We were up north this past weekend with my family. While we were on a hike one day, my dad decided to ask Zoe the age old question,
“Hey, Zoe! If there’s a tree in the middle of the woods, and nobody is around, and it falls down, would it still make a noise?” She looked at him with her sassy look and said, “Of course it would grandpa! It fell down and it would be loud!” He replied, “But if you’re not there, then how would you ever know?”
The past few months we have kept our family life private, which has resulted in some very loving questions, and also some very disgusting accusations and comments. It’s funny what social media can do for people. It either creates this amazing community of support, friendships, and connection with people you’d otherwise never know, or it puts you center stage to become a victim of comments and threats and gossip from nameless strangers who don’t know a thing about you, have never met you before, but feel the need to dissect and talk about your life. The guts that people get behind their screens creates a heartless courage to destroy other people’s feelings with the simple click of a button. Oh, if only people had that much courage they used in a positive way in real life!
As I’ve thought about my dad’s question to Zoe, and comments that I have read not only on my social media, but social media of other girls that I follow, I have had a lot of frustration build up behind some of the things that happen online. I think the saddest part is I often want to tell myself it’s the younger crowd who are still trying to figure themselves out, but so often I see that other MOMS, and women, and business owners are the ones instigating the attacks and it makes me cringe.
My dad’s question has led me to my own,
“If you are all alone, and no one is around you, and you send something hateful and mean over the internet, does that mean that no one will hear you?”
The comments that get me the most is when followers tag their friends on my posts and talk about me like I’m this stagnant object that can be poked and tossed and will stay lifeless. The human-ness of social media interactions gets taken away sometimes, and instead is replaced with other people’s desire to hide behind their screen and let all usual social norms and rules of courtesy and kindness be forgotten in that moment.
Today, I want to answer the question for you.
If you say mean things in the comfort of your own home, and send it out into the abyss of the internet, not only do people hear you, but more strongly than that, is how people view and perceive you changes. One of my favorite quotes goes along the lines of,
who you are and what you do when you think nobody else is watching defines your character.
It is sad to me that people slowly become something that they might otherwise not be because they thing they are safe and can hide behind the internet. It creates insecurity, hate, judge-mental attitudes, intolerance, jealousy, envy, and gossip inside of people who start out pure and good and wholesome, but slowly allow themselves to be swept down this path of destruction of not only those they attack, but also of themselves. I think it happens slowly, with comments that make fun of people, and then leads to creations of false accounts just to completely attack another person anonymously. It leads to defamation of people that the perpetrator narrows their focus in on, and causes pain in areas where it should never exist.
People you follow on the internet have lives. They are living, breathing, humans with emotions and families and fears and dreams and goals and personal challenges. And when they are attacked, it says a lot more about the person behind the comments, than it does about the person being attacked.
I hope we can be better examples to our children. To lead and guide and teach them how to love and serve and help. If every person could ask themselves, “What can I do to help someone else’s life feel a little easier today?” the internet would be full of a lot more encouragement. Let’s not destroy ourselves from the inside out, and instead, let’s use our courage to combat the real evilness that is out there. We’ve been given a great tool to make our voices heard, let’s use it in a powerful and mighty way.
Because when you say something online, when you are alone, you are heard.