Civility (Google it)

When I think about “social media”, the word “social” stands out – defined as “relating to society”, with synonyms including “communal”, “collective”, “group”, and “civil”. Lately, there seems to be a vast amount of social media activity which is anything but civil.

In fact, it reminds me of a drunken medieval banquet where someone has one too many mugs of mead, throws a hunk of dry bread, and things quickly descend into a vicious, wanton brawl.  I’m not talking about online trolls now.  I’m mean reckless interactions, and the sense of self-righteousness that we can “speak” to people on social media however we like, with no knowledge of who they are, and no sense of respect or common courtesy.

Many exchanges of this medieval brawl-type nature occur where differences of opinion on controversial topics emerge.  Often, for a multitude of reasons, people feel impassioned, which leads to strongly worded responses.  What they seem to disregard, is that the person they are responding to may feel equally as impassioned, too.  The person they are interacting with may also have experience or knowledge of the topic which equals or surpasses their own.

Much of this incivility could be avoided on social media by people simply adhering to these two basic tenets:

  1. Take time to see whom you are ‘speaking’ with
  2. Speak with them as if they were in front of you

Many of those I follow are either survivors of abuse, those working with survivors, or both.  They deserve empathy.  Last week, I saw someone be challenged on Twitter about her tweet concerning the definition of a “cult”.  As it turns out, she has actually written a whole book on the topic, here is a quote: “There is only one definition of a cult. The word derives from early Latin and means simply, “to worship”. ”  – Vennie Kocsis, author of CULT CHILD.   Vennie is clearly knowledgeable about the topic of cults. (Quote used with kind permission from @VennieKocsis.)

Today, I have seen a recently-elected politician on Twitter call another man a “dick”.  I have seen a lot of heated political discussions on TV but never seen a politician call anyone that to their face before, indeed I can’t imagine it would be tolerated.  Over on Facebook, a friend has twice in the past week felt obliged to apologise and delete amusing, chatty threads on her page, HER own page – because people were turning them into arguments about feminism and gender.  Taking a second to scroll up and read her original post at the top of the thread would have alerted any potential interactor that her intent was lighthearted and fun, with no ill-harm meant.  And people who are friends with her on Facebook should know where she stands on feminism and gender, anyway.

It sometimes seems people forget that social media is a fishbowl….a public arena…..this means everyone can see you! Perhaps think about that for a minute.  I’ve come home before to my husband asking me an out-of-the-blue question about something which happened while I was out, which I haven’t yet told him about.  He enjoys the taken aback, “are-you-psychic?” look on my face for a moment before commenting, dryly “I saw your Tweet.”

We can talk about anything, we can disagree about anything, and we can even fiercely disagree.  It’s good to feel strong emotions.  To have a safe platform for debate is utterly essential.  Social media is great for this, but it is dynamic and moves at a pace.  Even so, it is possible to own our words, be civil and take the time to see who we are interacting with before we give a potentially patronising, hurtful or offensive response.

This quote, used with kind permission from Rachel Thompson, sums it up beautifully:

(Thanks @RachelintheOC  xx)

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1 comment to Civility (Google it)

  • Thanks Judith – like you I feel certain people would not use so much violent, dismissive, judgemental communication if in the same room.
    Many links here with the Language of Safety model in Protective Behaviours especially in terms of Clarity – if people could see, listen and feel the words used then there could be a more empathic response 🙂
    Saw this on Twitter earlier today and think it’s spot on:
    Empathy is
    seeing with the eyes of another
    listening with the ears of another
    and feeling with the heart of another
    (@HealingMB)

    Some people find this harder than others 🙁