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Ultan Molloy says goodbye to Facebook and reflects on the need to find common ground in relationships and cultures

I was struggling to come up with something pharmacy related today, and as I’ve done my usual ‘wait until the last minute to write’, it still feels odd to be considering something for the December and Christmas edition in the middle of November.

It’s the usual goings on, on the work front. The team are in good form overall, thankfully. Our pharmacists have had well deserved breaks of sorts, and a couple of new team members have been a great addition. We all continue to have our needs, wants, quirks and pressure points, and it all appears to be going reasonably well, thankfully, all things considered.

On the home front with the kids, there has been one or other of them out of school for the last week, with two of the three of them on antibiotics presently for chesty coughs that are hanging about way too long. They’re in good form though, really. Sure, Santa will be coming soon!

So I read recently about Ireland being one of the ‘more open and more equal’ countries in a Global Trends survey printed in The Irish Times. That all sounds like something to be proud of really, doesn’t it? One of the agree/ disagree questions though was: “In my country, there is more and more conflict between people who don’t share the same values.” The overall trend was ‘agree’ (c. 60 per cent to c. 85 per cent) on this for the 13 countries listed, which I found unfortunate and concerning, although perhaps not that much of a surprise, on reflection.

The church and what it represents, and represented in the past, is no longer prevalent in our lives, and we have had such a barrage of fake news and agitative drama to engage us on various media over the last decade. One can much more readily find more ‘facts’ to support one’s point of view, courtesy of the Internet, and the splurge of content that is open to digestion by the willing.

The vaccine roll-out has been of course a victim of the anti-vax and fake news hobbyists. These noisy, agitating, small minority of people who are choosing conspiracy theories and isolated events over science and public health. I feel nervous when I write this, as a scientist who has studied vaccines and their use a lot more than the ‘average’ person. I’m trying to refrain from engaging and judging those people who, for whatever reason, choose not to get vaccinated.

The likelihood of contracting the virus is higher, and the severity of infection and of hospitalisation is higher, so there you go. Selfish? Scared? Concerned about potential side-effects? Concerned that Bill Gates wants to drive you from the couch to the fridge for another beer? It’s emotive stuff.

I gave a flu vaccine to a chap in Ballindine who I hadn’t seen for a while recently, and we were chatting about the
Covid-19 vaccine. He told me a young couple locally, who were engaged to be married after seven years together, had split up because one of them got the vaccine and the other had warned them if they got it, they were leaving them.

The Q-Anon believer in the relationship may well have spared the other a lifetime of mental health issues, but it’s no laughing matter if you’re stuck in the middle of it.

My wife recently left my family WhatsApp group this week. To be clear, that’s my family WhatsApp group, not hers. I had left said group about two years ago. I left it twice in fact, as my brother re-added me when I left originally. There was just too much religion, conspiracy theories, anger and bigotry for the whole experience to be wholesome.

The group was ironically named the ‘Molloy Family LOLs’. Laugh out loud? It wasn’t funny. I’ve a couple of said family members, now archived in WhatsApp, after repeatedly asking them to stop sending me unwanted ‘facts’, having tried to meet their feelings and opinions initially with respectful discourse and debate.

They don’t want to be challenged, or to entertain a different perspective based on science, public health, virology, immunology, and reality. Well, my reality anyway. It’s really unfortunate, and I feel quite sad when I think of it now. As things stand, my relationships with two of my four brothers are in an precarious state, but with only so much of it in my control. Laura and the kids are my family now, as a friend reminded me during last week.

I also have a limited number of f**ks to give, and they have all been allocated elsewhere at this point. Probably best to try and make the best job I can of those relationships, and give energy to my numerous other wholesome adult relationships that are respectful and nourishing. Those that absorb time and energy out of a sense of obligation just leave me feeling depleted.

So anyway, f**k you Facebook, and the other ‘social’ media that continue to nurture and feed the worst of thinking and cultivate drama and division. I really hope to see these shut down within the next five years, when independent studies highlight the negative effects on mental health of the users, and the spread of trash ‘facts’ and ‘journalism’.

Facebook has its own data, and has hidden much of it based on recent commentary from former company insiders. Engagement, clicks, dopamine… time on site, monthly active users, etc. Poison. Where is the love and kindness in that. What good can come from it? I do love to see the marriage engagements, newborn baby news, and some fantastic musicians on it over the last couple of years, mind you. At the same time, I’m sure much of that good stuff can find another way to reach me.

The other thing I was thinking about in the last couple of days was how friendly people have been in Ballyhaunis. Now, perhaps I’ve been in fairly good fettle myself of late, and you get back what you give out and all that, but there seems to be a culture in the town of embracing difference. So many cultures and people from all over the world, bringing a healthy respect for one another. A former refugee whom I spoke to about this described to me the situation in their previously shared accommodation, and how relationships and friendships formed between people from all parts of the world.

Embracing differences and finding common ground to enjoy one another’s company, and to build healthy human relationships on. It’s a lovely thought, really. So my wish at Christmas this year for our family, our colleagues, our customers, and our communities, is that more time and energy is given by all of us to embracing differences and finding common ground to build relationships on this Christmas and into the future. Happy Christmas. Have fun and enjoy the few days off!

CONTRIBUTOR INFORMATION

Ultan Molloy is a business and professional performance coach, pharmacist, facilitator and development specialist. He works with other pharmacists, business owners and third parties to develop business strategies. Ultan can be contacted on 086 1693343.