I admit I'm old-school, and some of my attitudes may seem quaint when scrutinized against current standards. In my mind, saying 'please' or 'thank you' should be like breathing: you're only sometimes aware of doing it, because it's become such automatic behavior. Respecting another person's opinion is part of comfortable social discourse, and listening when being spoken to is not only expected, but how society functions.
Enter Social Media. The New Beast among us.
Not only have the rules of social discourse changed, more importantly -- there no longer seem to be any rules.
People, hiding anonymously behind social profiles of their own creation, will frequently spew out whatever is on their mind. The content that pours out can not only be disturbing, but downright vile. Most often, it's simply a re-hash of what someone else has said or shared -- it's not their own original thought. Frequently, the content is downright banal, like pictures of naked celebrity body parts, or reports of outrageous behavior from someone famous (who is ultimately trying to pad their own bankroll. You know that, right?)
I find this to be an absolute tragedy.
See......here we have this absolutely extraordinary medium. With the click of a few buttons, we can spread our thoughts across continents. Across time. Across generations. This medium has the power to reunite lost loves, find missing family members, inspire those who may be considering self-harm, teach children who would otherwise not have access to knowledge -- the list is endless. And we fall so short of that power. Honestly, People -- is sending fart jokes across the Universe the best we can do?
Hear me well, please: I'm not saying there isn't room for frivolity, because there certainly is. I adore a good joke, and will laugh with absolute delight when a pool of online friends banters back and forth. So that's not the problem. This is the problem: we need to curb as a society, not just on social media where it is reflected, but in society as a whole, the way everyone has become so so adamant about things, and the viciousness with which we share our opinions.
Being old-school, I remember when authorities on topics were consulted in times of crisis. They had earned their authority either through education or experience, but most often both. They were treated with respect as they shared their hard earned know-how, and when they were done speaking, everyone had a solid understanding of the facts. They could then decide how they and their family should proceed with the new knowledge they'd gained.
Yes. I acknowledge this format still exists, but the response of our culture has changed.
Here's how that change began. For whatever reason (probably money, it's always about money, isn't it?) somebody way back when decided it would be a good idea to stick a microphone in someone's face as they walked out of a grocery store, and see what that person thought about the same topic. Now someone hoisting shampoo and oranges over his arm (in order to better grab the microphone) was given airtime in which to challenge the expert. The Ph.D. sitting under the studio lights was now expected to to respond to this feedback, and defend his learning against this random person's opinion. (An opinion which may or may not have been formed using knowledge by the way, but often -- by this person's random thoughts or emotions).
Let's fast forward to now. Hilarity regularly ensues as groups of experts shout at each other. Not only are they trying to be heard over one another, but also over what people are saying about the same topic on social media. Our respect for each other as people has disappeared, as our perception of opinions, either our own or someone else's, has risen.
Regrettably, this hasn't been a graceful transition for our country.
The regurgitation-of-opinions-that-don't-really-matter has progressed to online activities partly because now people don't even have to go to the grocery store. Now they can sit in their underwear at home, sprinkling sandwich crumbs all over their keyboard while waxing on about something about which they have zero understanding. Then other people get inflamed because those comments insult their opinion. So they respond, and the crazy cycle continues. All of this happens because the guy in his underwear feels his opinion is as worthy, and in some cases, is even more worthy, than someone else's. And so does everyone else reading this fellow's comments, so then they decide they've become offended, and it's their turn to sound off.
Now listen closely: I'm not saying that the guy in his underwear isn't entitled to his opinion. Of course he is. This is 'Merica, by God -- he can say whatever he wants. That's why I'm allowed to share my thoughts as you read along with me.
BUT. If he, or anyone else, belittles, attacks, intimidates or insults in ways other than healthy debate as he shares his opinion, whatever that opinions is, then he is a loser with a capital 'L'. That is the difference in our new world.
In our new world, social media gives all of those capital 'L' losers a public forum, where they don't have to reveal themselves, or even be aware of the consequences of their words. Heck, they don't even have to brush their teeth before they start their orations.
They just mouth off, bumping into our day.
I object, Friends.
In my own little corner of the Cyberverse, I strongly object. We have this amazing medium. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. With it, we can change lives -- for the better. We can gather support for those who are alone, transfer money to points of the globe that are suffering, or find immediate help for someone in a crisis hundreds of miles away from us. We can encourage those who are sick, we can find a new home for an abandoned pet, we can console those who have suffered an unexpected death. The positive possibilities are endless.
Yet many of us content ourselves with ridiculousness, negativity, fighting and verbal attacks, behaving as though our own opinion matters the most.
What a waste.
So do me a favor, please. Just don't. Don't post, say or share anything offensive, stupid or mean. Debate away, because discourse is always needed, but please speak politely to one another. Hesitate before you blast off, not knowing for sure how your words are going to sound on the other side of your screen. Hesitate before you click, type or send, because words are really all we have to hold us together, or tear us apart, as our nation fights to survive.
In case you haven't noticed, this Presidential election is splitting us apart at the seams, and we must fight the tide of hostility. No matter our political orientations, we all have the same essential goals for our family and country -- to be safe and prosperous. We just use different words to express these ideals, and how we think these goals can be achieved. So let's please tone down the verbal poison, both in the media and in our online lives, and remember that words -- beloved words, are the real links between us.
Every time we open our mouths, or start typing on our keyboard, we intentionally choose the words we use.
Let's all pause, and make a point of choosing them more carefully from now on, shall we?
Please, and thank you.
**Chanler Jeffers is a woman who has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent, was a single parent for many years, survived cancer and has gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Subscribe to her blog www.TeamJeffers.com where she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way -- one more thing. She's married to a Bass-playing rock star, lucky girl.