I freely admit that I love the Internet and social media, probably to a fault. I love the connection it provides with friends, some old, some new, some I only know because we share common goals, hobbies, beliefs, or “likes” online. I love the fact a community can come together and support a family whose child is battling cancer, or encourage a friend who lost a job, or pray for one another when we’re suffering, struggling, whiny, or otherwise in need of a helping hand.
What I don’t love is the constant barrage of conflict and strife. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care what people post. If I don’t agree with it I simply (like a grown-up) ignore it. If it gets too stupid, I just don’t visit that blog, or follow that individual, anymore. I’ve learned the hard way not to read comments on anything remotely controversial. The level of vitriol is much too high.
Lately, I find myself hitting the backspace and delete buttons frequently, and hesitating longer and longer over the “like” and “share” buttons. Why? Because I don’t want to engage in an argument with what seems to be an increasingly large number of very unhappy people who are just looking for a fight.
When did we become such a miserable, self-righteous (no matter which side of the spectrum you fall on), venomous, angry nation? And why?
Just today I’ve been bombarded by debates about Hobby Lobby vs. Obamacare, vaccinations (I’m not even going to open that can of worms so just talk to the hand…), animal rights in China, animal rights at zoos, animal rights on Animal Planet, fracking, evolution vs. creation, the “gay agenda,” green lawns as a crime against humanity, Medicare paying for penis pumps (seriously???), what really happened to flight 370 (like anyone knows), the threat of war in Russia and Ukraine, and so on and so forth.
All of those subjects are important, and they are all worthy of discussion. But when the “discussion” turns into that kind of “discussion” your parents used to have that woke you up from a sound sleep… that’s when things get messy.
We aren’t going to solve anything by sniping at each other in comments on FB, or on a blog, or tweeting our opinions. The solution to our problems is going to be found when we stop looking at each other as the opposing team, start recognizing all the things we have in common, and start putting ourselves in each other’s shoes.
Yeah, I know. Not gonna happen. At least not on a large scale. But I can do that, myself. I can stop and consider someone else’s perspective before I lambaste them in a public forum. I can take a moment to recall all of the opinions and perceptions I’ve clung to for dear life that have drastically changed over the course of my two-score and three years (Doesn’t two-score sound better than 40-something?) and offer some grace and mercy to others who are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt they are RIGHT about whatever they believe they are right about. I can choose kindness, compassion, and understanding, even when I disagree, disapprove, and dislike someone else’s stance.
Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Maybe the Internet is the perfect opportunity to practice…