February 9, 2018 – Social media is making us mean.
We sit behind our keyboards and get offended and fire off comebacks and responses to virtual strangers without pausing to think that there is a very real person reading those nasty comments. Conversations devolve from debate to disagreement to downright ugliness.
Instead of offering us a platform to exchange ideas and engage with each other, it has allowed us to be mean with little fear of repercussion.
I am not a person who thinks social media should be kept free of the harder topics. I believe the opposite, as a matter of fact. I think social media should provide us with a space to discuss those very topics. But we’ve forgotten how to discuss tough topics with even a modicum of respect—or else, we’ve never learned at all.
What if, instead of saying, “Don’t discuss these things, it isn’t polite,” we learn to discuss those things while being polite—and teach our kids to do the same?
What if we remember, before hitting “enter” on a particularly stinging rebuke, or gleefully point out that someone misused “your” instead of “you’re” or used the wrong “to,” that we are talking to a real person, and not just a disconnected avatar connected to a name we don’t recognize?
If we wouldn’t say it to our neighbor, let’s not say it. If we wouldn’t want our pastor to see it, don’t `say it. If we wouldn’t want someone to call our mom and read what we wrote out loud to her, let’s not write it. If we wouldn’t want our children to repeat it, don’t say it.
We should be able to support our argument and beliefs with facts and reason, rather than relying on name-calling and opposition-shaming.
Social media has the potential to do so much good. A grandma that lives three states away can keep up with her grandchildren. Old college roommates can reconnect. There are opportunities to share ideas and network and market. And yes, it should be a place where opinion can be shared.
But if an opposing viewpoint or opinion upsets us so much that we find ourselves devolving into name-calling, or we attempt to retaliate somehow, it may be time to reevaluate our viewpoint on its own merits, or lack thereof. If we can’t rest firmly on the courage of our own convictions, perhaps it’s our convictions that need questioning, rather than attacking the person whose viewpoint differs.