Twenty years from now, how will we describe the days we're currently living through? Will we describe 2020 as the year we all pulled together for the better? Sadly, I wouldn’t.
I’m a people person. I love engaging with others and chatting about anything and everything. But I find myself needing a bit of a break. Talking to friends and colleagues alike, I know I’m not alone.
I have never known a more divisive time. Politics, racial issues, gender relations and religion are all topics of nasty rhetoric. Disagreements about COVID-19 have made this year especially contentious. Lack of respect for each other is at an all-time high as people challenge each other's views, values and convictions. The new pastime for many people appears to be seeing how many folks they can get worked up by trolling on social media and causing chaos for anyone that voluntarily monitors those pages.
I’m confident we’ve all heard the phrase, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all." That doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone or that you should endorse their beliefs or actions. It simply means don’t justify their behaviour by acknowledging that you even noticed them. Don’t reward them with the knowledge they got under your skin. Every time they get a reaction – good or bad – we reward them.
If someone rants and receives no feedback, the rant ends. Every time someone either supports or challenges said rant, the ranting individual is rewarded with either an adversary to direct their anger towards or an ally to share in the incoming hostilities. I have never seen anyone come out of one of those scenarios that didn’t lose some dignity or respect.
It’s hard. I struggle to avoid jumping into the mix myself when someone baits a conversation with something meant to create outrage. Many people will say they are looking for input, but then challenge that input when it’s presented. Others will say they are trying to educate when in reality their end goal is to influence public opinion or cause discord. We are all susceptible, so self-restraint is imperative if we want to bring back civility.
There is, of course, one more thing we can do. We can take a break from those that raise our blood pressure or cause us discomfort. Avoid visits for a while, mute them online or end the online relationship. You don’t need that negativity distracting you from what is truly important in your life. Perhaps if their following begins to shrink or their posts receive no interaction, they will soon come to realize that their behaviour is unacceptable.
Last but not least, we all need to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. Are we part of the problem? Are we perpetuating the actions we dislike in others? If so, maybe we need to take a break and rethink how we want to be seen by others, as well as how we treat them.
Much exists in the world to stir up outrage, but there is also much that is good. Let’s concentrate on those things for a while and remind each other of how fortunate we truly are.