When I was a child growing up in small-town Kansas, I often heard bits of wisdom coming from my mother and my dad. I usually wasn’t listening very closely, especially if the tidbits came in casual conversation instead of in serious and corrective discussion settings. So, I find it to be an amazing phenomenon that many of their words come back to me on a regular basis. I must have been paying closer attention that I thought I was at the time.
Before I continue, let me confess that I am a member of the baby boomer generation, which I have always been proud to confess. On my next birthday, I will begin the eighth decade of my life so, I am relatively certain that my age tempers many of my thought and opinions. So, here goes….
What I recall from my mother’s wisdom was this, “Don’t ever say or write anything that you aren’t willing to sign your name to and take full credit for in public.”
My parents passed away in 1987 and 1992, respectively, so, of course, they never knew Facebook. And for that, I am often very thankful. I tend to send many of today’s inventions through the filter of my parents’ lives and thoughts. My dad would have a fit and fall in it if he knew that people actually paid hard-earned money for jeans that came ready made with holes in place. And my mother would laugh at the notion that we carry around fancy water bottles, or drink from little bottles of water instead of getting a drink from the sink in a glass.
So, I can only imagine what they would think of the comments and posts that appear on Facebook. Maybe it’s my age, but much of what I see makes me cringe. Let me add that I only entered the world of Facebook because of the Pregnancy Center of Central Iowa’s Page. It serves our organization well, as we are able to reach many of our supporters through posts and comments about our activities and needs.
The Facebook posts that offend me are often very politically based, and often extremely critical and judgmental of those on the “other side” of the proverbial fence. Once, a very dear friend posted some very denigrating words about a mutual acquaintance. When I questioned her and suggested that her comments weren’t appropriate, and certainly weren’t kind, she snapped back at me with “First Amendment rights.” I replied that I would die to defend the right of Freedom of Speech, but do we really have the right to harm with our words?
What has happened to civil discourse and discussion? Why can we not believe differently and yet treat others with kindness and respect in the event of disagreement? We used to use the phrase “agree to disagree,” but personal attacks were not part of the deal.
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was way off base. The truth is that the hurt, pain, and suffering caused by words can sometimes last forever—long after broken bones have healed.
I worry especially about the harm done to our youth and children on social media. It is common knowledge that far too many have taken their own lives as a result of constant harassment and bullying by their so called “friends” on Facebook.
God’s will and command for us is to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Are we obeying His command when we disparage and denigrate those whose politics and beliefs differ from ours? Are we obeying when we use less than stellar language? I think not.
Facebook is, in many ways, a blessing that lets people find connections with other people. It lets them share pictures, happy occasions, good news, etc. But it is like so much in our lives. It needs to be used with forethought and basic human kindness and decency. And it needs to be well-monitored when it is used by our children and youth.
And, most of all, we all need to self-monitor our comments and posts. I certainly wouldn’t put anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t be proud to claim. And that I wouldn’t be afraid for my mother to see!