Heroes Old and New, and the Risk of Social Media

Heroes Old and New, and the Risk of Social Media

Published May 7, 2021 by Rick Cundiff

Someone once said “Never meet your heroes.”

The idea is that they won’t be able to live up to your (most likely overblown) expectations of them, and you’ll be disappointed to discover they’re merely human.

For example, let’s say you’re a huge fan of a particular singer. Their lyrics speak to you in a way that no one else’s do. Finally, you get the chance to meet them after a concert one night.

And you discover they’re a self-absorbed jerk in real life. And you can never enjoy their music in quite the same way again.

That’s why I’ve done my best to follow the advice for most of my life.

At one point, I was a fundraising volunteer for a certain Washington, D.C. regional theater. That gave me free access to the performances, and also to backstage events with cast and crew.

The actors were, as a rule, phenomenal. I’m talking Tony-award potential, brilliant people who could draw you into a scene and wring you out emotionally by the end of the evening. It was magic.

I didn’t want to spoil that magic. So I never went to the backstage events. I didn’t want reality to intrude on my perfect impression. I never met any of the actors.

That may well have been my loss. But I have some wonderful memories, and today when I see or hear any of those actors on television, I recall them fondly.

I’ve also had a few experiences of meeting people I highly respected professionally in a social setting. In most cases they lived up to my regard for them. But there were a few who had feet of clay.

Those included pastors, teachers, judges, lawyers and more. Wisely or not, based on their professional achievements, I placed them on pedestals.

Social media shatters some pedestals hard. Chances are good that you have at least several friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that you’ve known for many years. And you’ve no doubt discovered that some of them are not the people you thought they were, and been sorely disappointed.

Especially with people we’ve known for a long time, it’s hard to discover that we don’t share values we thought we did. Let’s face it, we do build our friends up in our minds. I’ve made some rough discoveries that led me to the point that if hadn’t known someone “then,” I wouldn’t be friends with them now.

Here’s the thing, though. I undoubtedly have been on the opposite side of that for other people. The simple fact is, we’re all human. We all have our frailties and failings. All of us can be as petty, narrow-minded, even prejudiced as anyone else.

The question is, where do you draw the line? With dear friends and family, at what point do you say this person and I are just too far apart in our beliefs and values?

We each have to answer that question on our own. For me, I freely admit I cut some folks a whole lot of slack, as I’m sure they do me. There’s just too much history together.

What’s the link to custom patches? Well, you know patches make a statement sometimes. It’s often easier to express ourselves with patches or bumper stickers or signs than it is to have a direct conversation. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to keep a conversation civil, and keep a friend. It’s worth considering.