Earlier this week I read a post on Facebook of someone who had taken a hit to their self esteem. I made a response trying to make them feel better only to be told by a third party I had never met that I was wrong and dumb.
I was angry. I felt my blood pressure rise. What did I do? I responded with sarcasm. I’m embarrassed now to admit that, but it’s true. In recent months I have been very intentional about my Facebook interactions being funny, inspirational, and pleasant. Yet here again, I fall back into the same old interactions that I detest seeing online.
One comment. What does it matter? I was just defending myself. I could explain it away all day, but the reality is one comment does matter. Because our comments often go unchecked.
Once upon a time there were no vlogs, no blogs, no social media, no endless news, no self-publishing. Communicating a message from point A to point B took such effort and time that tons of thought, deliberation, and reflection went into every word. Now we don’t need editors, prior approval, questioning, or even time between thinking a thought and sharing it with the world. I think it is safe to see we have confused Freedom of Speech with Freedom from Consequences. I know I have.
We live in a society that is angry and tense. It seems people are one step away from road rage, mass shootings, brawls at political rallies, and bashing and bullying on social media. Has violence always existed? You bet it has. However, the difference is now we feel entitled to fan the flames. Because we can share every thought that pops in our minds, we think we should. We have forgotten that words have power. And now it stares at me…..screams at me from nearly every internet post I see and bumper sticker I read. I see people declaring that those who don’t see things their way are stupid or ignorant. I see people post things that invite arguments and more angry words (Been there, done that. Sorry to all that had to endure that side of me on FB.) I see people giving the disclaimer, “I just tell the truth. If you don’t like, you can unfriend me now.”
The issue is not in sharing one’s opinion; it is in inviting discord and animosity. It is in adding to the anger and tension. We can have strong opinions without the need to share them, blast them, and dare others to disagree with them.
The reality is words have power. Our words lead to ideas that pervade our thoughts. These thoughts lead to actions. Words ALWAYS precede actions. So please. Scan your Facebook page, browse your Snapchat and Instagram accounts. Look over your You Tube channels and your Twitter. Which posts will inevitably lead to arguments ? Which only serve to piss off others? In your newsfeed, how many posts do you find that lead you to become angry or hurt? How many times do you find yourself responding to others simply to state you disagree and why you are right? Do you even care if your posts anger, hurt, or divide others?
In a week when two black men have been shot and numerous law enforcement have been targeted, perhaps now would be a great time to refrain from expressing our opinions and our own Dick Tracy-esque google investigations to exclaim who we think is to blame and whether we agree or disagree with Black Lives Matter. Instead, let’s just mourn the loss of human lives. Let’s not look for the great conspiracy theory of it all. Let’s just pray for the families and loved ones left behind. Let’s use this time to reflect on our own words and if they are healing or hurting the relationships we have with others. Let us from this point forward understand that Freedom of Speech comes with Consequences. Let us (and by us, I mean me) not overlook how our sarcastic, biting comments and our reflex action to launch tirades and attacks behind the privacy of a computer screen adds to the violence, dissension, and divisiveness in our society. Words hold power.