Our Words Really Do Matter, Especially From Behind A Screen.
Recently, I've had several friends choose to get off social media. It’s certainly not due to their dislike of baby and puppy photos. Nor, is it because they feel mislead by an incomplete picture of their friends’ lives. Most of us have been swimming around cyberspace long enough to understand that we are primarily viewing highlight reels.
So, what is it?
Our words are simply more powerful than we realize.
Forms of “impersonal” confrontation have always nurtured an unhealthy degree of boldness in us. This can be traced back, long before email, when letters to the editor allowed people to unleash their deepest grievances without addressing a single complaint to an actual person’s face. With the birth of social media, however, this false sense of freedom mutated into a level of discourse that our grandparents couldn’t have imagined. Throw on top of that 2020, complete with a global pandemic and an absurdly contentious election cycle, and the train careened off the track.
It’s hard to imagine that this feels good to anyone.
In fact, I could not be more confident that it feels horrible to us all.
Here’s the interesting part. While we may think that the responsibility for social media toxicity lies solely in the hands of the loudest guy in the room, it doesn’t. Anyone can choose to take the bait and engage in an argument for which there will never be a winner. Seeds of dissension are not difficult to sow with a seemingly innocent stir of the pot. While we may feel sick to our stomachs and scratch our heads at times, wondering how things could ever get this bad, it's actually quite simple. Our words are powerful. We all know what a small amount of gasoline it actually takes to transform a itty fire into a out-of-control blaze.
I know that it takes considerable restraint to step away from the verbal fray in any arena, especially social media. And, it requires intention to use our words to encourage and build others up, instead of crafting them to defend our arguments to the death. As someone who has built an entire social media platform around my advocacy work, I also recognize the importance of speaking up about the issues that burden our hearts. But, if we don’t do it with dignity, kindness, and respect for others, we simply lose any shred of effectiveness. Even worse, we threaten our sphere of influence. Yes, there is a way to acknowledge the value in others' opinions, while still defending our own. Unfortunately, our desire to be heard - and our need to be right - serve as a fruitless means to an end when we instead choose to weaponize our words.
We are better than that.
And, our words have potential for so much MORE than that.
If you’ve chosen to remove yourself from social media, I applaud you for taking healthy steps to protect your head and heart. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of boundaries and appreciate the fact that our needs for them may fluctuate. And, if you are active online, or looking to tip-toe back in, I want to encourage you to view your social media presence with a long view, and your relationships, in mind.
If our words are more powerful than we realize, than their potential for good cannot be overstated.
All it takes is a little light to make the darkness go away.