Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Art of Shutting Up

We live in a society of platforms.  Everyone has a platform on which they may stand to shout their absurd, ridiculous, hateful, strange, extremist -- and occasionally valid beliefs.  We are expected to have an opinion about everything.  There are countless forms of social media from which you may shout your opinions, Facebook, Twitter, the nearly-extinct Myspace, countless blogging sites, and the tried and true (yet nearly ancient) email.
This creates so many issues, it's hard to know where to begin.  I suppose first and foremost, this boundless amount of space to share opinions creates an open, nondiscriminatory opportunity for anyone and everyone to shout anything and everything from the virtual rooftops.  The problem with this is that many people tend to believe everything (and I do mean everything) they read, and are simply unwilling to seek the truth.  It's important to remember that nearly everyone has a computer -- which means everyone has the ability to draft and send an email (there hasn't been a fact-check app created yet, as far as I know).  For example, I recently received an email from an elderly family member regarding Obama and his many plots to bring down the country, starting with eliminating the American flag from the interior of the White House and adorning windows with draperies laden with Arabic symbols.  Really?  First of all, the man is a Protestant and an American (thanks Donald Trump).  Secondly, if he really did want to bring this country down, I tend to doubt he would start with Interior Design.  I'm not saying that I think he is the best president this country has ever had, but I think if people are going to make up lies, they should at least quit being lazy about it.
Obviously, I now delete (usually before reading) most every email I receive that is politically charged or has more than one capital 'X' in a row in the subject line.  If I want to read about politics and current events, I will go to MSN, and I don't want to look at pictures naked people (I don't even like looking at myself naked).
Facebook and Twitter are also huge when it comes to sharing opinions.  I don't do the whole Twitter thing, mostly because I don't have time outside of my busy Facebook schedule.  But I see a mass amount of startlingly brutal status updates every time I look at my news feed.  I volunteer my time with some young people in the area, as a result, many of my 'friends' are students, so you can only imagine the amount of histrionics I am privileged to read.  But, if you think about it, isn't this what Facebook encourages?  Say you are upset about something, you haven't quite mastered the art of shutting up yet, especially when you can hide behind a screen and a keyboard, you log in to your Facebook account, and the first thing you see is a white box containing the light grey words "What's on your mind?".  For some people, that means hitting the Caps Lock button and letting the drama fly.  What has made this phenomenon even greater is the invention of smart phones, giving people the ability to air dirty laundry without even having to waste time thinking about it first.

Blogs are quite similar, minus the 140 character restriction.  I imagine that blogs were originally created to give a platform to aspiring authors and talented writers (a-la-Carrie Bradshaw, maybe?).  But, like everything else, everyone is allowed to join.  I follow several blogs dedicated to crafting and tutorials for crafts that I want to make but probably never will; others share recipes that I drool over, but never make it onto my dining room table.  My favorites blogs are those authored by my friends who write about their lives and experiences as wives, moms and health-seekers.  Several I've come across are simply 'grown-up' mean girls trying to tell off the world.  Some people just never learn that air time is not deserved by every thought that crosses their angry (and seemingly jealous, attention-seeking) minds.
I suppose what I have learned from all of these interactions via social media, email, and blogging (besides that my son's nap time could be put to much better use), is that everyone has a very different opinion on virtually everything.  Background, social/marital status, self-esteem, and age (among many other circumstances) all seem to play a role in how hateful or kind a person is in presenting said opinion (depending, of course, on the subject at hand).  I have also learned that some people simply don't care (or, at the very least, pretend not to care) who they hurt with their words.  As a result of this, I have done some 'house cleaning' by reducing my 720 Facebook friends, down to 603 (this felt quite cleansing, by the way).  I have also ceased to follow some negativity-ridden blogs I used to read religiously.  I prefer to be surrounded by encouraging words of kindness, and to keep tabs on people who are my actual friends (you know, the ones who you would expect to see at your wedding or funeral).  I am not naive - or conceded - enough to believe that everyone will love and agree with every word I write (what a crazy world that would be to have millions just like me).  But the thing is, I have opinions, and I love to write (I especially enjoy encouraging and enlightening others), so this is the platform of my choosing.  I think it's okay to share your opinions, but I also think that, more often than you'd think, it's important to have mastered the art of shutting up.
Be kind and encouraging.  Love others.  And thank you for keeping me In Good Company.

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