Let’s keep it civil!
By Caitlin Kelly
I bet some of you remember life before Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter.
It was a time of social interaction that was, de facto, personal. We spent time sitting with someone, or walking with them or dancing or fishing. Not sitting at a keyboard and staring into a screen.
So we’re basically talking to total strangers and trusting in their goodwill and intelligence to respond civilly and calmly.
These days, that feels like more of a gamble.
I do see a lot of good thanks to social media.
You, for example!
Knowing that people still find value here — after ten years! — is heartening indeed. I really value the conversations and insights and humor and global perspective you bring.
I enjoy Twitter and have also made new friends from it, meeting them face to face, people I really enjoyed after months of tweets-only.
But a few downsides are increasingly diminishing my pleasure in using social media, and competitiveness is the primary driver.
In my business, of journalism and coaching and writing non-fiction, the LOUDEST voices seem to win, There’s a tremendous amount of chest-thumping, crowing over enormous success. Frankly, even with decades of my own accomplishment, I find it intimidating and exhausting.
I also see, increasingly, a sort of competitive victimhood, with millennials and Gen X vying for the title of whose life is most miserable — and it’s all thanks to those greedy Boomers. (My generation, of course.)
There is no legitimate argument to deny the challenges these two co-horts face. There are many and they intersect: high student debt, low wages, intermittent work, climate change…
I read some of those threads on Twitter, where even the calmest and most reasonable objection or alternate point of view is blocked for being unkind and invalidating — when it’s an alternate view.
I don’t dare mention on Twitter that Boomers like me have weathered three recessions, each of which slowed our careers and damaged our incomes. Then the crash of ’08.
This “lalalalalalalalala I can’t hear you” equivalent online is a disaster.
There’s little point in “connecting” with an enormous global audience, potentially, only to whine and rage and stamp your feet insisting your life is the worst ever.
For you, it is.
I get that.
But until or unless we can cultivate modesty and empathy, compassion and a clear understanding that we each see the world through our own filters of age, race, income, education, political views, sexual preference, gender identity, cultural norms….it’s a dialogue of the deaf.