At a recent conference, I was having a discussion with other social media leaders about an unhealthy climate growing on social media. It's not so much about the general political divisiveness, which is obvious, but about the stampedes of rage that charge whenever a controversial issue arises.
I utilized the term stampede because that's what we see. We no longer pause to research the issue, wait for facts, or even analyze the context of the situation. There is no logical reaction, only an emotional one. I can't help but imagine the modern day social media platform as the Colosseum with screams from the crowd with thumbs down. Each wishing the target of their rage be torn apart and destroyed.
Jumping into the social stampede is easy since we don't physically know the person, or the people behind the brand, or have respect for the government officials voted into office by our neighbors. Currently, there's no repairing the damage done by the herd… regardless of whether or not the person was deserving of it.
Someone (I wish I could remember who) recommended that I read So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson. I purchased the book that moment and had it waiting for me upon my return from the trip. The author goes through a dozen or stories about people that were publicly shamed, in and out of social media, and the lasting results. The aftermath of shaming is pretty bleak, with people hiding for years and even a few that simply ended their lives.
We Are No Better
What if the world knew the worst about you? What was the worst thing you ever said to your child? What was the most terrible thought you had about your spouse? What was the most off-color joke you ever laughed at or told?
Like me, you're probably thankful the herd would never get visibility into those things about you. Humans are all flawed, and many of us live with regret and contrition for the acts that we've done to others. The difference is that not all of us have faced a public shaming of the terrible things that we've done. Thank goodness.
If we were exposed, we'd beg for forgiveness and show people how we've made amends with our lives. The problem is that the herd is long gone when we jump to the microphone. It's too late, our lives have been trampled. And trampled by people no more or less flawed than we are.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
If we're going to keep going down this road, we're going to have to become better human beings. We're going to have to seek to forgive one another as quickly as we seek to destroy one another. People aren't binary, and we shouldn't be judged as either good or bad. There are good people who make mistakes. There are bad people who turn their lives around and become amazing people. We need to learn to quantify the inherent good in people.
The alternative is a terrible world where stampedes are rampant and we all wind up hiding, lying, or beaten. A world where we don't dare speak our mind, discuss controversial incidents, or reveal our beliefs. I don't want my children to live in a world like this.
Thanks to Jon Ronson for sharing this important book.
Disclosure: I'm utilizing my Amazon affiliate link in this post.