I’ve recently called out Social Media and News outlets for the proliferation of online shaming to convey a message to it’s readers and consumers. I ask – no, I implore – anyone who reads this to evaluate the way in which you convey what’s important to you online in the same manner you would in person.
A New Mind Experiment
A couple days ago I asked folks to do a mind experiment. What would you want to happen to people who vehemently, and permanently, disagree with your position on a topic that is crucially important to you. It’s worth trying.
Today, I’ll ask you to do a new mind experiment. Ask yourself how you feel when those same people show you valid proof of your error. Would you be more or less willing to hear it if they were empathetic to your position?
A Gallery of Anger
I’m guessing everyone is good and offended by now. I’m fairly sure that at least one of those photos has you angry. Are you going to change your mind now? No? I figured not.
Writing is Hard.
A long time ago I wrote about the difference between written language and personal communication. The best writers can convey human emotion and intent. Unfortunately, most of us are not the best writers.
That’s perfectly OK. I’m not the best software engineer. Even when I was at my fittest, there are far fitter CrossFit athletes than me. I can try to do things, but approach them with a sense of humility that helps me get better.
I see a tendency to write words the same way we speak them. This isn’t the best idea. Spoken words in physical proximity have unspoken language associated with them. That unspoken language is lost on paper (or web, whatever).
Without that unspoken language, you’re leaving the reader to interpret what your words say. People are in an infinite amount of moods when they read what you have to say. Unless you’re very specific there’s a good chance people will interpret you differently than you intend.
A Passive Aggressive Tone Betrays You
While there’s a lot of blatant online shaming that we see on a daily basis, the majority of it isn’t so direct. This isn’t limited to writing. I see people do this to each other all of the time. I too struggle with it. I don’t know how this became part of our culture. However, I know it needs to end.
Consider the following that a good friend of mine shared:
If you’re a vocal opponent of the President you probably feel good reading that. Alternatively, if you support the President, you’re probably at least a little angry and defensive reading it.
If my friend really wants to change how things are going in Florida he should not denigrate a majority of it’s voters. Being effective in changing hearts and minds does not begin with belittling the leaders people want to believe in.
Challenging a position is fair. Sarcasm in written form will fail every time. The only thing it does is harden people in their differing opinions.
Online Shaming Never Works
And that brings us to the conclusion. Those negative words might feel good in the short term. You may feel heard when you share those things. The effect of that negativity will never accomplish the goals you seek.
There are a lot of examples of entrenchment into camps that do not compromise with each other. Violence and death is the ultimate outcome of those circumstances. A speech professor I had in college taught me something I’ll never forget: “Violence is the answer when we no longer can communicate what we feel”.