After my younger son’s baseball tournament Saturday (which they won, and in which my baby pitched like a freaking rock star, ladies and gentlemen), I’d begun to develop a few ideas for a post about Venn diagrams–you know, the two circles placed side-by-side with a segment in the center overlapping oft used to illustrate comparisons and contrasts. The outsides of the circles are independent, unique identifiers with the centers containing the attributes shared by both sides. My sons are a study in contrast. That center segment, the overlap, would consist entirely of three things: that I carried them each in my heart always and in my body for a little over nine months, that they share a home address, and that they both take piano lessons. Saturday’s baseball tournament made clear several contrasts in my sons’ personalities, interests and physical gifts, and I may revisit this concept and fully flesh it out eventually, but something else happened to change my focus. Hate. Hate is what happened.
I hold two college degrees in human communication disorders. Six years of my young life were spent studying what can go wrong with human communication, and ways I can habilitate and support human communicators in their quest to get and make their voices heard. I can imagine nothing more painful, more infuriating than being unable to communicate what is in my heart. Sure, I have this little blog, and I can craft a coherent collection of two, three, four paragraphs every so often. Being able to talk, to write? These are gifts, but this is not to say I am gifted. You’re reading this, so you see clearly that I am NOT a gifted writer. What I mean is that being able to communicate, and for me here especially, to communicate my pains, my joys, my frustrations in this forum, allows me to function in the rest my world. Forgive me, I wander. See? Totally NOT gifted!! I have concern that the internet is going to make my job obsolete. It would seem that communication in the digital age is reduced to 140 characters, or a digital dais. We don’t talk to one another much anymore.
Some use their gift to propagate hate, spread negativity, to attack. I just don’t get that. I get free speech, I value that we each have opinions. I have long believed that people can agree to disagree, that disagreement is an avenue by which we learn another’s perspective, have our eyes opened to ideas and positions different from our own. Maybe we learn from the other’s view, maybe we take one infinitesimal morsel from the opposite corner and it helps us understand that person just a wee bit better–not that we’d necessarily come to agreement, but that we’d understand why or how our “adversary” arrived at the position they have. The internet has pretty much taken that away. More accurately, human communicators using the internet, have decided it’s no longer necessary to be civilized in their communication. We’re just mean now because, well. . . why? The internet, the anonymity of the internet has emboldened people. I can say things as @schwinngirl20 or greaterthangravity2737, but no one knows who that is. Wendy doesn’t have to stand behind those statements, because my handles are internet fronts. People can hide, write things they might never intone with their own voices to another human using their keyboards and smartphones under guise of a username; they attack, they undermine, they’re cruel and cutting, and it’s apparently OK. HOW DID THIS BECOME OK, PEOPLE?
How about instead of dishing out harsh, bitter criticism under a cloak of anonymity, we invite meaningful dialog? And I do mean invite, not goad or taunt. You say you have passion. That’s a cloak too. Passion is advocacy, commitment, belief, not a vicious attack on anyone not sharing that particular belief. Passion doesn’t automatically make you right, nor your opponent wrong. Writing about this topic was a long time in the making for me–one has but to read any metro newpaper’s online reader feedback to know what I mean about online hate. This has been brewing in me for awhile. As a public school speech pathologist, I’m (not me personally, but the royal “we”) vilified in print, by pseudonym-clad haters pretty much daily. Writing about this today was borne of nasty things being written about something, not my children or my career this time, important to me.
Funny, I thought I’d write about my sons using a Venn diagram graphic organizer, but as I finish up here, my mind drifted back to the Venn diagram. Unable to find much in the middle though this morning.