I’ve debated off and on over the past six months about disconnecting from most social media. There’s plenty of reasons out there for doing so, and you’ve heard them all and perhaps even considered doing so yourself.
Plenty of great reasons remain for staying connected; improved distant family communication, getting to know other people outside my normal sphere, information to learn and share, great laughs, instant news.
Lately the scale tips more toward the disconnect side.
What’s the tipping point?
Fierce, unchecked, unscreened, hate-filled anger.
I’ve been surprised by the anger expressed about certain issues. Oh sure, I expect to run into differing opinions as my online social circle expands. I’m not talking about simple differences. I’m referring to vehemence, vitriol, spite, meanness, wrath and fury.
Those sorts of emotions aren’t directed at some mass murderer, nor at people who traffic in slavery. Surprisingly, even terrorists and child killers aren’t catching this kind of heat.
Just your average Jane or Joe are catching heck for expressing an opinion. Or attempting to live their religion. Or for making a choice. Or for a simple mistake.
It doesn’t seem to matter which side of which issue anyone is on, the predominate response can only be described as furious. Both sides respond with a frenzy likened to sharks with blood in the water.
Crazed, illogical, uncaring.
People I thought I knew and shared basic common beliefs with suddenly appear as strangers to me.
I don’t comment. I simply read, my mouth hanging open in shock, disbelief and horror.
Who says such things about other human beings?
I feel such dismay.
MSH pointed out that I get that way when I’m behind the wheel of a car. Hmmm. Let’s say he’s correct about that, even if I don’t completely agree. I’ll play devil’s advocate for a moment.
If the behavior I exhibit while I drive mimics the comments and rants I read on social media and elsewhere then:
- I’d be throwing angry hand gestures out my open window. I definitely don’t do that.
- I’d yell out loud through an open window at the person whose driving irritated me. I wouldn’t dream of doing that.
- I’d pull up as close to their bumper as I could without actually touching the “Vote for” stickers. Do you think I’m crazy? No way would I do that.
What I do instead
What I do instead is talk out loud with the windows up and tightly closed. “Dude!! What are you thinking?” Or perhaps, “Had a little too much beer with your burger earlier I see.” And more frequently, “Get off the phone and drive, lady!” and more, “Hello! Texting and driving don’t mix.” And the infamous, “I know I’m desirable and all, but get off my butt.”
If other people ride along with me they definitely hear what I’m saying. It’s as automatic as signaling, or putting my foot on the break to slow down.
I’m a hypocrite
I’m not proud of it. I could do better. It isn’t nice. It’s not consistent with one of my core beliefs of being kind to others.
I like myself better when I treat others with respect. I’m happier when I think the best of others. “They’re doing the best they can in their circumstances which I know nothing about,” should always underscore my thoughts about the behavior I see around me.
Point taken. Resolved to do better.
But there’s still this thing out there I just don’t understand.
I suppose what’s most upsetting about much of the anger I’m reading and hearing falls into that same category. Hypocritical. The hate and vitriol seem so out of line with these people I’m hearing it from. People I thought I shared values with. People I thought employed compassion and caring as their central tenants.
The rest of it is simply unsettling and scary. Why are so many so angry?
Do they see how out of proportion and vicious they sound? Do they care?
What happened to reasoned debate? What’s happened to compromise? What happened to agreeing to disagree without hate as part of the equation?
Maybe that never really existed. Maybe I imaged it was once that way.
Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
Do you have any insight for me? Can you explain what’s going on? Should I move to the wilderness and erect thirty-foot high razor wire fencing with attack dogs to protect myself?
Should I pretend it all away and disconnect from social media and the internet?
Pretty tempting to adopt a hermit’s way of life.
“In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.” ~Buddha