I recently published a story (since deleted) that was based on a Facebook post from the day before. Moments after sharing the update on social media, one of my followers left a comment stating it was a "lame repost."
Frustrated, the old me would have retaliated with an unpolished comeback. Perhaps something along the lines of "No, you're the lame repost." But the new me, the cleaned-up version — a worn-out mother who spent the last four years of her life protecting herself against a narcissistic tyrant — just stared at the screen, flustered, and deleted his comment. Then, I hopped on my bike and rage-peddled for six-and-a-half miles.
When I reached the top of murder hill, it dawned on me why his careless criticism had upset me so much. This person had absolutely no idea who I was or what my life was all about. He didn't know about my emotional courtroom drama, or how hard I've been working to keep a roof over my child's head, nor did he have a clue how tough it is for a 53-year-old mother to hustle with muscle as an independent writer without letting her thick skin get bruised. And while it may sound like a lucrative career choice, sharing content on social media doesn't benefit the originator unless they pay for engagement.
So, was it a shameless repost? Absolutely. Was it lame? According to one man, it was, but it made me laugh, and I hoped to do the same for others. If I could speak to the person who started his day by trying to ruin mine, I would have this to say: Sprinkling fairy dust over a hostile world to make a few extra pennies on a t-shirt or ad before your mortgage is due isn't pathetic; it's a vital component of freelance life. It seems no one thinks before they speak anymore. Instead, we argue, harass, and belittle one another, saying horrible things we would never say face-to-face with zero empathy and little respect. The good news: it's fixable, but it's going to take a village.
As grown-ups, it is our job to lead by example and pass our wisdom down to younger generations. Hold on; let's back up. Stop what you are doing right now — except reading, obviously — and get on social media, preferably Facebook or Twitter. Next, I want you to scroll down and find a political post (this shouldn't take long) that upsets you, and read the comments. How long did it take before you found one that was so wicked it made you cringe? My guess would be under a minute.
Let's take it a step further. Think back to the year 2000 if you can, before social media seized your attention with its mighty bells and whistles. Do you remember what that felt like?; because I sure do. We had answering machines and disposable cameras. When friends and family gathered together — bellying up to a bar to splurge on pure nonsense — moments were rarely captured on film. Rather than swiping a digital attendant in search of a decent filter that would conceal our flaws, manipulate reality, and ruin the fucking moment, we focused on giving one another our full attention. It was a lovely and drama-free way to live, and I can count the number of times we fought over 'differences of opinions' on zero fingers because it never happened until now.
It's been twenty years since I developed my last roll of film. Most of my friends have kids now, the vast majority of which are on social media, sharing flawless selfies and staged portraits of friends and family beaming with joy, despite any backstory of pain. Today, everything is an illusion, and yet very real. People are beginning to show sides of themselves that they never shared in person. They're wearing buttons now for Christ's sake, letting you know exactly who they are and what they stand for in case you are curious. But how much is too much information? Do we really need to know who you voted for in the primaries? We never did before.
Humanity is slipping. Nothing is private, and everything is personal. We have given in to The Seven Deadly Sins in exchange for convenience and look at what it is doing to our world. On a happy scale of one to ten, most of us are teetering between two and three, and as far as I can see, there is only one way to make this better: we must go back to a simpler time and change our behavior.
Remember when you were little, and your parents would tell you to be kind others? They'd say, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything." Well, it's time to go home and stay put because your parents were right. It may take a while for the domino effect to go viral, but if we all work together, I feel like we have a pretty good shot at fixing things. Who's with me?