I’m going back to an old topic today – how we interact in the digital world.

I continue to watch in amazement as people take stances on controversial issues and then absolutely destroy anyone who dares to disagree with them. People use extreme language like “always” and “never” frequently. People scream, “You’re WRONG!” at people in matters of opinion – people believe their own opinion is a fact. In some cases, people treat others as if they are not people at all.

What Is Your Purpose?

As far as social media is concerned, I’m there for humor, camaraderie, and the occasional debate. You can tell some people start out looking for a fight. They will jump on a topic with all that extreme language and “Only I have all the answers” mentality. They make genuinely offensive statements (not “offensive” in the sense that when people get their feelings hurt, they cry “offended,” but genuinely disgusting comments).

I’ve learned a secret trick to avoid those types of people. Are you ready for it?

 

 

 

Scroll Down. Ignore them.

 

 

Now that we’ve finished with all the radical, ground-breaking stuff… As any reader of this blog knows, I love a good joke. Give me hilarious memes and GIFs, great one-liners, and funny video clips. That’s what I want the most from social media. I also interact with people of common interest. I follow and interact with legions of Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Indians, and UNC Charlotte 49ers fans. Those are my teams. I also have a bunch of administrative professional / Virtual Assistant connections and am building up my freelance writer network.

Debates? I don’t go looking for them, but I can get in on a few good ones now and then. Some of my sports and VA connections have political views that could not possibly be any more different than mine. When one of them puts an opinion out there, I will occasionally spar with them. I do my best not to make personal attacks. Most people do likewise, but sometimes we blur the line.

Have some fun

Here’s a fun debate I had this weekend. Early last week, a sportswriter noted that my Charlotte 49ers were the surprise of Conference USA basketball this year. We only won 8 games all last year, but we had already reached 12, including a 6-2 conference record. I commented, “and we haven’t even played those gawd-awful Rice and Southern Miss teams yet!” Those two teams are at the bottom of the standings. Southern Mississippi had an overall record of 6-16 at the time. A couple of USM fans took offense at my statement, saying they were better than their record.

Fast forward to Saturday. Southern Miss beats my 49ers in overtime. All the Southern Miss fans that saw my tweet had saved it and were very happy to skewer me for what I said. Well, that’s the way sports are supposed to work. If you talk junk about another team, then your team loses to that team, they’ll come after you. That was fine. I took my medicine and later made a joke about it. I tweeted this:

“Anyone: Hey, J, what did you learn today?

Me: Twitter has more Southern Mississippi fans than any other fan base in sports.” 🙂

Making Real Connections

Let me tell you about my Twitter friend Briana.

Some time back, someone I follow retweeted one of Briana’s tweets. I don’t remember who, or the subject matter, but I liked the tweet. I looked Briana up to see what all she tweets about. Judging by her profile pic, I’m easily old enough to be her father. (Father Time remains undefeated.) I saw a lot of stuff that was amusing and thoughtful. So I followed her. We exchanged comments now and then, and I look forward to seeing her tweets in my feed.

The Kobe Bryant tragedy has hit a lot of people very hard. No one in my online world was hit harder than Briana. You could feel her agony in her tweets. A couple of days later, I replied to one of her tweets by asking if she was OK, that I saw how hard she was taking it, and I was concerned. She was very appreciative and said she was getting a little better each day.

Empathy Is Needed

I think empathy is something the online world needs in greater quantity. Whatever you think about what someone posts, behind that post is an actual person. And people who perform their job duties in front of cameras and microphones are people as well. A lot of people judged Kobe harshly for taking helicopters to games – “rich guy thinks he’s better than everybody” and whatnot – when all he was doing was avoiding the stupid LA traffic. He had to be away from his wife and daughters for less time that way.

When the last such ride ended up taking his life, the social media slugs were out in force, and it was sickening to see. Watch the interview Rick Fox gave, detailing how he was impacted by the erroneous report that he was on the helicopter with Kobe. He talked about the fear and panic the story caused for King Rice, Fox’s best friend. (Boy, those Carolina Tar Heels stick together.) Why did these guys have to go through that? Because some clown was more concerned with being FIRST to report details, rather than being concerned with being CORRECT.

Too Much Judgment

Other reactions showed the humanity of people who appear on TV. Seeing the raw emotions from Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade was powerful stuff. I’m a fan of Christian comedian KevOnStage (his real name is Kevin Fredericks) and subscribe to the podcast he and his wife Melissa produce each week, The Love Hour. They were filming last week’s episode on Sunday morning LA time, and the news about Kobe broke right in the middle of their recording. They had to shut it down and resume later in the week.

Kev said something I thought was fabulous. They were talking about how you really can grieve for someone you haven’t met, and that people needed to stop judging others in general, and hopefully will not judge Vanessa Bryant for how she will grieve the loss of her husband and daughter. Kev said, “I hate that people think they are entitled to other people’s grief.”

How very true. How often do you see someone grieving the loss of a loved one, and other people judging them for not grieving as “I” would? They never admit it, but they see the grieving person and question them, and say things like, “(dead person’s name) wouldn’t have wanted them to be doing that,” or “that’s disrespectful to (dead person’s name).” The real root of these criticisms is, “I wouldn’t grieve like that, so no one should grieve like that.” That judgment is the LAST thing a grieving person needs.

And now we’re back to the original question. How do you contribute online? I want to enrich those I interact with in some way. I know there is always room for improvement, so I strive to improve each day. And hopefully, I will never earn the name “troll.”

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