Hello and welcome to this week's Thursday Thoughts. Today I'm rambling away at one my biggest internet pet peeves, which is folks brandishing their, "This is my opinion" sword, coming out swinging without care of the carnage they leave behind, simply because they can. Now before someone jumps behind the podium and starts reciting the Constitution at me word for word, yes, folks do have a right to say whatever they fancy. That's one of the things that makes social media so great. That's not my peeve, and this isn't a political debate. This is about plain ole human decency and the serious lack thereof online these days.
Let's not kid ourselves. There have been jerks for as long as there have been people on this planet. The difference now? Before the internet, I didn't have the opinion of everyone, their mother, and their dog shoved into my face wherever I clicked. My peeve isn't folks giving their two cents, it's the people who use their words vilely and violently toward another human being and think there's nothing wrong with that behavior because, after all, they're entitled to their opinion. Yes, we have the right to speak our minds, but when did they put in that sub-clause saying you should use said freedom to be a complete tool?
I grew up in a culture where everyone says what's on their mind no matter what it is. There's no filter between the brain and mouth. Most of the time, there's no malicious intentions, and in fact, it's often because they care. I've faced it all my life, and here's what I've concluded after my short 34 years on this earth:
This idea of, "I think, therefore I must be heard", "I have a right to give my opinion", does not give folks the green light to be complete douchebunnies and then expect a pat on the back for it. I'm not talking about an opinion on the latest Lady Gaga video outrage, or the "I really liked this book" or "I didn't like this book at all", I'm talking about opinions that belittle, set out to destroy a person's sense of self-worth, or self-esteem. I'm talking about people who find it amusing to tear people apart with their words, and the mindless drones who want to get in on that "Look at me!" action because they want to be one of the cool kids.
I'm not saying everyone has to hold hands around the campfire and compliment each other, but there's a difference between, "I thought that movie was a load of crap" to "I think that director is a worthless piece of shit who should die." We both know there's worse out there. My point is, the movie is not a person, the director is. Do I know him personally? No. Is he a jerk in real life? Who the hell knows. Does that mean I'm going to wish death upon him? Absolutely not. Because he's out in the spotlight, does that mean he has to take the bullshit thrust upon him by a bunch of adults who never outgrew high school? No.
I taught myself not to behave like those I grew up around, to think before speaking, because I didn't want to make others feel the way they've made me feel, regardless of their intentions. If I feel what I have to say might hurt someone, I'll make sure there's a damn good reason for it. I'll make sure there's a need for what I have to say to them. Having the freedom to open my gob and spew words all over someone does not negate me of responsibility. It isn't what you say it's how you say it.
I respect people who have the gall to say what's on their mind, but that respect is for folks capable of reasonable, intelligent discussions, who can talk about the topic at hand without resorting to malicious name-calling or trolling. Who don't attack their opponent or cyber bully. Some of the comments and discussions I've seen since I've become published have left me truly stunned, not to mention disgusted. To me, it does matter who's on the other side of that screen. Some folks enjoy causing chaos and there's nothing we can do about that, but you know what, I believe in a little something called Karma, and those who are cyber bullies, if they're not called out on their behavior, eventually Karma will catch up with them. Here's a thought, you don't have to be an asshole.
For me, social media gives me the ability to connect with friends and meet new folks I would never have had the chance to connect with otherwise, and I'll continue to use it in that capacity. I've been lucky that I have yet to be pushed into the deep end of someone's petty shit storm, and I'll avoid it when I can because there are never any winners, and aside the bullying, folks then decide to take it to the next level and get vindictive. Threatening someone where they live, their family, their job, because they don't agree with you, or stood up to your petty bullshit, is not okay, not to mention it's probably time for you to take a step back and take a good look at your behavior. It's beyond ridiculous. Some of us had enough of high school back when we were there, I sure as hell won't be returning now that I'm an adult.
Conclusion: Yes, folks have a right to their opinion. Yes, you can choose to use that right to be an asshat. Yes, you will be regarded as an asshat by folks who couldn't give three craps about being part of your little entourage. Or you can use that right to be constructive, enlightened, intelligent, insightful, interesting. You can use that right to make real friends, to engage, and maybe bring about something good. You can make someone smile, make them feel good, make them think things differently, you can be part of the solution or part of the problem, you can be a decent human being and really make a difference. I know I have no say over what folks do or say, but I do have a say in my own behavior, and I choose not to be an asshat.