I don't know what got into me. I can't explain it, even now. I can't account for my actions or even really describe what I was hoping to accomplish. But I did it. I went on Facebook and just started scrolling through my feed. This is a dangerous proposition for anyone who wishes to have a productive and optimistic day, as you're likely to encounter any number of frustrating and jealousy-inducing things. I knew all of this going into it. Like a ship captain dreamily following the siren's call, I heeded its beckoning. And just like that, my excursion into the great blue void led to nothing but negativity.
Am I being slightly dramatic in my description of Facebook? Obviously. There's a larger point here, though. Facebook is the perfect example of a dysfunctional "social" media experience. In ten minutes of scrolling, I was confronted with an ex-roommate's vacation pictures and, consequently, reminded that I've been in quarantine for basically an entire year. Next, a college acquaintance has gotten a promotion and will (presumably) be making vast amounts of money for doing... well, that I can't quite figure out. He's something called a "Global Innovation Consultant." I reflect on my career choice and how criminally underpaid teachers are in America. A slight sigh, and we scroll on. And there it is: the crown jewel. The mother of one of my childhood friends has shared a political post calling into question the validity of the election and denouncing anyone who believes it to be valid as a "Libtard." It is, obviously, riddled with spelling errors to accompany the errors in judgment and critical thinking. And it doesn't matter what my politics are. That a post this divisive and intentionally offensive was shared on "social" media should offend anyone with even the smallest brain rattling around in their skull. Thoroughly depressed and having lost almost all hope in humanity, I log off.
How can sowing discontentment, division, and jealousy be considered "social" by any stretch of the imagination?
Once my boiling blood cools sufficiently, I'm able to reflect. What does the word "social" in social media actually mean? I feel like I know what the answer is supposed to be. But what has it actually come to mean in reality? How can sowing discontentment, division, and jealousy be considered "social" by any stretch of the imagination? And no amount of curation (blocking people) seems to keep the negativity from infiltrating my feed. Also, I don't mean to single out Facebook as the sole purveyor of dysfunctional "social" media. Any of the major platforms are equally capable of deflating one's mood in a matter of moments.
And it's in pondering these platforms that I begin to examine the other areas of my life as well. In particular, I'm reminded of the once-blissful family gatherings that have become uncomfortable and treacherous, as though one false step could (and has) inspire an irreverent and ill-informed tirade. I, too, have family members who have given in to the allure and raw emotion of conspiracy theories peddled to them by corporations that just want to keep them watching... and keep them angry. The sharing of ideas in these settings is less about discourse than it is about self-righteous seething. And there's an incredibly disturbing rage and contempt behind the words of these political zealots. (Also, I failed to mention that my family consists of extremists on both sides of the aisle. They're equally angry; I promise you). What was once an exchange of ideas has now become an opportunity to disparage and denounce entire groups of people outright.
These family gatherings inevitably result in hurt feelings and, often, tears. And has anyone's mind been changed after the fray? Once the dust settles, have the blind seen the light and vowed to change their cable news channel for good? The answer will not shock you. So, in these instances, I've become skilled at bowing out of the "conversation" just before people's eyes narrow and they start foaming at the mouth. Retreating to an adjacent room, I check in on my beloved Draft Premier League community on Twitter.
Fantasy football is an incredible distractor when life gets a little too... real. The game comes with its own frustrations, but there's always the built-in caveat that, in the end, "it's just a game." That's not to say, however, that there aren't those who could (and should) be considered obsessed with this game. In fact, there's an entire Twitter community that has sprung up around the version of fantasy football that I enjoy most: Draft. From the moment that I began interacting with these fanatics, I knew I had stumbled on to something special. Fanatics, they definitely are, but they are a far cry from the utterly divisive "passion" displayed by members of my family when debating politics. Instead, their devotion is grounded in love, enthusiasm, and support. They love the Draft Fantasy game. And, as they know that the Draft version of fantasy football can be daunting for some to undertake, newcomers are welcomed and encouraged wholeheartedly. I was hooked almost instantaneously.
My introduction to this game came in 2016, but little has changed as far as the Twitter community is concerned. Aside from the fact that is has grown tremendously, the defining features of the community still seem to be love, enthusiasm, and support. The difference is that now, we (the community, of which I'm a member) are actually intentional about maintaining positivity, enthusiasm, and a welcoming and embracing tone. In the years since I've become active in the Draft community, I have made legitimate friends and countless other acquaintances I would love to ask out for a pint should I find myself in their neck of the woods. In the online conversations about fantasy football (of all things), I have witnessed these people exercise more compassion, encouragement, and patience than some of my kin at recent holiday gatherings!
The Draft Community (which I will be capitalizing from here on out), it turns out, is one of the best examples of a functioning society in my life. That is to say, Community members interact with one another with the ultimate goal of exchanging information and ideas that they may not have been previously privy to. People are, generally, open to new and different ways of thinking. No one is written off immediately for sharing a controversial idea. Instead, they may simply be asked to further explain their point, ideally using facts and empirical data. Gut feelings are allowed and always welcomed. But truth reigns supreme and points that can be proven with data are rarely questioned. How refreshing is that? The appreciation of facts and data is one of the things that I adore most about The Draft Community.
People are, generally, open to new and different ways of thinking. No one is written off immediately for sharing a controversial idea.
This, now my fifth year being actively involved not just in the Draft game but also in the Community, has been the most rewarding one yet. Obviously, I have had the immense privilege of starting this site with some of the most talented and devoted gents I have ever known. This team is truly exceptional. But it definitely doesn't stop there. In the course of the last year, here are some of the (almost) unbelievable interactions I've had with members of this amazing Community:
I've been invited to South Africa to sample some samoosas. (I'm told this is the proper local spelling.)
I've received free legal advice, complete with an invitation for a pint the next time I'm in Sacramento.
I've had several Icelanders offer me a place to stay and a personalized tour of the island. Have I mentioned how much I love Iceland despite never having been there (yet)?
I've been contacted by multiple people from my home state of Wisconsin after I mentioned it on the pod, just to chat and share a common thread.
I've discussed my profession with a prospective teacher, sharing some advice and some encouragement.
I've got weekend plans and a place to crash in Washington DC, as well as a couple of pretty fantastic tour guides I can't wait to get to know better.
I've connected with other North Carolinians, making plans to meet up once we're able. One of them even offered to help me move!
I've discussed craft beer brewing techniques with homebrewers from overseas.
And, on a more serious note, I've had heartfelt conversations about mental health with Community members who were struggling emotionally.
It's these types of genuine connections, sprouted from a "stupid" fantasy game, that amaze me daily. Draft Community, never change. You are the reason that we have started this site. You are the reason that we write, we record, we calculate stats, we analyze. The Draft Society does not exist simply due to our love of the Draft game. Instead, it was born out of a desire to do more to give back to an incredible Community that accepted us with such open arms. Thank you. We truly do love you.
For all the latest from Joe, follow @JWillDraft on Twitter!