I can look back just a few years ago to when I had little exposure to the thoughts exposed on the internet. I saw it mainly as a vehicle for research as I sought sources for various topics I was writing about.
Then seven year ago, I realized that as a musical artist and actor, I had to begin the process of making a presence on the web or others would totally define who and what I was as a performer. Another side of that was engaging in social media. Connecting with others, seeing what was important to them in their lives through their posts and interactions and telling others what was important to me. It was like being Jimmy Stewart in the film “Rear Window.”
I could peer into other people’s lives but not through a window looking out into other people’s apartment windows but through the window we all now allow into our lives – a screen connected to the internet. The only difference was what is seen is what people want others to see. Unlike Stewart’s character in the film who was seeing people going through their lives without editing except for what happened outside of view.
As I have watched interaction over social media in recent months, I have seen that people often say things without concern for others. They are sometimes cruel, feeling free to express opinions that might at one time would have been shared with a circle of five or six, that now reach thousands.
Why does this matter? Well let’s think, if someone said something you might consider to be mean spirited or cruel about you or one of your loved ones and thousands of people had the ability to read it, does that matter?
Would it matter if what they said was the truth or an untruth? Would it matter if the words they typed just shared their opinion of you, but to your knowledge, they do not know you, never met you, but based on something they read, something someone else said, they reached a negative conclusion about you and shared it without consideration to its impact upon you?
It used to be public bullying and hate-filled gossip was limited within the reach of our small circle of friends, the school we attended, the business in which we worked, the town that we lived. If something was too much to take, often the choice was leave that group and move on to another group. Beyond that, national meanness or ridicule was left to celebrities, politicians and public figures. Pre-computer tabloids stuffed the ridiculous between their pages and the masses lapped it up like the final drops of spiked punch in the bowl.
Today, no one is immune to a social media attack. Sometimes, we get ourselves into these opportunities but what I find so distasteful, are those who choose to state an uninformed opinion on a subject and then feel emboldened to attack someone else as part of their thoughts who was not even engaged in their social media discussion. Then others pile upon their assertion creating a cascade of a false narrative that then causes harm or hurt to someone else.
The ability to sit and malign others has become a pastime for many. In some cases, it is done in anonymity. The impact of this seen in deaths resulting as a response to online bullying, and even physical actions against others spurred by things said within social media.
If I was not a public person, I would choose not to be engaged in social media. Now that would not stop others from possibly typing something about me, but at least it would not be something I could read without some effort.
We often say we stuck our foot in our mouth about taking the wrong path in something said. I don’t know what could be a proper analogy in the social media age but the tapping of letters into a keyboard can now move public policy, drive people to end their lives and even topple a government. It would seem to me that greater care should be given when letting one fingers do the walking across other’s lives! Next time you are led to tweet or share on Facebook or some other medium, think first then type. Do you really know anything about what you are considering to share? If not, maybe you should let others think you are smart by not typing anything rather than letting your fingers show your real hand.