This is important.
Let me start by admitting this – I searched the internet and beyond for a blog post or SOMETHING that could summarize my thoughts and feelings on this situation. I searched topics such as “Cyberbullying”, “How to React to Social Media Critisicm”, and even “When People are Mean on Facebook.” I came across nothing that hit home for me; the thoughts running through my mind a mile a minute, the way I’ve been feeling (for 6 years now), the anger I’ve had to work through. Nothing and nobody put this into words. So I figured I’d take a swing at it. *DISCLAIMER* I am not a writer and have never claimed that title. This is pure thoughts being typed out as they bubble over — grammar mistakes and all.
Here we are, in 2016, with the most incredible/horrible gift to mankind — Facebook. It’s a gift, I suppose, for many reasons. People like to keep up with people. We live and breathe off of it. I know that family and friends back home enjoy seeing where I am and what I’m doing these days seeing that I don’t get back to Mayfield much anymore. I appreciate that so much.
A little back story for my Nashville and beyond friends who won’t know what’s going on (because I don’t talk about it). My mother works in local city government. She is the mayor of my hometown. With that, comes huge responsibilities and decisions. Ever since she has held this position, I have watched (on numerous occasions) as people have slandered and staked my mother into the ground based on decisions she’s made in her position. There’s a current situation going on back home right now that has rendered the most incredibly hurtful comments, posts, and opinions. “But it’s part of the job” says everybody. Yes, I know that. But I, as her daughter, never signed up. And I never signed up for the cyber beatings I experienced in high school (from teachers and mentors of all people) when she ran for mayor; the name calling, the back-lashing, the rock-casting. Because what you say about the mayor is what you say about my mother.
Now that we’re all on the same page, lets talk about the horrible side of Facebook. The side that has defined a season of life for me in many ways. The side that continues to blow me away to bits and pieces. It’s the evil, horrible, absolutely ridiculous side of Facebook (and all other sources of social media for that matter). Somewhere along the way, we as human beings decided that our opinions granted us the right to hatred, bullying, “I’m just saying”, name-calling, finger pointing, and conclusions based upon our own feelings.
I am 23 years old and DO NOT claim to know it all. On top of that, I’m a female millennial (for those of you who haven’t cast me aside yet based on all of that, thank you for hanging in). I realize that I don’t have decades of knowledge to pull from and I can’t really say, “Back when I was a teenager…” because that wasn’t too long ago. However, over the past 6 years, I have spent nights of weeping, praying, tossing, turning, and wondering all because people (some I have trusted and others I don’t even know) decided that their opinions were so incredibly regal that they deserved the honor to be placed on the World Wide Web for all to see, including me.
And you know what is the most heart-wrenching part of all of this? Grown-ups. GROWN-UPS. People with families and children. People I respect and look up to. People who post scripture one minute and slander the next. We have arrived at the conclusion where we believe our opinions grant us the right to say what we want to say about people we don’t know and things we don’t know. Because it’s our right, we can say what we want about who we want whenever we want without any regards or repercussions because it’s our right. To some extent, yes. Nobody can stop you from laying in your bed at night and typing things on your phone that you would never say in person. You are correct.
But let me tell you about the repercussions. I’ll start with me. Words are powerful. They can kill, destroy, and taunt those who’ve read them. They are bullets; deadly and out of nowhere. And cyber words of all things. They are out there. Forever. They can be screenshot and sent to people to be tucked away on their camera roll. Words carry us through specific seasons of life. Whether it’s the words of a song, the words of a friend, or the words that you speak over yourself to get out of bed each day. Words define us. They become who we are. Some of the nastiest words I’ve ever seen were plastered across a screen behind a profile picture or a cowardly screen name. You see, that’s not the only place they’ve been plastered. They’ve been plastered to my mind. I remember when people spoke words of wisdom to me. In the same, I remember the harsh words of criticism and accusations. I spent a good portion of high school running from words on a screen only to have somebody send them my way through text “to make sure I saw what they were saying about so and so”. Words are so brutal. And I remember every one of them. So here we are with the reprecussions. Yes, your opinions are free and you can say what you feel like, but let it be known…they do come with a price. That price is people; families who read the comments and hear those words directed towards a mother, father, sibling, etc. Not the “random person you don’t actually know” who you are targeting.
How about this; pretend every comment you’ve ever typed on a social media platform was not from you, but from an outsider directing it towards the person you hold dearest to your heart. Who is that for you? A child? A mother? A brother? A grandfather? Would you say those words to them? And not just on a screen, but directly to their face? If your answer is yes, then you may leave this page. I pray that the things I’ve read over the past 6 years directed towards the woman whose womb I was carried in may never grace the eyes of your children or somebody you hold dear.
Mercy will always triumph over judgement. I believe that wholeheartedly because I’ve received both earthly and heavenly mercy. I speak that out loud with every silly comment I read on any social media platform. There is mercy for us all and nobody here is perfect. But for the love of everything, your opinion never gave you the right to dehumanize, criticize, judge, or bury somebody in the ground with your words. I am not always kind with my words, but I know the heavy burden I carry of hurtful words spoken over my life. People say I have thick skin, but really I am just so incredibly calloused by things nobody should ever have to hear about their mother (*notice I say mother and not mayor*). If you’re reading this, you are somebody. Whether it’s a mother, father, daughter, son, or sibling, we are all SOMETHING. What would you do in a situation where people who truly don’t know somebody you love so dearly spoke so harshly over a place so impersonable as the Internet? Most would retaliate. I have typed and deleted more times than I can count. But I always delete because it’s not worth it. It never was. And your opinion is not worth the harm of another human being.
My generation gets a lot of flack for basically everything we do. And that’s fine. But here I am, 23 years old, calling on grown adults to guard not their tongues, but their fingers. I think that adults believe that because they’re “grown-up”, it grants them a right to disguise hatred with “but that’s just my opinion” or “I don’t know the whole story, but….” NO. A big fat no. It does not, it never did, and it never will. You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have the freedom to harm others with your carefully constructed social media posts. There will always be somebody who has to pay for your words and you may never even notice because you are too busy refreshing your feed and waiting for a like.
Words, people. They are so important. They are a direct correlation of what is overflowing from our hearts. And I write this for myself, too. I need to hear this. We have the power to destroy people with our words, but we also have the power to bring life to others. We can speak truth, grace, or sometimes maybe nothing at all. Scripture says that “Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) Can we work on our words and what we type on a screen? Are they helpful? Are they true? Are they kind? Are they necessary? How different would this world be if we held our tongue a little more and extended grace to situations that don’t really involve us? My oh my. It would be a different world. Not the one I’m currently living in.
I am definitely not wise, but I have been wounded deeply by so many of your words lately.
I pray that we can all be challenged to think before we speak and type.
It’s so important.