There is a lot of hate and resentment in our country. Much of it is centered around politics. The dividing line in the past few years is President Trump. For the record, I fall on the side of not a fan. I admit it I am one of the guys on Twitter who tweets insults and generally give the MAGA guys a hard time. My daughter has called me a troll, she is on the same political plane as I am but probably would like me to clean up my Twitter act. She is right, there is too much animosity in this world already, I do not need to add to it.
Old habits die hard. Last week I encountered a guy who was a supporter, I took him to task for what I felt to be the err in his opposing train of thought. We went back and forth, both landed a couple of rhetorical blows. It was a behavior that I would not have conducted in person. The concealment in engagement that the digital age affords is near complete and therefore emboldening. After exchanging barbs several times the conflict lost steam and fizzled out.
Those on-line faceoffs don’t add anything to our lives. They are exercises in frustration. I let off a little steam in the direction of a stranger and moved on, pointless. Why did I feel the need to react? It got me thinking about who this guy was. I went to his home page. Maybe I was looking for fodder for another salvo. What I found there changed my point of view.
There were a couple of older posts that told a story about his wife. It seems that she and her sister for unexplained reasons were separated as children and had no knowledge of each other. Through an online database they became aware of and found each other. Included in the posts were pictures of a happy reunion. It appeared, two newly found sisters and their husbands were on the way to a happy new chapter in their lives. I hope so.
Having seen all of this, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. This guy was now human but I was still a troll. I went to sleep on it but it struck me again the next morning. I needed to take action. I got back on Twitter and sent him a brief message that went something like this. “We had a back and forth last night, I checked out your homepage and saw a couple of tweets about your wife her sister, nice story.” I meant it and I felt better. Later I received a reply “thanks for the private message. I see that you are a veteran, thanks for your service.” Two guys, who were willing to disarm found a bit of respect despite opposing political views, imagine that? It was not an acceptance of politics but humanity.
We are in an age when social media has become a major part of the town square. From the highest echelons of government to the regular joe. Many of us use it and misuse it. We can bang out an offensive tweet while waiting for our half dark, half regular, leave room for cream, grande. It is so easy and addicting. It is also alienating us. We are getting no leadership and the division is widening.
There are far more organized and sinister forces on the internet than a couple of guys going at each other. Both domestic and foreign interests are using sophisticated algorithmic methods to sway our thought. They pose a serious threat that we need to be cognitive of. That being said we still need to keep our little corner of the internet clean.
Change begins with the individual, from you and me, and that random guy on Twitter. We can not expect anyone to change if we are not willing ourselves. Replace a zinger with a kind word, better yet read a book instead. I think you will feel better.