You May Not Have Known This

Two days. That is how long this title has sat there while I contemplated just how to go about this article. The original premise was to be a series of small anecdotes of fake names and made up circumstances. All would relate to a perspective into why any given person on any given day could be so easily overwhelmed or in pain of some kind and lash out at a stranger online. It does not even have to be lashing out; a not well thought out reply is often enough to offend someone.

Yes, we are going to discuss social media interactions and the bitterness that seems to be so prevalent of late.

To save some of you some time, I have no idea what I am talking about. I can relate only my own personal experience and I have no business or intent to speak for anyone else. I am without post-graduate education of any kind and therefore have no qualifications or belief that would make me an expert of any kind.

OK. Let me know when they are gone.

Are they gone? It’s just us? Excellent! Let’s try and have a discussion. I think if we focus on influence and choices, we might find that great nirvana that frees us all: An alternate perspective.

Influence, while seemingly more powerful than choice, is incredibly powerful but truly second to informed choice. It is all around us every day. We constantly see Republicans bashing Democrats and, in other countries, Conservatives bashing Liberals. Public discourse among nations’ highest leaders offer little in terms of having respect for political opposition. Recent years have seen this ramped up to extraordinary levels with veiled insults being set aside for openly abusive language.

Before long, the neighbour who displays a different political affiliation on their lawn goes from respected to hated because that is what leaders are telling them. Human exploration into global connectivity and intercommunication on levels never seen before comes with it’s own downsides. The widespread belief that free speech is just that — regardless of the media or intent — is as false a human premise as could be imagined. It is a myth, a carrot held over our heads by those who would choose to use the stick.

Everyone has a right to life free from abuse. Any law or given right that permits violation of that right is immoral. Yet so often it is the cry of the oppressor that it is their right to be abusive. What it is, is a choice that is made. A choice to be abusive, condescending and to try to unload some personal baggage onto someone else. A choice to respond in anger instead of with understanding. Sadly, it’s the easiest choice, but it’s far from the most powerful.

Setting aside influence, choice is the path past anger and hostility. Just as those going after another, for any reason, seem to be able to justify it a hundred different ways, the hardest choice requires no justification. Choosing to attack someone who was rude only keeps the cycle of negativity going. Yet some seem to derive great satisfaction from it. In the moment, they are fully unaware that they are elevating themselves by stepping on another.

Choice is the great power we all possess. It is ours alone and, used well, great benefit for oneself and others is easily found. If, that is, we make the right choices.

Choose to be aware that everyone you encounter on social media is damaged in some way. We all are. No human walks this life without knowing difficulty in some manner, visible or otherwise. Choose to be aware. Communication is a gift and a skill some are much more proficient at than others. Choose to look at intent over content. Quite often they can be polar opposite, again reflecting a lack of communication skills.

You can choose to create and feed fires or you can choose to put them out. You can choose to be understanding, perhaps offering a hand in friendship. Inspiring gratitude for even a small kindness in another is a gift that everyone receives.

You can choose compassion.

You can choose to embrace the positive.

You can choose to be happy.

These are the only rights that matter and that no one can take away.

What will you choose to do?

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