I am horrified, on a daily basis, by the indescribably mean, nasty, brutal things that people say to and about each other. No, not face-to-face, but on social media.
Let me preface. I’m 30 years old and for many people my age, social media has been a way of life for a long time. I myself, however, have only recently spent much time with it, and only on Facebook, prompted by my work here at the newspaper. So the level of acrimony on social media is something new to me.
I keep my own personal Facebook account private and do not add “friends” I don’t actually know in real life, so I don’t get exposed to a lot of this vitriol on my own page. It’s the pages of others that I visit on a regular basis as part of my work that break my heart. The past few months have really opened my eyes to this side of human nature and what I see is not the least to my liking.
The really disturbing part is, many of the comments that make me cringe are written by people I know professionally, those I have interacted with in the course of my work as a reporter. People I like. People I respect. People I have always viewed as kind, caring individuals.
And reading these truly awful things they post, with no consideration whatsoever for the feelings of others or any courtesy regarding differences of opinion, unfortunately now taints my relationship with them. For every burst of unchecked contempt and venom spouted by someone I know, my view of that person is impacted a little bit more. The shine is gone and now what I see are the words they penned, the many scratches they themselves have inflicted on their character.
No, I will not name names, I don’t think that’s necessary. If you are one of those people who write things like “well then you should just go and kill yourself” or “God doesn’t love people like you,” you know who you are. You know it in your heart that what you are writing is not worthy of you, that you are better than that. You know this negativity really just brings you down as a person, does nothing to help or solve any problems or help move forward a productive discourse. You don’t need to be told this. You already know it. But you post such terrible things anyway.
Why is this? Why are people so secure with scrawling disdain across the Internet? Why so comfortable with adding even more hatred to an already hate-fueled society?
I’ve asked myself that question numerous times and I still don’t know the answer.
One thing I do know is, we as a society need to take a step back from ourselves, take a moment of consideration, before posting something that will inevitably be read by others.
Ask yourself whether what you are posting is intelligent and well-thought-out? Or is it simply a knee-jerk emotional reaction that you cannot control, like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum? If it’s the latter, continue in the same vein of self-questioning and ask, do I really need to post this? Will this be helpful to me at all, other than as a vent to my uncontrolled personal feelings? Or will it actually harm me by placing my character in a light none too gratifying?
Remember, every word you post on social media is likely to be viewed by someone. Your mother. Your father. Your grandparents, your grandkids, your friends, your neighbors. Yes, even your friendly neighborhood reporter. And what you write can irrevocably alter the way that all of these people look at you in the future.
Responsible, considerate posting. That’s all I’m asking for.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org