Shawn Maxam wonders if technology and social media prevents us from showing compassion to our fellow human beings.
Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.
It’s interesting how the phrase “go kill yourself” has entered the lexicon of mainstream pop culture. What happened to the slightly less egregious “go fuck yourself”? Do you really want me dead? Do really want to hurt me (or rather for me to hurt myself)?
This phrase is never appropriate but it’s really unsound advice to give to the mentally ill person expressing suicidal thoughts. Now I’m not saying you’ll always be aware of everyone’s emotional state but I’ve sent suicide emails (yes it’s weird I know) and have gotten not only tepid responses but angry replies as well. The lack of empathy was quite upsetting though in hindsight not surprising.
I assume if one were to tell people you had cancer that the replies would be more supportive and empathetic. But the famous phrase “people fear what they don’t understand” can be reworked as “people don’t give a damn about what they don’t understand”. For instance do you ever notice that celebrities always get involved in charities for an illness only once they have the disease themselves or if their child has it? It makes sense because the unknown thus becomes personal and nothing is a better catalyst for acceptance and understanding than personal experience. It’s a major flaw of humankind (that may have worsened in the modern digital age).
What disappoints me is our collective inability to practice cognitive-transference which means taking an experience in one context to better understand an experience in another situation. I may not have personally experienced genocide but I have experienced the violent death of a loved one. That personal micro-experience of mine should allow me to be compassionate and sympathetic to say the macro-experience of genocide in Darfur.
Language is very important and it is irresponsible to use phrases that can trigger traumatic memories or responses in a person. So even when one doesn’t feel the need to display compassion I believe one should find the universal connective thread of personal experience to be more tasteful in how we react to others. The age-old adage of treating others the way you want to be treated rings true even in this age of cynicism and new media inspired bullying. We often hide behind our computer screens, message boards and text messages to be downright mean to one another which than spills over to our face to face interactions.
We must be proactive in protecting our emotional selves especially generation Z or is it post-Z? The amount of children killing themselves due to social media bullying (aka cyber-bullying) is on the rise. And notions of kindness and general politeness have gone to shit because in the age of Facebook and Twitter everyone’s “honest” opinion matters even if it’s unsolicited. Seventy percent of human communication is based around body language. How can we adequately communicate with one another when we have the barriers of distance, the lack of hearing each other’s voices and seeing each other’s eyes etc.?
Technology is at best meant to enhance our social and emotional connections and at worst to supplement or reestablish connections that were once weak or lost. So don’t use your clever screen-name or the ease of de-friending or blocking someone on Facebook and Twitter to be an asshole or jerk. Remember or relearn what is like to be a genuine person in the real world. Now stop playing SIMS 3 and Farmville and show some love to your fellow human beings!
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thank you so much for reading, sharing and commenting!