It’s easy to be discouraged
about the future of America, particularly if viewed through the lens of
Facebook and Twitter or described by television talking heads who thrive on
conflict apparently because doing so drives up ratings and online followers.
Ironically, Social media
cultivates anti-social behavior because we all like to see ourselves as aspiring
Rush Limbaughs or Rachel Maddows. Incivility
is rewarded by “likes” and “retweets.”
Reason and understanding, not so much.
Productive conversations do not
take place on social media. It’s
difficult enough to have a reasoned online disagreement with someone you know,
but the “audience factor” makes it worse because my “friends” disparage you and
encourage me and vice versa. Emboldened
by cyber-separation, we throw spiteful jabs at each other using scornful
rhetoric that most would recognize as unacceptable in polite society.
For 2019, let’s remember that
each of us has an inherent right to his or her own thoughts and to express their
opinions. Our clever comeback probably
isn’t so clever.
Proverbs reminds us, “A gentle
answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
It’s encouraging that we still
tend to behave cordially when we put down our devices and re-enter the real
world of face-to-face interaction. I am
reminded of the goodness of my fellow Americans often when I simply hold the
door open or show a small courtesy to someone at a store or on the sidewalk. When meeting face-to-face, we still try to
get along – and not only with people like ourselves.
Hundreds of miles away in cities
where many doubtless hold opinions quite opposite of my own, people still
appreciate courtesy and tend to respond in kind. A sincere smile or “thank you” from a real
person is far more valuable than a fleeting “like” from a “friend.”
We can all do better in 2019 if
we put down our devices and re-engage with real, live humans.