Navigating the Rough Terrain of Social Media and Falling, Collectively, on Our Asses

I find human nature confusing.  Nothing new, really.

Remember second grade?  I am watching my girl navigate the rough social waters of second grade and it just kills me. I listen to long monologues about how she told this girl that she is her 5th best friend and the girl got mad because she considers Bunny her 3rd best friend and that other little girl said that Bunny’s vest looks like a life preserver and everyone laughed and Bunny felt embarrassed and…oh, man.  I try to use it as a tool to teach her the importance of her own words and actions.  If she knows how it feels to be on the receiving end, hopefully she’ll never deliver any of that stuff.  But she will, of course.  She’s only 7 and she’s still figuring it all out.

I also wish I could convince her that what those girls say doesn’t matter but the truth is words do matter.  They do.  No matter how old you are.

Also, that vest came from The Children’s Place.  It’s adorable.  So there!!

Ahem…

Anyway.  Navigating society has been confusing since the beginning of time but now we have computers and social media and we have absolutely no idea how to be a society with all this stuff.  We really don’t.  The technology hit us like a ton of bricks and keeps becoming more advanced and now we, as a society, are regressing because of it.

I spent a couple months in Japan back in the 90’s.  I loved it.  One of the things I felt was most fascinating is all the societal ways they have insured their own privacy in a country that is running out of space to accommodate the population.  It’s crowded there.  People are right on top of each other.  They know that this could, potentially, cause them to begin ripping each other apart.  So they are super careful not to step on toes – literally and figuratively.  They do it as a society.  They wear masks when they are sick so as to not infect one another.  Their homes are not numbered in numerical order and many entrances are off of tiny, winding alleys.  It’s hard to find someone unless they give you a hand-drawn map.  That’s on purpose.  Don’t drop by. Privacy is important.

I don’t know how they’re dealing with social media.  It’s so invasive.  I can’t imagine they abuse it the way we do as I found there to be so much more general respect of others than I find here.  I hope it isn't ripping them apart.

We have always been a society that could use a few more manners but now, in this age, we really gotta get a handle on this social media thing.  It’s so new.  We don’t know what we’re doing.  We’re back in second grade again and there doesn’t seem to be a teacher present.  Who is gonna show up and explain to us what is appropriate and what’s not?  Bunny and I have long talks about not numbering or labeling our friends.  Those little girls are all her friends and all are equally important.  I use my group of girlfriends as an example.  I love them all and they are all important to me and none is more important than the other.  She’ll learn it eventually – through experience and by example.  My relationships with my friends are loving and healthy.  She’ll watch and learn.  Who will we learn to navigate social media from so we can all, collectively, graduate from second grade?  I have no idea.  No one has been here before.

My blog is young.  I have not, yet, been a recipient of internet hate – bullying, really.  It’s bullying.  The internet is creating bullies where they formerly didn’t exist because, while it may have been the person’s innate nature to bully, it takes a whole lotta balls to be a bully to someone’s face.  It takes no courage whatsoever to bully someone online.

There was one comment on my post On Getting a Divorce and a Cup of Coffee that picked out the small section where I said that no attempts at reconciliation had been made.  A reader asked why that was and had we 'taken the easy way out?'  A fairly innocuous question considering that I have a friend who has been internet bashed repeatedly in the past couple weeks to the tune of horrible names and blood-chilling suggestions not just about her but involving her deceased child.  It has been rather mind-blowing and, unfortunatly,  it happens to people all the time nowadays.

Anyway – I was bugged by the question by my reader.  It felt a little invasive and a little accusatory.  I responded.  Another reader felt my response was unfair.  I responded to that one, too.  And that has been the end of it.  It was no big deal and I may have overreacted.  Yeah…I probably did.  But I also thought, “If that person knew me, would he say that to my face?  Would he ask me if I took the easy way out on the street in front of the elementary school while I waited for my kid?"  I don’t think he would.  Why do we apply different rules to the internet than we apply in person?  We shouldn’t.  We need to remember there are real people on each end with real feelings and real difficulties.  I’m not suggesting that we can’t disagree.  But we can disagree respectfully.  We can talk to people like people.

I feel like we’re at a tipping point here.  This wrench has been thrown into the works and we can use it as a powerful tool or we can allow it to tear us apart.  Let’s grab it and use it wisely.  Right now.  Because our children don’t know any other world.  The younger ones have never lived in a world without social media.  If we are using it to bully, how can we expect them to use it correctly?  The internet can open up the world to them but not if we make it a dangerous, ugly place.  Let’s take it back.  Let's recognize that there is no one but us to set an example for the future and let's step up.

Let’s have a second golden rule:  “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend’s face, just don’t type it at all.”

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    Well said. Another insightful column. Very proud of you!

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