When did it become cool to laugh at the misfortune of others? When did it become acceptable to demean, belittle, and attack other human beings? Eye for an eye is turning everyone blind to understanding, discourse, and compassion these days.
Much of the humanity we witness is showing itself to be quite an immature lot. The lunar, emotional, mutable nature of people is on full display.
When in agreement, an individual will often show the most cordial and loving of responses to others, even strangers. When things are going well for a person (which is a form of tentative ‘agreement’ with the universe/self/god), they are also exponentially more likely to show patience and favor towards others.
The same person will turn on those who they perceive as challenging them in some way. Whether it is a direct affront, or it is a potential debate or discourse, the challenge causes people to be more likely to see the other as enemy. These negative viewpoints and responses to others is exacerbated if they are starved for attention, love, touch, or community.
Distance may be good for lovers now and then, making the heart grow fonder. The two parties will inevitably return back to each others presence, a time when the building frustration and lack of connection will reconcile itself. That may be well and good for the romantic couple, but the same cannot be said for the relationships between other members of society.
The distance that we are currently facing is the exact opposite of what causes us to bond with, have compassion for, and understand the ‘stranger’ or ‘passing acquaintance.’ Witnessing the reaction and physical presence of another is key to us connecting deeply and viscerally. Most interactions during this unusual time in history are occurring via text, email, social media, or other electronic, impersonal formats. These forms of communication are efficient ways of sharing data, information, instructions, personal accounts of events or news. At the same time, these impersonal formats of discussion and communication are inefficient and highly inaccurate ways of conveying nuance, mood, feelings, emotion, and love. Basically, the more venusian aspects of human connection, the heart, the warmth, the lightheartedness, the caring, do not survive the transmission from the sender’s fingertips to the eyes and ears of the recipient.
Our unique and divine expression is packed into a few words on a screen, lacking all tone and context. The recipient then reads them at their leisure, perhaps even busy with many other conversations or activities. By the end of this line of transmission, very little is left of the initial heart of the matter or message. This way of communicating belies intimacy, for it is not truly sacred unless each person is intentionally making it so. Even with the best of efforts, it will still lack that quality of human presence.
Perhaps we took all of these things for granted. Not realizing the amount of information and energy we share with one another. However, it is becoming strikingly clear that relationships without face to face interaction will be lacking. In order to successfully maintain the connection, each party must be dedicated to practicing detachment, committed to establishing discourse, to be open to new ideas, and to resist the urge to make assumptions and judgements.
Why Social Media lacks so deeply…
- Public embarrassment… when something unfolds on a wall, a page, or a post, it can feel like the whole world is watching. Being called out publicly is one of the worst fears of many. This leads to an almost instinctual defensiveness. If you attack or comment on something that is open to the public eye, this is not a safe space for discussion or vulnerability. Keep that in mind. You are likely to see anything but kindness and rationale in response.
- Lack of accountability… social consequences go a long way in determining our actions. Without them, we tend to push the limits a bit further, then learn through the blowback. With social media, however, we can completely avoid all accountability for our actions. Whether it is what we say, or how we deal with it afterwards, it simply isn’t the same as if it were in person. You can probably think of an example right now… leave a comment, make a remark, then put the phone away or block the person. What happens to that undocumented energy? It doesn’t just disappear into the ether, at some point it must be rectified.
- Groupthink… also known as mob mentality. There is something quite polarizing about the social media landscape. The words are just up there and anyone can see. Many people have businesses and images to uphold, don’t wanna be seen on the wrong side of an issue. We may find ourselves choosing sides and teaming up on others. Or, we may find ourselves being teamed up on for sharing something. Whatever the case, in a normal conversation, we likely would not tag someone so quickly based on a few sentences. It is important to remember that you cannot deduce motive and philosophy from observing snippets of personal opinion. Individuals are of supreme intelligence within their own vortex. To step out of this place of power and into a world of collective agreement is very dangerous, it does not make us wiser.
- Awkward is healing… what are we all avoiding in social media interactions? Our feelings? Our love for one another? Honestly, it’s the awkwardness. Have you ever ran into an ex at the grocery store? Or been stuck in an elevator with someone who you had some karma with? These moments, while incredibly uncomfortable, are very healing. Living in NYC for a decade, I had my share of running into people with whom I had not yet worked out my feelings. It was here that I learned the power of awkwardness. Awkwardness is the space between people that is vulnerable. A shared space of vulnerability is nothing one would wake up and choose, for the most part. In the social media plane, we have the opportunity to avoid this awkwardness, thus avoiding an opportunity for healing. On facebook, twitter, or instagram, there is no silent moment between two people, just a constant text based account of what was said last and what it might mean. Awkwardness is healing.
What can we do to improve things?
- Make it more intimate… intimacy breeds fondness and sensitivity. The distance from one another and isolation we are facing can make us cold and insensitive. While we may still be social distancing, this doesn’t mean we can’t make it a little bit more intimate.
- Call them on the phone.
- Send a voice recording or video message.
- Video chat with them.
- If possible, meet in an outdoor setting.
- Make it about yourself… instead of blaming and attacking, don’t take it personal. Use your language to describe how it makes you feel. When you take this approach, it takes the pressure off of them and allows them to witness your experience. This breeds compassion and connection.
- Explore their viewpoint… if you disagree with a viewpoint, that is completely valid. However, to invalidate another person based on their viewpoint is the height of hypocrisy. Ask them how they reached their conclusions. Be authentically interested in their experience. You would be surprised what you will learn. Somewhere between your similarities and differences is the key to compassion. From that place a true discourse can occur.
- Humility… you don’t know everything. You aren’t always right. Sometimes you make mistakes, yes, it’s true. Keep this in mind. We play many roles in our lives, we can’t always be on top. Be willing to concede and compromise. Know that your life and opinion have just as much value as the life and opinion of others. When we take the responsibility for humbling ourselves, we reduce the need for the outside world to do so. Have gratitude for the people, regardless of their seeming flaws, they are magical, just like you.
Why even take these things into account? Aren’t there just some rude ass people out there? If they did this, then I have the right to do that! Why would I want to be kind to someone who has treated me unfairly?
Well, consider the future. Holding grudges only weighs you down. Anger is a fiery anchor that reduces your vitality and your joy. If we despise a fire, why add fuel to it? Momentary satisfaction is not always the best course of action.
To create something better in the future, it just requires a bit of patience and mindfulness in the now. Breathe deep and take responsibility for the world you are part of. No one else can do that for you, it is up to each of us individually to leave a place better than how we found it.