Someone once said if you want to see humanity at it’s worst, observe it behind the wheel of a car. Recently it’s felt like you can get a much clearer view of the darker side of humanity by lurking on social media. Threats, abuse, hate, vitriol: never mind pornography – these appear to be the easiest things to find online and are far more dangerous if you ask me.
So what do we do about this? Campaigns are great – although you could argue that we shouldn’t have to force those with responsibility to exercise it. Exposure of the hate-mongers is good but does that also allow society at large to excuse itself by pointing fingers? Ignoring the perpetrators is a good idea but that runs the risk of them thinking they “got away with it”. It’s a tricky one.
Perhaps we can learn a few lessons from Ruth here. The characteristics of Ruth are quickly evident when you read her story.
- Faithfulness – she sticks by Naomi in her time of need.
- Compassion – she has no responsibility towards Naomi but she stays
- Humility – she makes no presumption that she must be listened to and she does not speak of her “rights” (probably because she has none), she’s not into self-promotion
- Love – She shows love to those around her without exception
Having or demonstrating those traits could certainly help us as we interact online but there is another lesson we can learn from Ruth. When she gleans in the field she perseveres to find the smallest amount of grain. Could we help change the media channels we use by similarly seeking out and praising the (even small amount of) good we see? I don’t mean in a cheesy “Good news stories” way but to look for and give recognition where we see one user helping another, to praise personally (so as not to embarrass) someone we see struggling to stay calm in a sea of online abuse heading their way. Could we not stand by the victims even when there is no responsibility on our part? Could we not collectively and individually show compassion towards others instead of publicly arguing among ourselves? Could we not exercise our responsibility towards others instead of banging on about our rights?
If we did some, all or more of this could we not glean hope from the allegedly barren fields of social media and if we do, is it just possible we could claim back the image of social media as the fantastic community we know it can be?