I remember one night a few years ago when I was laying in bed ranting and raving about all the nonsense I’d read on social media earlier that day. This was something that was starting to become a regular occurrence around our house.
My wife, in a way that if you know her you can actually hear her saying it, very matter-of-factly asked me, “Then, Jeff, why do you keep looking at that stuff?” She’d made a great point so I decided to take an extended leave of absence from the world of social media. I think it was what I needed to do at the time, but when I started blogging in 2016, I figured it was time to give it another chance and I’ve been back on it ever since.
For the most part, my return to social media has been a pretty good thing for me. I think it’s helped me spread my message and tell my story to a greater number of people, many of whom I may have not been able to reach otherwise. However, I’ve learned that I still need to be very careful with how I use it. I have to be cautious in what I spend my time looking at because there’s a lot of on there that isn’t good for my psyche, stuff that can really start to take a toll on my mental health when it begins taking up too much of my attention and bandwidth.
Now, you may be thinking that all I’m referring to is the copious amounts of political propaganda found on social media today, and although that’s a big part of it, it’s certainly not everything. I think what really gets to me is when I see the way people talk to each other on it, especially the people with whom they disagree, even when they disagree on some small, minute detail of whatever they’re “virtually” debating. The seemingly hateful language people use when bantering with someone on the other side of the argument really disturbs me, not to mention the fact that what is being said hardly ever actually changes the mind of the other person.
I’m not sure when we started believing that we can say whatever we want, however we want, anytime we want, to whomever we want. I could be wrong but I really don’t think it began with the advent of social media, although I do believe it’s probably made it worse. I highly doubt that most of us give the same amount of thought and consideration to the words we share and the language we use when sitting in front of a screen as we would if we were face to face talking with a real, actual person.
The saying I always heard growing up was. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I’m sure you’re all very familiar with this popular phrase, too. Well, guess what? It’s a lie! I really wish it were true, but it simply isn’t. I’ve come to believe that the words we say to people are actually capable of doing just as much harm than many of the other wrongful actions we might do.
I believe that we all need to relearn what we’ve been taught about “sticks and stones” and how words don’t “hurt” us. We’ve been taught a false narrative. It’s completely fictional. And now that we live in a world where social media provides so much of our conversational space. we must apply what we now know is true about the words we speak to the ones we type.
Our words truly have power, every single one of them, whatever we’re saying and however we’re saying it. Our words have an effect on the people to whom we are talking, and if we’re not careful, they can end up causing a lot of damage. However, we need to remember our words can just as easily do the opposite. They can also encourage. They can lift someone up. They can build up. They can bring hope. They can change someone’s life for the better.
Let’s all start using our words, the ones we speak from our mouths as well the ones we type on our keyboards, to do the latter!