Collective anxiety. Global frenzy. Toxic banter. I am deeply disturbed and rattled by what I read and hear. Have angry and heated exchanges always existed? Of course. Before I continue, I want to be clear that my intention is not to judge nor to censor anyone. As a former journalist, I am clearly a passionate proponent of free speech. And as a writer, editor, and speech therapist, I encourage and embrace all forms of communication!
What I am worried about is the negativity that is spreading like mold spores across all types of media. I no longer watch the news because I personally find objective reporting rare. There are broadcast journalists who thankfully still report stories ethically and accurately. I am blessed to know some of them, and they are truly a gift. But I’ve noticed so many segments are sensationalized. I learned in journalism school, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It is time to stop the bleeding.
However, social media is what I want to discuss today. I could focus on the incessant narcissism or phony portrayals of unattainable perfection. And my purpose for utilizing social media is to spread kindness, connect with others, and join the world of technologic communication.
But in recent years, I feel a malignant mass that is growing rapidly. One post feeds off of another. I literally feel emotionally and physically ill after exposure to the vile language people are using. The energy feels dark, ominous, and often downright disrespectful.
It is hateful. It is hurtful. It is horrific. And it seems to be worsening. Let’s think about the hurricanes in Florida; many of us have been affected in direct or indirect ways. And what about the devastating, tragic school shootings; there was yet another one this week! I am immensely grateful to those who have donated funds, volunteered, and/or posted information on various sites about how we can help each other. But the rancorous diatribes about who isn’t doing what are sickening.
Then there are the rants about politicians/leaders regarding their action or inaction. To be honest? I often agree with many of the sentiments expressed. I am speaking of HOW people are stating their opinions. What was once — and for me still is — a healthy conversation over coffee has become an ugly, murky sludge of mudslinging. But what would a post like that do to help HEAL all of those affected? Nothing. How are hyped, hysterical messages productive and connective?
Just this week I spoke with a dear friend about my feelings on this subject. She encouraged me to write this post. A few years ago, I was at the kids’ orthodontist office. Again I found myself immersed in a passionate conversation with a woman I barely knew. She said, “I feel exactly the same way as you. My and I husband are taking more and more breaks from Facebook and other sites. It’s making us sick.”
We are the UNITED States of America. Yet I sense a growing gap, a deeper divide amongst our communities and throughout our country. Each of us certainly has the right to form and express opinions. But I feel so many people have become incredibly self serving.
So what is the answer? I truly do not know. I wish I had a resolution or a cure for the toxic communication. I implore each of you to consider the contagious effect of words and actions. I wish there were a vaccine to protect us from the current climate. But there is not.
I recognize that I am an old-fashioned gal. And I won’t apologize for it. I am not discouraging dissent or debate. On the contrary, I sincerely hope you consider starting personal dialogues with those you love.
What I do know is I will continue to spread kindness, love, and truth. I will continue to teach this to my children. I will as always meet friends and family in person to discuss sensitive issues rather than insult them or act cowardly on social media.
And I hope you will join me on this journey of healing. Together we are stronger. Let’s choose respect, compassion, and kind communication.
*Note: I revised this blog to modify and update it. This post was originally published in 2017.