Conversation after the Oscars was a tad different this year. Normally, it revolves around the awards and of course, the fabulous fashion choices on display. But all that got rather overshadowed by Will Smith’s actions. Slapping the presenter, Chris Rock, for his insensitive comments, was not exactly what we were expecting!
Public opinion, as you might anticipate, is very divided. Some think it was heroic. Something along the lines of … “it’s about time someone took a stand against humiliating and disparaging remarks, even if delivered under the guise of comedy”. Others, of course, objected on the grounds that violence is hardly the best choice for a grown man.
Personally, I think this goes much deeper than a single incident at the Oscars. Just a few minutes on social media and you’re bound to walk slap bang into the verbal equivalent of a Will Smith lashing.
Now, I’m not here to condemn Mr Smith, who has subsequently apologised describing his behaviour as “unacceptable and inexcusable”. We all have times when we “lose it” and end up saying or doing things that we later regret. When emotions run strong, our capacity for reasoning and rational thinking greatly reduces … hence terms such as “blind rage”, “blow a fuse”, “go ballistic” or “see red”, to name a few.
But social media has unfortunately become the “go-to” place for taking pot shots from the cheap seats. The anonymity of a screen rather than a face appears to invoke a different set of rules. In fact, it is entirely normal to see slanderous comments just because there is a difference of opinion.
I know the pain and frustration behind these comments is real. Many have quietly endured years of misunderstanding and poor treatment at the hands of others in an unforgiving society. And now, social media has become an outlet for that emotional trauma.
But take a step back and look at what is being achieved with all this verbal venom. Hurtful comments attract a bunch of likes and cheers from the people who already agree with the viewpoint and … alienation from the ones who don’t. Where in the world is the value in that?
How do we grow in understanding and practise when we are so threatened by each other’s differences?
I know we all think we are right but … news flash … ours is not the only valid perspective.
When we “do life” with people who are different to us, we build relationship. And in this context, there is often the opportunity for difficult conversations. Conversations that tackle the thorny issues but nevertheless are mindful of the other person’s heart.
Social media platforms, on the other hand, connect us to people without necessarily having any relational foundation. And when this happens, it’s impossible to have the full picture. Words are easily misinterpreted. And flash judgements are not fair. We would never consider convicting someone in a courtroom without evidence. But that’s exactly what happens in the justice system of the social media world … every … single … day.
I am tired of seeing people who are angry and hurt because they have been badly treated … sometimes by others from their own online community.
All of us want to be heard and respected. Regardless of who we are. But the journey towards mutual respect is not paved with criticism and judgement. That pathway only serves to entrench existing beliefs and reinforce small mindedness.
Call me old school but I would love to see a return to the basics. We still teach little children to be kind and play nicely with each other. But when they start using social media (which they all will), what do they see? Adults hurling insults with little regard for the impact of their words.
Surely, somewhere between the stoicism of the past and the unrestrained expression of the present lies a happy medium? A place where differences of opinion become a catalyst for discussion and growth rather than an opportunity to inflict pain.
As social media is here to stay and continuing to grow, I believe that the fine line between our online and offline presence will become increasingly blurred. I don’t know about you but I’m hoping to live in a world where slapping people, either physically or verbally via social media, is an extremely rare occurrence rather than the norm.
There’s an old proverb which says that “the power of life and death lies in the tongue”. Our words, whether written or spoken, are tremendously powerful. What kind of world could we create if we all used them wisely?
To a wise world!
Linda Philips empowers and equips people to communicate effectively, find freedom in their relationships and experience greater emotional well-being.
As part of Autism Awareness Month, we are offering a free masterclass, "WORKING WITH NEURODIVERSITY" on the 20th April 2022 at 1pm. I'll be joined by Dr Andrea and Jon Taylor-Cummings, Relationship Educators and Co-founders of The 4 Habits. More details to follow soon.
This blog post is for educational purposes and should not be taken as medical or therapeutic advice. If you need medical or therapeutic support, please consult your medical practitioner or therapist.