I recently read a news story about individuals in need who stand on the side of the road holding signs asking for money. The comments that accompanied the story were strongly opinionated and vocally opposed to those who do that. The idea that people who are asking for money at the side of the road are actually incredibly rich and are con artists was purported again and again. Lots of judgment was cast on those individuals. I couldn't help thinking that we are very comfortable jumping on the social media bandwagon and judging and criticizing other people's lives - even when we don't know them or actually know one thing about them. That makes me sad, because inevitably, there is more to the story than we know.
Recently, a friend of mine had an incident where a practical joke her son played spiraled into a police incident and a very terrified son. She was devastated and upset with his lack of wisdom and lack of foresight in choosing the joke he played, but he is a very young teenage boy - and no parent can predict every possible mistake his/her kids might make and teach them not to make them. It isn't possible.
When his incident began to get posted on social media and the comments began, they were often hyper-critical of his parents and his behavior. My friend is already dealing with helping a young boy face up to a serious mistake - and she commented that when she reads peoples' hateful comments about her family, "it is absolutely killing me".
Those are powerful words. It is killing her inside when she is already dealing with a difficult and painful life situation. And the people making the comments don't know her, or her situation, or her son. or her family. But they do know how to judge and critique. Sure, she can ignore them, but that is far easier said than done. People can also stop making negative judgments about others - that is pretty easily done.
I think about the MANY stupid decisions I made and ridiculous things I tried as a young person, and am so thankful I didn't grow up in a time when people could spread gossip so quickly, frame it as they pleased, and allow others to join in as they verbally crucified whatever they didn't approve of.
I feel like, as a society of vulnerable human beings, maybe we need to look at what we are allowing social media to turn us into. What happened to compassion? What happened to understanding? What happened to the benefit of the doubt? How about second chances - and learning from mistakes? My goodness, we can't possibly know what other people are going through - and our words can destroy. And we have no idea how quickly we could be on the other side of that fence, so we might just want to withhold our comments and judgment.
We need to use social media to build up and encourage the people around us, not join in the chorus of criticism and negativity that abounds.
How can anyone be human in a society where it isn't okay to be different or to make mistakes?