis, American University Grad Student, FEEL Blog Post Winner
Back in 2014, I made a comment on Facebook about the movie Dear White People. I don’t remember the exact comment, but within days an acquaintance made a big fuss over what I had said. If I remember correctly, I mentioned something to the effect of how the male protagonist (who happened to be white) was not the ‘savior’ of the film. It did not go over well, and it led to a back and forth. Honestly, I don’t even remember the virtual argument, only how it made me feel. I hated it. It was exhausting and it felt pointless (not to hurt someone, but to engage on the platform in such a negative way). I’ve never been one to fight online (or in person for that matter) and I’m proud to say that that incident was the first and last time. I graduated with my BA not too long afterwards and in lieu of me wanting and subsequently joining AmeriCorps, I spent less and less time on social media and I rarely posted in those years leading up to me deleting the apps. And as I mentioned, deleting my social media accounts was one of the best decisions I could do for my mental health, and on a smaller scale, my personal life.
Do I think I will get back on social media? No, not in any major way. But I do believe LinkedIn is important, and it may be beneficial for me to have at least one of the big accounts (Twitter, Facebook) for professional use. Never again though for personal use. There’s no FOMO here! I’ll confess my phone health did not get better. Sadly, I still spend way too much time on Google, playing computer games, checking for texts. We’re all working on it, right?
If I’m honest, I don’t think my FEEL test results surprised me. I scored lowest (love of mission) in the area that I expected and higher (or highest) in those areas that I expected (empathy and ethics), as well. If anything, it showed me where I could ‘go’ from here. There wasn’t a revelation of me being a big softie, any more than I knew I wasn’t going to score well on telling my Instagram followers about my passions. Not only because of my lack of social media, but also because I am a private person in general. It’s something that I am working on. Not that being a private person is a ‘bad’ thing, it’s just that I tend to use that privacy as a way to shut people out (i.e., a security blanket of sorts). It’s okay to be open. Isn’t that the point of the FEEL First model? To connect in a more genuine manner? To actually open up with one another without and despite any fear we may be feeling in the moment?
I would like for my love of mission score to increase and will try to implement ways to do that. If I may divulge a personal matter – my boyfriend and I and going through growing pains; you know, the ones you have as you try to plan out how to intertwine your lives. He’s a big-time extravert. There is no friend he cannot make, no person he cannot go up to and start a conversation with. An hour can go by and for him it will feel like only a few minutes. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite. I’m awkward with small talk and get exhausted by interacting with others. His ideal Friday night is out, among the people, maybe dancing. Mine, is at home, on the couch, watching football or hockey or basketball. We could not be more different in our personalities. However, I envy his ability to open himself up so quickly; to see anyone as a potential friend. I think of him as my barometer to stretching myself beyond my comfort zone.
I can volunteer more. I can look a homeless person in the eye and have a real conversation with them instead of just ignoring them or dropping a few cents without looking their way. I can be more present in my interactions – putting my phone away, engaging and listening in a sincere manner. I can show up for myself in new ways as well, because how can I share my ‘love’ if I don’t first believe that I can accomplish the mission to begin with? I can and will be kinder to myself; easier on myself when I fail and become a better champion of who I am and where I would like to go in my life. There is so much division and hurtful language both in-person and online. I can and will counter this by trying to practice kindness no matter where I am. I know, I know, it sounds pretty hokey. This also, I believe, helps me face fears as well. It takes courage to love yourself out-loud, we can see this through the numerous bills going throughout state, local, and federal legislatures – whether they be about race, gender, sexual orientation, or reproductive rights. I think it’s easy to tear someone down. Our last President made daily entertainment out of it. It’s much harder to support and stand up. You can lose friends, family, your job, and possibly even your life for doing so. Being kind in the face of fear and hatred is radical (just ask those who fought in the Civil Rights era).
In the wake of the death of Mike Brown – which also happened in 2014 – a teenager from Missouri who was shot and killed by a police officer, I, and a group of about 30 others, peacefully marched in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana where I’m from. We were protesting police brutality, many, many months before the tragic events of the summer of 2020, and unfortunately, many, many decades after the death of MLK. I am angry, and frustrated, and saddened. How can we still be dealing with racial injustice? Suni Lee, an American gold medalist, and member of the Hmong community, was allegedly harassed recently while out with friends. Again, I ask, how can we still be dealing with racial injustices?
I understand that as one person I should not think I can make a difference, but look at the way the FEEL First Model is shaking up how communication practitioners are working in the field? Isn’t Deirdre Breakenridge just one person? That inspires me. In the ‘roadmap’ I created (see figure 1 below), in blue are the scores from the FEEL First test I took back in September. In orange are the scores I hope to achieve. Of course, I would like to continue to engage with empathy and use ethics and good judgment at high levels; at the best I possibly can. What has worked for me in the past is to try and be fair and impartial in decision making, whether that be giving both my niece and nephew the same amount of attention or listening to a coworker when they are having a bad day. These are simple things, I think.
At the end of the day, I just want to be a good person. When I’m old and gray, looking back over my life, I just want to think I was a good person. And the FEEL First model gets me closer to that goal.
Keke Ellis is a writer, researcher, and entrepreneur originally from Louisiana, who enjoys hiking, spending time with family, and a good crawfish boil. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.