But today, I’m blogging about something really serious. We, as a people, need to really rethink social etiquette. There was a time when people regularly kept their thoughts to themselves because they recognized sometimes saying things out loud actually creates a worse situation. Your words don’t always convey exactly what you meant, or maybe you’re trying out a thought, super dangerous, don’t do that out loud because you can’t redact words from someone’s memory. Words that are perceived as hateful, mean-spirited, bigoted, angry or whatever other negative connotation you come up with have a tendency to sear themselves in people’s brains. Those people won’t forget what they think they heard you say. As someone who travels the United States and the world, there are lots of regional and cultural norms that people carry with them and can lead to misunderstandings. Conversations can get heated quickly and people talk faster than they think, things spill out and the listener isn’t hearing or including context, people start talking over each other, you can imagine these situations, you’ve probably experienced one. I feel like social media has become a giant version of that awkward political conversation someone starts at what was a really nice social event, everyone gets upset, partisan combat ensues, and all the guests leave early and mad. Then the hostess finishes off all the open wine alone looking at the dessert no one stayed to eat.
This morning, as a scrolled my FB newsfeed, I was appalled by the comments in response to the recent shootings of black men and police officers. Every one seems to be taking a side. What side?! People are getting killed. That means they are gone forever. They will never finish what they started. People will be bereft without them. Children will be fatherless. They have been ripped from their futures. The only side to take is to end this nonsense. And that is not going to be easy, because we would all have to stop being hypocrites (at least in our actions if not in our thoughts, yes I just said that and I am talking about you and me). The answer to this problem cannot be found among black people or white people, it cannot be found among citizens or police officers, and it certainly cannot be found among Republicans or Democrats. The solution is in every human’s brain (for some of you, you might call it your heart, but I have a degree in neurobiology so...).
We ALL have to change, the way we act, the way we speak, the way we think, the way we perceive, the way we make judgments - we have to change how we interact with each other. And we all need to accept accountability for what we do and what we say, every minute of every day because it matters and it has consequences. And we need to listen more, really listen, and question people about things they say because maybe we don’t think so differently, maybe we’re just not using the same lingua franca. Maybe we aren’t aware of shared experiences because we’re assuming we don’t have them. What if we do? Wouldn’t that give us common ground to walk on together? And wouldn’t it be really nice if we could all just be in this whole thing together?
I posted the following on FB this morning in response to much of the hate I saw, I’m sharing it here as well because I really believe in this message. Question yourself, your thoughts, your words, and your actions always, because it’ll make you a better person and the world a better place.
Posted on FB July 8, 2016
Sometimes I'm shocked by the reactive and thoughtless behavior of the people in my life - I'm talking to you. When horrific events take place it is our job to think before we speak or post. The greatest people in history are not those who spout silly rhetoric and shout absurd nonsensical rantings, they are people who recognize situations are complex, people have multiple perspectives, nothing is as simple as it seems, and every one of us is a human being. So some thoughts for you to consider:
1. We ALL need to do better. Every day. We all need to be good citizens, obey the law, help other people, and actually care about other humans.
2. When someone kills someone, THAT person is responsible, not a whole group of people, or the President, or the entire police force, or anyone else. So be angry at THAT person. Question why THAT person committed a terrible act.
3. Every once in awhile as you're living your charmed life, and trust me, it's charmed because you woke up to an alarm, in a house, with your family, to go to a job, and you'll eat three meals today, remember that your view of the world might be different than someone else's, just try to imagine having none of what you take for granted. Then experience that wave of gratefulness that washes over you.
4. Discussions and dialogue can be powerful only if the thoughts conveyed and the words used are meaningful and purposeful. Action and problem-solving is even better. YOU are part of the problem if you aren't part of the solution. Ranting on FB is not taking action, go volunteer in your community, become a teacher, run for office, mentor a kid, donate to a food bank, do SOMETHING.
5. Think of the smartest and kindest person you know, imagine their reaction when they read your social media post or hear your rant - is that really how you want people to see you?
6. Before you hit Post, reread what you wrote, ask yourself, are you sharing something insightful, is someone going to be hurt by your words/thoughts, do your words actually convey what you meant?
7. And finally, stop with the memes that are full of factual errors, nonsensical garbage, and thoughtless, hateful speech. Just because someone shared it doesn't make it true.
The first step to making a better world is for you to be a better person. We are all in this together, so we can be good to one another or we can make life miserable for all of us. Totally up to you.