Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Social Media

I have a new addiction.  The television series Bones.  I am slowly catching up on the entire series through Netflix.  Yes, I enjoy trying to solve the murder along with the cast and expanding my limited knowledge but what really fascinates me are the main characters themselves.  The incredible differences between them all and how they learn from each other while retaining their unique characteristics that make them all so interesting.  I wish I saw more of this in real life.  For a while now I have been observing some posts, comments and sometimes attacks between some of my facebook friends and they disturb me.

Because my father was in the Air Force I was blessed with the opportunity to live in a foreign country and multiple states.  Even when he retired it was in an area where a lot of my peers were also children of career military and therefore well traveled.  Then I met and married a man from another country. Through all of these experiences I have been blessed with meeting and becoming friends with men and women from all over the world.  They are of different races, religions and cultures and values but they are all basically the same.  Good people wanting to live their lives with dignity and leaving their families and world a little better because they made a difference.  They have all taught me something about themselves, their cultures, religions or why they do not subscribe to religion.  They have expanded my mind and helped me develop a world view.

Between my diverse friends and a love of reading I understand that anyone is capable of great good and great evil, brilliance and stupidity, generosity and selfishness.  And it is possible to have this multiplicity converge in a single person and even in a single sentence.  That sentence aspect is what is bothering me lately.  I have noticed people posting quotes on facebook and then using those quotes to support their opinions about a topic or belief or as an opportunity to ridicule something or someone they do not agree with at all.  Usually these are political or religious in nature.  Naturally this causes great debate and animosity and sometimes hurt feelings and harsh words.  I find it all very sad.

The reality is any famous person or book can be quoted out of context.  History is rife with quotations taken out of context or twisted to serve a person, organization or country's agenda.  All to often this was the start of a war, massacre or an excuse to enslave or subjugate another population.  The fact that we have not learned from this behavior speaks volumes about the human race in general.  In order for us to learn from each other and have true rational discussions, we as humans must learn how to listen with an open mind.  That does not mean attack with quotes or facts until we force our peer into seeing the world as we do.  We have to understand that people will disagree with us even after our "case" has been presented.  Explaining my religious faith to someone from a different faith or no faith will probably not "convert" them.  What it will do is help them understand some of the motivations behind my actions.  Learning the cultural norms of another person does not mean I have to adopt those norms myself.  Instead it teaches me how not to offend a person of that culture and therefore allowing us to develop a relationship of respect.  Attacking another person's belief system with facts and figures will not change their beliefs.  It will create a wall of resentment and distrust.  It will shut down communication.  That is the antithesis of a social network or social media.  Being social requires communication.  Communication requires respectful and open discourse.

We all need to learn from each other while maintaining our unique characteristics and "quirks" that make us so interesting to others.  The next time you post, like or share something on your favorite social media take a moment to think.  Is this really how you want others to view you?  Are you being funny or are you just being offensive on purpose?  Are you just expressing a momentary thought, celebration or frustration or are you attacking another person to "prove a point"?  Are you really being social or are you just pushing your beliefs for your own benefit?  Will we develop a social relationship where we can disagree but still like each other or are we creaitng more resentment and discontentment?  What is your reason for being on that social media and what are you hoping to achieve?  I hope we can all learn to be kinder to each other and social media is an excellent place to begin.

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