I can’t tell you how old I was the first time I read Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER, published in 1993. I do remember that it had a profound impact and I’ve carried it with me ever since (in that figurative, literary way, of course.) If you are feeling fuzzy, here’s a refresher… Jonas, a 12 year old boy in a post-apocalyptic world void of color, originality and feeling is assigned a job as the Receiver of Memories and it’s all downhill (or, uphill) from there.
Little did I know, the story continued! At the tail end of 2019, my eyes were opened to the subsequent stories. From 2000-2012, the author released three more installations and having read them as an adult, I can speak to their power and brilliance. If you have not yet read GATHERING BLUE (2000), THE MESSENGER (2004) and SON (2012), please do so… soon. The incredible cast of characters will leave a lasting impression, I promise. The lessons are invaluable and incredibly applicable, years after their release. There’s one in particular character that I can’t stop thinking about. His name is Trademaster.
Trademaster, the ultimate antagonist is as despicable as Jonas’ eyes are blue, and carries with him the stench of despair. Like his name implies, he offers the other characters something they want, in return for something they have; but it’s not what you think. Often what’s given up isn’t tangible or obvious, which his where is true power lies. The small things traded eventually become life-altering, and his power grows infinitely more dangerous and deadly.
Much like when I was a child, and maybe even more so now, these books have moved me. I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to read them. I need them to know Jonas, Matty, Kira, the Seer & Clair. I also need them to know Trademaster. They have to be able to recognize what those trades look like in their own life, because the characters who see him for what he is, are able to keep a safe distance. It’s obvious to me, a Millennial/Gen X blend, responsible for raising these little people, that one of the first of these to be identified must be social media.
At what cost?
Ironic, sure, that I’m sharing this on the same platform I’m calling out, but indulge me for a moment. It’s not ALL social media I’m referring to, it’s the ugly side. The need to project perfect images so the world doesn’t see you struggle. It’s not just ‘keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’ anymore, it’s obsessing about them. It’s forming constant comparisons that inevitably result in envy, one-upmanship and the tragedy of living an inauthentic life. The envy is bad. The need for validation is worse. The almighty ‘like’ carries far more power than one button ever should. I cringe when I consider the amount of time I’ve wasted (or better yet, traded,) comparing, wanting and judging as I scroll through… even today. I’ve given precious minutes that I’ll never get back. I’ve offered my best energy to something that has nothing to give in return but frustration and doubt. I’ve traded my self-confidence, self-awareness and self-love in return for what?
If none of this resonates with you, because you have healthy boundaries for your social media interaction, I applaud you. I’m working on it and am (hopefully) getting better every day. I was there when it was born; social media I mean. Not physically there, but I remember hearing about each platform as it came to life. I can tell you when/where I signed up to take part. I’ve also seen the ugly spiral, which is only worsening with the millions of trades being made each day as people continue to believe the lies, deceit and ridicule that flow freely. Even the most authentic of posts, with the best of intentions, are heavy with the burden of someone’s self worth, falling victim to trolling, and/or are responsible for pulling energy and attention away from the things and people that matter.
To be fair, the Trade Mart started off innocently enough and served a great purpose, just like social media. It’s a shame that neither stopped there. The first thing that we have to do is identify our trades and evaluate our intentions. My time and energy should be for myself, my family and my creativity. I can’t continue sacrificing it just to appease vanity, curiosity or my wavering self-esteem.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, we carry the responsibility of providing the little people in our life with a full set of tools for the rest of theirs. We can be their Leader, blessed with experience, wisdom and hopefully, the courage to resist a Trade, regardless of its appeal. I can’t tell you how the series ends, obviously. But I will say that at least one scene in the story holds a key to releasing the grasp that Trademaster has on our society…it involves awareness, empathy and love. Lois Lowry is a brilliant, award-winning author many books to her name. These four, though, offer a road-map to a better way. It’s time to stand up and stop trading the best parts of ourselves to social media and anything else that slowly takes what it does not deserve. As a society, it’s our only hope.
For more on the series and what makes it so important check out this 2012 New York Times article.
I’m trying to settle in here, at my new place. I have exciting interviews and book reviews coming up and I hope you’ll visit again.
Thanks for reading, come back anytime!