Yesterday I watched a new TED Talks video with rapt attention. Emerging from a nearly two-decades cocoon of shame and guilt, Monica Lewinsky stood before her captivated audience. As an articulate “butterfly,” she took flight with her plea for a collective awakening of digital compassion. Her words inspired me to write a new article as an extension of her vision. I am not sharing it for “likes” or “views.” The only reason for its creation: It’s the “socially kind” thing to do.
If even one reader experiences an emotional remedy to a past wrong and receives a glimmer of hope within the present moment, then the effort hit its target.
Let’s all recall days past from our youth. Hands-up if you were ever the recipient of deliberate bullying. Suppose we grant some latitude and say roughly 50% of you, my kind readers, answer in the affirmative. Out of this group, how many of you cringe at the thought of having to revisit those painful moments?
It comes as no surprise that human beings retain traumatic memories from our past injuries, whether physical or emotional. For as long as people have formed friendships, they also consciously chose to exclude individuals from their inner circles.
Creating the “circles” is not the issue: banding together to single-out “outsiders” is the problem.
Prior to the digital age, some constraints upon the impact and effect of bullying behaviors existed. The targeted exclusion only had to worry about the local rumor-mill and “grapevine.” With luck, your specific humiliation would not be shared beyond those immediately involved.
In today’s social media-driven, mutable environment, having any of your experiences go “viral” can either denote a positive or negative effect. It all comes down to the subject of intention. If you “intend” to receive fame from sharing your own setbacks, i.e. “fails” then “going viral” is a welcome occurrence and based upon the “15-Minutes” model of business, might even cement your status as an “influencer” with financial omnipotence.
However, what about the flip side? What if you intend to receive “influence” by exposing someone else’s pain? Should that also be a permitted catalyst for your star to rise? Too often the answer to the preceding query is not “no.” Why would we, as society, condone this method to reap rewards from mistreating another being?
For those of you that answered, “yes” to the question posed about bullying in the first paragraph, I have a second request.
Close your eyes and imagine if your shame existed in perpetuity among the annals of the digital “vault” of “fails” rather than only within your own mind. Now, extend that frightful vision to include those closest to you suffering the same fate and then go one degree of separation further with each breath until you envelope everyone in the world. What wouldn’t you do to prevent this nightmare from becoming reality?
All dramatics aside, we are facing a chasm of cruelty. Cyber bullying does not discriminate: All ages, genders, races and creeds are susceptible to being targets. There is an antidote to the poison of viral shaming: Kindness. The visualization that I prompted you to practice above is an example of responding to cyber attacks with empathy and compassion. The more that we see ourselves as the same as “others” the greater likelihood that we will relate to everyone as our “own.”
I’m not speaking hypothetically about the effects of bullying. When I was in junior high, a classmate arranged for the boy I liked to ambush me in front of the entire school with the vitriolic message, “Evelyn (not her real name) hates you!” The reason for my public shaming: Fear. Evelyn feared that I would reveal a secret she told me at a slumber party (she and I were close friends at the time) about her guilt over her mistreatment of her parents. I had no intention of ever betraying her trust, but her anxiety over her secret becoming known, compelled her to conspire to annihilate my social status and self-esteem.
To this day, I can taste the shade of crimson that saturated my cheeks upon hearing those three cruel words uttered by my first crush. As horrific as that event was, I can’t even fathom if my fate befell an adolescent now. It’s almost a guarantee that some onlooker would have captured my humiliation on film and blasted it to every social outlet before I could gather a single fragment of my shattered pre-teen dignity.
Every moment of each day we are bombarded with new digital content. All that is required from each of us is the decision to select our content with consciousness. Before you write a single word or toss an “anonymous” stone virtually, see your digital device as a mirror. Would you taint your own reflection with expressions of hate? Please reconsider your response before hitting a seemingly innocuous “send” or “ok.”
Likewise, if you stumble upon any post gaining status by shaming another fellow being, speak-up against the cruelty and if possible, make your voice heard without resorting to “shaming” the poster. Remaining present and mindful allows you to respond to unkindness with kindness and still set a boundary of conduct and decorum. Next, reach-out to the bullied target. Extend your compassion and encouragement without limit; every “kind” word impacts how we define our perceived self-worth.
Bullies are only as powerful as the fear they incite. Enough is enough. Let’s reset social media by employing kindness to create conversations of influence. We all are capable of being “kindness conversationalists.” It’s only a slight shift of perception to transform our social media perspective.
Technology has the potential to be our greatest legacy of compassionate connection. We are all in this together. No one deserves to have his or her misfortunes become the source of another’s prosperity. If enough of us demand change and are willing to reflect another way of being, then the tides of cyber terrorizing will recede and give way to a kinder digital world.
What are some other ways you can use a “socially kind” approach to disrupt the current state of social media?
For further reference about developing a “socially kind” social media policy, please visit my past post here.
Let’s continue the conversation. Please feel free to share your thoughts. All expressions reflecting kindness are welcome here.
This post originally was published by me via LinkedIn