I talked briefly about disasters the other day. Experienced a new one last night. I’m in this fabulous group called the VA 101 Mastermind, led by the equally fabulous Regina Lewis. We have a Facebook Live on Thursday evenings where we discuss a certain topic and then have a Q&A session. Week before last, Regina challenged us to find new ways to get exposure for our businesses, such as doing a Facebook Live. I squirmed. I was a “Facebook Live virgin,” having never done one before. While I knew I could do a presentation, thanks to more than 10 years in Toastmasters, FB Live with no followers is akin to talking to myself, and that just feels weird. But I decided to go ahead and do one last Thursday before our group FB Live so I could say I met the challenge. Then our internet bombed out and wasn’t repaired until Saturday morning. I finally got caught up enough to do the FB Live last night. I did it, then tried to close it down, and….
There is no evidence anywhere on Facebook that I did the FB Live.
So much for that. I’ll try it again sometime this week.
One of the things I talked about was my take on the weekend’s mass shootings. The one in Dayton is particularly personal, as I spent almost my entire childhood in the Dayton area. These tragedies always spark very intense debate over how to eliminate them. I’m not going to do that here, other than cite a couple of examples I saw yesterday. In response to a tweet advocating for a certain policy change, I asked, “if this is implemented, what happens if it doesn’t prevent another mass shooting?” (I’m skeptical of most of the solutions people offer; I don’t think much of what is proposed will prevent mass shootings.) The person responded with a profanity-laced questioning of my intelligence and character. I did not respond. This guy obviously has anger management issues, and reasonable debate was obviously not going to happen. I scrolled down and kept it moving. Later, on Facebook, a person I have known & been friends with for many years put her take on the events, and I posed the same question to her that I did to Mr. Angry Tweeter. My friend also disagreed with me, but said, “I also cherish our right to disagree, and I still love you to bits. Hug your wife for me.” I responded that I love her too and will pass along the hug.
I think what the world needs is a lot more of my second interaction, and we have way too much of my first one. I blame most traditional media for this. We all know that all the major broadcast networks and newspapers have long since abandoned any semblance of neutrality. Every story you see & hear and article you read was prepared by someone with a political axe to grind. Even worse, everything is presented with “here’s the truth, and anything different from what I present here is pure evil.” Like sheep, we fall in line. We all have our favorite news outlet, and what we see and hear from that source, we parrot without doing any independent research or verification. Not only that, we parrot the hatred for opposing ideas that our preferred source used. When we encounter a different view, it seems our default reaction is to dismiss it as pure evil, and therefore conclude the person holding that different view is also evil, especially on social media.
This is what has to change. We can debate until the cows come home about policy, regulations and whatnot. But nothing is going to change until we as people change our mindset. We must stop assuming the absolute worst possible assumptions about people, whether it’s people we know of people on social media we don’t know. We must stop believing that anyone that disagrees is evil. And we must remember the people we encounter both in day-to-day activities and social media are just that – PEOPLE. That person you vehemently disagree with about (insert debate topic here) is not some robot sent by evil forces to torment you and for you to smack down and “correct.” It is a person – someone with siblings, parents, friends, possibly a spouse and children. Someone loves that person very much. If this person were physically next to you, would you call this person every filthy name in the English language? If so, I’ll only say that I’ll pray for your heart to be healed. If you would not, then don’t do it online either.
My aforementioned super-coach gives a package of graphics to the mastermind members each month. You’ll see below an example that I think sums up how we must conduct ourselves in all our interactions with others.
Sadly, simply being polite on the interwebs might qualify as being extraordinary these days. But in any case, go ahead and be extraordinary. Don’t wait for your elected officials to do it. Don’t wait for your family and friends to take the lead. YOU take the lead. Smile at people you see out in public. Use the smile emoji online before you use the frown, devil, cursing or exploding head emojis.
Assumptions can be very dangerous. Turn it around by assuming the best from people.