This is an opinion piece (for adults), if you don’t agree with these opinions that is cool with me :-)
I love social media. I think it is a fantastic way to interact and learn. However, I am seeing a pattern that is disturbing and unhealthy.
When children are growing up, the most important part of school is social interaction, learning to get along with others and appreciating differences in others. I have two children, one already an adult, and I can tell you that the social learning is not always easy, but it is critical.
Unfortunately, I do not see the lessons taught in schools carrying through to adult interactions in social media. There is no appreciation or even understanding of differences, and this is not only wrong, but an unhealthy problem that we all need to work together to stop.
It used to be that people had different opinions, and groups would discuss these opinions and learn ideas and concepts from others. However, before, people discussed things in person and not through a computer screen. When people are face to face, they don’t have the tough, bully mentality many seem to have behind a computer keyboard.
In case you didn’t know, it is perfectly alright and natural for people to have a different opinion than yours. In fact, it is normal and very healthy for people to have different opinions and ideas. If this was not the case, we would not have, for example, the diverse music and art to appreciate and enjoy. Differing opinions is something to learn from, not something to dislike.
Something I think we should all keep in mind is that every single person on the planet has had a different life than yours. Their upbringing might have been violent, sad, lonely, or happy. They could be a victim of assault or war. These people, in particular, have a completely different perspective on life than those that have not been through either. Therefore, their opinions will be different than yours.
I constantly hear “don’t judge me until you have walked in my shoes.” Well I say, don’t judge others. You haven’t lived their life, you don’t think like they do, and you will never completely understand why they have the opinions they do, but they have a right to have opinions.
Because we have all had different experiences, we are all different. And the beauty of that is we all have something great to bring to the table. Sadly, what I have seen becoming a massive trend this year is attacking others through social media because their ideas or opinions are different. This is unhealthy and dangerous, and I will tell you why.
We, the population and the media, are all screaming about what has to happen to stop “bullying” in schools. It is a major problem and everyone wants something done now! Right?
Guess what? The behavior you exhibit online is viewed by young people. Those who attack, insult, and try to hurt others who are different (or have a different opinion) are teaching an entire generation of younger people to attack, insult, and try to hurt those who don’t agree with their perspectives. This inability to tolerate differences and attacking is “bullying” people. This is unhealthy and dangerous.
We all need to help everyone understand that things need to change.
I completed my Master’s program in 2003 in the mental health field, and it was a three-year program. Throughout those three years (way back then), desensitization, in regards to the Internet, was discussed continually. Adults and teens were beginning to interact online and were losing their ability to have successful social interactions. They were becoming desensitized, and online bullying was starting to bloom.
Nine years later, what I see is a complete lack of understanding that the people you are commenting/tweeting to are real people. Some see a name and a small image and some say whatever comes to mind. They never ever consider the person behind the small image and text.
Not that long ago, a fellow writer was threatened on Twitter with “rape.” The word “rape” has become a word used to make funny images and memes by people that have no understanding of the devastation that word carries. Before you use that word, ever, I suggest you speak with a rape survivor and see what their life is like. Why not ask a rape survivor what it feels like to even see or hear the word “rape.” Desensitization.
Desensitization cannot be ignored. We all need to constantly keep ourselves in check and make sure we think before we type. Most of us try to think before we speak, right? People behind the screens are people as well. You don’t know their history.
Everyone has on a mask that they present to the outside world; don’t say things insensitive because you don’t know the history of others. You can never know how bad you could be hurting someone with social comments AND you could also be offending your social friends, as well … they just might never say it.
The attacks on Facebook, in particular, in regards to politics the last few months are disgusting. I am ashamed that our country has become so hateful and desensitized to others’ rights to have an opinion that we have lost focus on what is important—this country. What matters is not one party or the other. What matters is that we all work together to make this country great, successful, and respectable.
When you think back to the year after 9-11, do you remember an America that stood as one? Do you remember the love and appreciation we had for one another? Do you remember how we would have done anything for those around us and protected them? Eleven years later we are still the same people we were then and we should have the same respect we had for others back then.
We all write about it. We give advice to businesses and we interact with friends. We also use it as a way to tell others how we feel and to give our opinions. Social interaction online will not stop, but if we want to raise a well-grounded and respectful generation that follows us, we all need to start watching how we behave on social media.
It is this social media generation that can set the ongoing path for respectful, online social interaction.
Stop with the insults. Stop with the attacks. Open your mind to the possibility that differences are OK, that they are good, and that they are something to learn from. Disagreeing respectfully is the goal.
End of Rant.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / udra