Social Media Alert... There are people on the Internet, and they receive the messages that you send! They are real people, not bots, who read what you write. And they often have feelings, hurts, loves and touchy spots in their life.
I think of this phenomenon as social media madness. People so blinded by their knowledge, strong opinions and sometimes hateful thoughts on a particular subject that they succumb to a temporary madness and forget to think before they send a tweet, post or blog out onto a social media site. In their temporary madness, they forget that the internet is simply made up of other people all around the world, people who are just like them. And in their blinded state, they say things that they would absolutely NEVER say to any living and breathing person who was standing in front of them.
Think of the vitriol that conservatives may spew about President Obama on Twitter. The hatred that liberals often express in online forums or blogs for Rush Limbaugh. Think of the anger that prolifers can be prone to express on Facebook about women getting abortions or doctors performing them. The hatred and anger toward everything Penn State on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere after the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal broke. The putrid anger of the LGBT supporting crowd for those that don't support same sex marriage.
It's everywhere and it's from everyone on every side. I haven't found a touchy subject that doesn't bring out all the trolls who try and tear dissenters to shreds. And sometimes it's not even trolls who are intentionally trying to tear people apart. It can be your average soccer mom or doting dad who disagrees and feels the need to express their opinion, but without a second thought or a loving manner, they throw their sometimes heated words into the fray. The careless and hateful words caused by social media madness often inflict very real and deep wounds on the real people who surf the internet.
The trouble with many of these thoughtless words is that they often come from someone who doesn't have to answer for what they said. If you say something nasty in front of your old school grandma, she may just cuff you upside the head. But there is anonymity on the web, a comfortable anonymity that people often hide behind and use, to say more than they should say or would ever say at a real life social setting, like a dinner party. These strong and sometimes hateful thoughts and opinions are just thrown out into cyber space, without a second thought as to how they are affecting people.
Maybe you have been on the receiving end of some social media madness. I have been. Some by email. Some by Twitter. Some by Facebook. It's madness. And it hurts.
And sometimes I have been tempted to react with harsh words on the internet, but being hurt by social media madness has often helped me not to press send, publish, or tweet. I think of the verse about throwing pearls before swine. In these cases where I am tempted to interject, is there a discussion going on, one that is worth engaging in? Is anyone listening to what I have to say, and am I listening to them? If there is no discussion and no one is listening, then to say much of anything is throwing pearls before swine. Pearls that will be trampled. I like to try to be a peacemaker or a voice of reason, but often it's just not worth it in social media "discussions". I back away, observe the social media madness and lament the current code of conduct on social media.
Are you quick to react to online controversy? Do you tweet, post and blog whatever you think without any kind of filter? Be honest. Have you succumbed to social media madness with someone? If you have been affected by social media madness, maybe it's time to make amends. If it's a friend who has been hurt, reach out in kindness and love and let them know you are sorry. If it's a stranger, talk to God about it. If you have been on the receiving end, maybe it's time to find a way to confront the friend or family that hurt you with their careless words. It's never too late to make amends.
And it's never too late to think twice about posting careless, inflammatory or thoughtless words. It is always wise to ask yourself a few quick questions before you post or tweet: Would I say this to my mother? Would I say this to my child? Is this helpful? Is it kind? Is it said in love? If the answer is no to any of these, you may just be affected by social media madness and it's time to stop and slowly back away from the computer or phone...
You'll be glad you did.