There’s an irony and also hypocrisy in blogging your own rant about the ranting and raving of others. Trust that I’m fully aware of that fact. I’m doing so, however, in the hope of starting real dialogue among my friends I’ve met through the internet.
We’re all aware that Twitter can be an overtly hostile environment. You’d be hard-pressed to come across another user who hasn’t been subjected to trolling of some sort. This missive isn’t about trolls as much as it’s about group-think with no room for dissent or alternate viewpoints.
I’ve never been the type of person to expect people to agree with me, because I learned long ago that my brain works differently than the brains of many others in my life. Maybe it’s that trait that makes agreeing to disagree easier for me. I view social media as a platform of opinions. People can say whatever is on their minds.
Like everything in life, that comes with ups and downs. The upside is the ability to be authentic and uncensored; saying things our personal bubbles or society has deemed the unspeakable. The downside is that we are often floored by what people really think and believe when we read it. Words can trigger emotions in readers that instigate fight or flight responses.
The flight response is to scroll on by or block. The fight response is to speak out and condemn whatever rhetoric has triggered us. The thing I’m realizing is that there’s a third response that’s rarely employed. And that’s to take in the message, learn what you can about a person and sometimes learn something about yourself in the process.
I’ve never been a fan of “teams” when it comes to interactions with others. I think boxes and cliques tend to isolate us to our own detriment. Disagreeing in one area doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from each other in another.
The propensity toward a “cancel culture” and silencing everyone who doesn’t think or act like we do leads us down the path towards echo chambers. Be it the “Ok, Boomer,” dismissiveness or a call to attack a specific user in general, it’s shutting down dialogue. When you only hear the sound of your own thoughts and perspectives coming back to you, you run the risk of never learning anything new or hearing ideas that might change your thinking.
Everyone has the right to self-protection. I’m in no way saying people should subject themselves to outright abuse. My own block list is testament to that. There are definitely toxic people in the world that we need to avoid for our own sanity. But toxicity is in the eye of the beholder.
More than once over the past few weeks I’ve been put in the position of being stuck in the middle of spats between friends online. I’m not a referee, nor do I play one online. Unless I see what is a clear misunderstanding on one of my own posts, I stay out of it. My silence isn’t complicity. My silence is because it’s not my business.
There have been multiple occasions in my eleven months on Twitter where I have specifically told people not to fight on my behalf. The biggest reason behind that is that rarely does it do anything other than escalate a situation. There is enough contentiousness to be found without adding to the mix.
This whole discussion is by no means me telling anyone how they should act or what’s good for them. We all need to make our own decisions about what is acceptable in our world and on our timelines. What it is, however, is a plea to my friends to not force their choices or issues upon others. You may be proven correct in the long run about your thoughts and opinions. There’s a chance though that what wasn’t good for you may have other enlightening benefits for others.
We all grow at our own pace. Lessons learned through experience often lead to a deeper understanding than shutting our ears off to them altogether. Do you, and allow others to do them. Good friendships allow each other to grow without expecting your friends to grow in exactly the same way as you. The best friendships occur when you’re given enough space and can enjoy each others’ lights.