Nobody needs reminded that we are in turbulent and, too often, nasty times in America. The news is filled with disasters, disease, and death, not to mention the poison spewing from every quarter regarding the November elections. The sheer volume of negative information is enough to buckle the knees of even the most optimistic among us.
So, let’s stop it.
A few days ago, I ran into an old high school friend at the grocery store. We know, from seeing each other’s social media posts, that we come from very different ideological perspectives, and yet we had a perfectly lovely discussion, including – gasp – some politics. I was struck (and I’ll bet so was he) by how the heated persona I often see on Facebook was not at all whom I’d seen, face to face.
It is hard not to react strongly to a lot of what we see in print on our screens, but I have promised myself to remember that what gets typed into a box on social media rarely represents the whole of a person’s thought process, much less the whole of the person. While there are some things that are, in my book, sufficiently awful that I am unable to even look for anything positive (bigotry, personal attacks on family or friends, not liking Harry Potter); for the most part, people are not as black and white as text and screen would have us believe.
We owe it to ourselves and to each other to stop reacting to everything we see and read and hear as if we were guests on The Jerry Springer Show. Stop and think. What do you know about the person who’s said the thing that has lit your fuse? What I know about my friend, for example, is that he is a kind-hearted man who is a good father and loyal husband. He does an honest day’s work and he cares about his friends. (He is also a Republican, but nobody’s perfect.)
Yes, we should be careful with words because we can be hurtful, destructive, or just sound stupid; but we should remember that everyone has said something that “came out wrong” or that they later regretted. Let’s be a little more forgiving of each other’s social media prose. The things we say are important, but what we do is what counts the most.
Getting along with those closest to us is the first step to getting along in the world.
Note to Self: Just be nice. It’s not always easy, but it’s always right.