Confession: I read Facebook comments. You know those viral posts that go around Facebook and have about a million different comments on them from random people? I read them. It’s one of my worst habits.
Everyone always says, “Never read the comments!” And for good reason. About 80-90% of the time when I do read the comments, they do nothing but annoy, anger or upset me. Yet for some reason—God only knows why—I still click “See More” and continue to read them. Maybe it’s because I have an addiction, who knows.
I’m still trying to break the habit. Every time I watch a video of a cat playing the piano, then read through the comments for some unknown reason, I have a sudden moment of clarification and think, “Pamela, what are you doing?! There are so many other things you can do with your time right now!” Then I quickly close out and go run a marathon or something.
In all seriousness though, through my vast experience of reading the comments, one thing has become unequivocally clear: we have taken being nice and completely thrown it out the window.
Do you remember when you were little and would say something mean to a sibling, your parent would pull you aside and whisper, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I would usually get a strong pointer finger in the face and maybe a quick pat on the bum along with this little pep talk. We all heard the rule as children, yet for some reason we grow up into adults and have a sudden urge to stomp all over it.
Not only do we say something when it’s not nice, we feel compelled to say it, like we’re doing the recipient a favor by giving them our opinion. They simply must know how we feel about whatever they shared. And if we’re rude or mean or hurtful, then all of a sudden it’s their fault because they posted something on the Internet for everyone to see. They shared it, so obviously they deserve to be judged and criticized in every way possible, right? After all, it’s social media. We’re only “being honest.” That’s what we do.
And therein lies the problem. We assume that because it’s on social media, we have the absolute right to share our opinion, no matter how cruel it is. While in the meantime, the majority of us would never dare to say something so hurtful to a fellow human being in person.
I call this phenomenon “social media muscles.” Similar to “beer goggles,” social media muscles occur when Internet users feel a sudden wave of courage to share their unnecessary thoughts and opinions because a screen separates them from the victim of their attack. They can’t actually see the person or thing they’re being mean to, therefore it doesn’t exist. They feel stronger and more assured in their “muscles” because they don’t actually experience any of the hurt on the other end of the screen. Hence, social media muscles.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me here. I don’t mean to say that people being mean is a new cultural occurrence. Let’s not blame this one on the millennials, shall we? Humans have been cruel to each other since the beginning of forever. Look at racism, sexism, politics and war. Heck, even consider the story of Cane and Able. It only took a single generation for human beings to murder someone. Needless to say, we have never had any problems being mean to each other, whether through our words or actions.
However, the difference nowadays is the sheer quantity of viciousness we can put out into the world. Now with technology—social media in particular—we have the ability to be as ruthless as possible to one another. We can completely tear down another human being, all from the comfort of our own home, without even having to look them in the eye. Talk about accessibility.
I love social media. I think it is one of the absolute greatest tools of our generation. It connects individuals across the world, across cultures and across different ideologies in a way that has never been accomplished before in human history.
But—and I’m going to quote my good friend Spiderman’s Uncle Ben here—with great power comes great responsibility.
Social media is a gift. It’s a tool. It’s a resource. It should not be used as some sort of free-for-all, say-whatever-you-want-and-disregard-everyone-else machine. I mean seriously, people, we’re all dealing with enough struggles of our own, we don’t need to create more by being mean to each other.
I’m a firm believer that you can only put out into the world what you have inside of you. You can only send out positivity into the world if you have positivity inside of you. Vice versa, if people continue to put negativity out into the world—I’m looking at you Facebook commenters—then that means they have negativity inside of them. They’re only sharing what they can because it’s all they have inside of them.
However, I’m also a firm believer that you can fill yourself up from the inside out. If you feel negative, then by speaking positivity into others, you will also fill yourself up with positivity. By being kind to others, you will fill yourself with that same joy, love and kindness. And when we continue to fill ourselves with positivity, we can’t help but let it seep out into the world.
One of the most profound pieces of guidance I’ve ever heard was at a women’s conference a month or so ago. The speaker—who happens to be a close mentor of mine—said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, try harder.”
I was shook. I had never thought of it that way. I always figured that as long as I kept my mouth shut when I thought of a mean comment, I was fine. I wasn’t hurting anybody. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was hurting myself by allowing that negativity to breed and fester in my heart. And, though they weren’t hearing it, I was hurting the other person, too.
However, by digging deeper, trying harder and simply being nice to each other, we can create a community of positivity, love and affirmation. This community builds each other up and supports one another, fostering a better world for all of us to enjoy together. This doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on everything. There will still be moments when we see something on social media and think it’s stupid, weird or downright wrong. But, by filling ourselves up with positivity, we can try harder to think of something nice to say. Lord knows we could all use a little more positivity in our lives.
So let’s take a page from the ol’ childhood rule book, shall we? Let’s put our social media muscles away and try harder when we don’t have anything nice to say. Then for once maybe we can all enjoy reading the Facebook comments.