We collectively have grown tired of reading about all the unaddressed instances of abuse seen on Facebook and Twitter. We have an ongoing epic violation of Twitter's service terms by an account known as @therealdonaldtrump. It's been a harsh decade since the advent of platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
To varying degrees, we all are potentially living in the court of other people's opinions. We see in the daily news what the President posts on Twitter. Throughout the culture, we live an age of a potential online lynching. To an extent, that danger has caused millennials to use Snapchat or Instagram as opposed to their older counterparts.
For a public figure, disaster is now one post away. The list of those having been the subject of a Presidential tweetstorm has been nearly endless. There are moments to rejoice in when miscreants named Cosby or Simpson or Weinstein receive online justice. But how many times have you seen a lynch mob go after someone in a Facebook group?
A bet that there are tens of thousands of daily victims, who have done little to deserve being trolled, is a pretty safe assumption. Too often, the target is a teenager who does not quite fit in or an adult who has pissed the wrong person off.
What other people think of us is our business. In an era when millions can become instant publishers online, what others think of us matters. We are told over and over again, that we are our own personal brands, making it imperative to control our online reputation, to do P.R. and spin control for ourselves. It's easy to get into the trap of believing that we must be loved, respected, and taken seriously by everyone.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
Something happened recently in a large community Facebook group I have belonged to for years, that bears discussion. I actually saw somebody badgered to the verge of suicide one night. All it took was a picture and a comment about owning a service animal and a goose to set a mob off.
Apparently, a dog and a goose are all that one woman has in this world. I've felt that way myself about an animal. Often the people in our lives break our hearts. Was her reaction necessarily normal? That is in the eyes of the observer. But her hysterical behaviour was much more benign than that of a bunch of adults posting pictures of dead animals in the hopes that someone is broken and maybe, just maybe, will harm themselves.
This particular Facebook group did not begin as the "harass people into death" page. It started when the owners of a competing citywide group turned it into a forum for their personal egos. One banned people she did not like for saying "hello." Another turned himself into a minor local celebrity while orchestrating endless online lynch mobs and offline attacks.
People voted with their keyboards and began a second Facebook group. Eventually, the newer group became as a feral as the first. Solid members dropped off because other strings were nearly as cruel as the one that nearly ended tragically. Certainly, most people knew they should not participate on loosely moderated pages if they cannot deal with the heat.
But that does not excuse sociopathic behaviors. Thankfully someone was available to help the woman, and I have communicated with her since. Her issues were not made up bullshit. and nobody deserved to be badgered that hard.
When we consider a Facebook group with 5000 members, logic indicates many of them have injured souls. Some are broken people through no fault of their own, or have been very angry and very hurt by things that happened to them online. As is the case in the offline world, we do not know if the next person we invite into our home on social media, has the empathy of a serial killer.
AND WHAT ABOUT US?
Almost everybody that spends time on Facebook has issued a reply to a post they later sheepishly deleted. I am not going to offer lectures on online etiquette. I enjoy belonging to a group that is not overpopulated by TOS Nazis or overly aggressive admins. But the idea of an "uncensored" or "lightly moderated" page, does not grant members license to show zero self-restraint when battering the weak.
I certainly have had my share of heated exchanges on Facebook and have definitely passionatey stood up for my political beliefs. I am not claiming my hands are 100% clean from being intemperate and occasionally snarky. Very few among us have always been kind. But I also do not think there is ever a license to keep piling on when it is pretty obvious that somebody is fragile and troubled. I do think its possible to apply personal responsibility and sense into how far we are willing to push people. We are very fortunate that we did not have a tragedy on that night.
If we wanted to blow up the world, it could be simply done. It would only take making public every e-mail or deleted post anybody has ever written. If every single dumb and/or cruel comment about others hit the light of day, it's doubtful many relationships would survive. The drawback of writing on the Internet is that everything is easily taken absolutely literally. And it lasts potentially forever, somewhere.
Teasing may be a way of letting others know that you see through their illusions. Making mock of people from the shadows can be a way of bonding, reassuring others that all are correct in their mutually harsh judgments. But more often than not, it's simply mean.
We all have had someone come up to us, while engaged in saying something hilariously catty at their expense. The pain we inflict on someone else forces us to face some inconvenient truths about ourselves. That we might make fun of people, even people who don't deserve it, who are beneath us in some social or professional order, just to ingratiate ourselves with those who seem somehow more empowered.
It still hurts. We feel wounded that someone could actually know us and think of us poorly. We become embarrassed, or damn them as vicious betrayers. Which, of course, we all can be and are. We all have stuck a knife in another back, even those we love the most. Anyone we know well can be irritating, a serial transgressor, unconscious of their flaws and incongruity and anchored to the very things that often screw them up the most. And we all are adept at pointing each and every flaw out.
We carry interior complexity in ourselves. We each have the talent for compartmentalizing and holding contradictions within. We can be capable of kindness and generosity and of viciousness and malice. We can be unkind and still be fond of someone, and we can be kind to people we cannot stand. It is a delusion to believe that 315 million other people in the United States are not doing the same thing.
It's been a harsh few years in the court of other people's opinions. We see it in the daily news, throughout the culture and realize we live in the age of snark. It infects our lives personally and professionally and informs most things we ourselves regret. For all who have been crappy to others, the reasons are more about us than who we are "throwing under the bus." Then we awaken later, after being hurt ourselves, and realize what we have done to others ourselves. It's truly hard to discern who is building bad karma when almost everybody has a bit of the stench themselves.
The concept of a "judgment day" when we pass on is terrifying to most. Imagine a life review where we find out all the things anyone had ever felt about us, both good and bad. What's worse is that we have to hear all the worst things we have said and done, before getting to the reasons for our redemption at the end.
There is no way most would go down such a path if still alive, but there's not much of an option when we are transitioning. For if we want the rewards of living forever we will have to submit to the ordeal of our entire stories being known. It's better to prepare for that time while we can, and start by cutting all others a break. Chances are, we are going to need a bit of grace for ourselves.
MANY BLESSINGS- NOEL
SPEAKING OF JUDGEMENT DAY- THE ORIGINAL HEAVEN CAN WAIT