Striving to understand.
It’s been one of those months where I’ve seen the best of people online–and the worst of them, too.
I wish I could say I’d lived long enough to be un-shockable, to say, “yeah, I expected that,” but it’s not true. I am still shocked and dismayed when I observe mean and ugly words and behavior. These things, I just don’t understand them, even though I have experienced them for years in my own family. It’s painful, but I’m rather glad I’m not too jaded to be shocked. I’m glad I view this behavior as shocking and unacceptable.
As much as I love what our online social world brings us — new friends, worthwhile activities, inspirational people, it also seems to provide a means for people’s pain and bitterness to come spewing out –safely– on the screen. In a recent post I wrote about loving people who seem most unlovable and, as the Universe always seems to do, no sooner had I hit “POST” than I started encountering some of the most unlovable people online, challenging me to get past my shock and disapproval and get to the love part.
Ha! Don’t you love it when the Divine does that? And don’t think I didn’t make the connection.
Social Media seem to provide safe places for ugly behavior
In one group a woman decided to take offense to a Facebook comment when none was intended and put up her dukes repeatedly against the perpetrator, posting mean and ugly things and attributing the worst motives to the other person. It was violence on the screen and it made me cringe, even though I wasn’t the target. As I sat with it, though, her pain became clear. Her defensiveness was rooted in that pain and the damage that had been done to her –clearly–by others in her life. I tried to access that part of the situation, even though her behavior was repellent and undeserved by her target.
But that’s the way it is with people who act out, isn’t it? The real reason has nothing to do with the situation.
I decided not to participate in that discussion–I wanted no part of the ugliness. And then, it wouldn’t stop. Other group members, tone deaf to the need to calm the waters, decided to weigh in, prolonging the agony. Seriously, girls, what is it you didn’t get about the need to put a stop to this by not piping in with your own thoughts, hostilities, apologies?
It is the ugly side of the internet.
What makes me nuts is that it is almost always women who act out like this. I hardly ever see it in men.
Be gentle with each other.
In another scenario, a blogger wrote a post that was clearly intended in a light vein. But to a particular group of women, it wasn’t funny and they began to demonize the blogger. They looked past what was obvious–the intended humor–and flogged the blogger from the safety of the internet. And they were immune to suggestion that this was not a flogging offense. They were actually spinning off the blogger’s post to express dissatisfaction with their own way of life. What I saw in their responses was not just the tone deafness, but bitterness and then, most shockingly, I saw racism of the worst kind.
Now, in my world, racism does not appear. So when I see it around–usually on TV– it is particularly jarring. What was worse in this case was that poster didn’t seem to care that her attitude was racist and out there for the world to see. She probably felt safe among others who thought similarly. That her attitude would be accepted.
What a stark reminder that my world is not THE world, something I know intellectually but forget, emotionally. In my world, people give one another the benefit of the doubt. Strive to find common ground. Behave respectfully.
The concept of being tone deaf appears again and again in the world–the inability to identify intent, much less nuances, and take those into account. This kind of critical thinking is fast disappearing.
On another site I saw a moving, sensitive article about the death of child. And then the attacks on the writer began. The writer couldn’t possibly understand since she had not lost a child. Moms don’t have a bond that allows them have any idea at all what losing a child might feel like if they don’t already belong to that horrific club. Blah blah blah. You shouldn’t say this. You should say that.
As much as reader interaction is deemed a good thing, I see so much commenter cruelty and incivility that sometimes I think comments should be disabled. Not every reader has a pearl of wisdom to offer and when the comments are just plain rude, I see no reason for them. (And I am so grateful for the kind and respectful tone of commenters on this site. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m just sorry other sites do not have such smart and compassionate commenters.)
I can’t imagine women behaving this way 25 years ago. But when they observe this same kind of disrespectful, judgmental and tone deaf behavior in the world around them, say, on their favorite network–Faux News–they begin to think it’s ok. Incivility has become mainstream behavior and all I can do is shake my head in dismay.
It’s been almost 25 years since the late Rodney King cried out plaintively, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Apparently, we still can’t.