Welcome back to another edition of “What’s on My Mind Wednesday”. Today’s topic is the correlation between technology and respect. I am sure the first thing that a lot of people are thinking is: “What does technology have to do with respect?”.
In today’s society, the answer to that question is ‘just about everything’.
Early Warning: This is long but I think it is a good read
The increase of technology has lead to an utter lack of respect from many people. If you even dare to click on the “comments” of any semi-controversial Facebook post, you will see a slew of hateful and disrespectful comments. What is even more alarming is more often than not these are being directed towards complete strangers.
There is a significant increase in connectivity thanks to an increasing range of social media sites, news sites, and more. Now, with the click of a mouse, you can be in contact with people from all over the world. However, there is a lack of connectivity that comes with that (I know that is a contradiction, but I will explain).
When you attack, insult or bully somebody online, there is no physical reaction or response. You don’t see the person who you are hurting, so there is almost a detachment. And since there is not repercussion, there is nothing to make you feel like you shouldn’t do it again. This is the root of cyber-bullying (which is not exclusive to middle school students. Cyber-bullying can happen to anyone, at any age, whether you know that person or not).
But why do we feel the need to attack people. Usually, it is done in a response to a difference in political views, opinions about a person/topic, or just a disagreement in general. When did we stop respecting other people’s views? Of course, I don’t really know the answer to this question. I am just a 22 year old girl writing my opinion in a blog post because my mom is probably getting tired of hearing me rant every day. I do have some ideas though.
My main thought is that we are just angry. We hold in so much bitterness and we don’t “take it out” in a way on the right people. So an example: I could be fuming at a friend for this, that and the other reason. I don’t want to say anything to him/her because I don’t want to face the repercussion of upsetting someone, making them angry or hurting them. I also don’t want to deal with the problem head on because it risks losing a friend. So instead, I take out my anger on a random person who disagrees with my love of [insert celebrity here]. You don’t have to deal with the immediate consequences of dealing with your anger.
My second idea behind it is a similar concept to why people bully in general. We need some way to feel good or justified about ourselves. Instead of doing something (that often requires effort) to make ourselves feel good, we turn to belittling others in return. We also do this to make ourselves feel justified about feeling or thinking a certain way. We think we will win an argument and be successful but all it does in reality is hurt someone else in the process.
And although this is a little different than the initial topic, I want to touch on respect in general. I work with two children and I am in awe of the general lack of respect that comes from their classmates and I notice in particular that the lack of respect is more prominent in children and young adults who have open and non-monitored access to the internet. Because there are no direct repercussions online, it leads people to think there will be no repercussions in the real world either (and many times there aren’t, but that is another day’s discussion). The internet portrays this idea that there won’t be any consequences for your words. However, there are always consequences. You just don’t always see them. Also, you can imagine that impressionable individuals are learning disrespect from those on the internet doing what I talked about earlier. And what is sad is that most of these people are grown adults or children mimicking grown adults. Hatred, intolerance and disrespect are learned traits.
So what can we do? I am no expert. In fact, I will openly admit to doing this (although not online, but I have used misplaced anger as an excuse to attack someone who didn’t deserve it and who was not the main cause behind my anger). But I have some suggestions based on what I have learned in my own life.
First is to deal with your anger in a healthy way. We all get angry at times. But when you feel anger and you are going to take it out on a random person, take a step back. Ask yourself, “am I really angry at this person?”. If the answer to that question is no (even if it is yes, still ask yourself the next question), wonder “what is really making me feel angry?”. Is it a friendship on the rocks, a boss passing you over for an advancement that you felt like you deserved, something happened in the past and it is still bothering you? Find the source of why you are angry. Then, figure out if you can do something about it. If you are having a fight with a spouse or a friend, figure out what they did that made you angry and talk to them in a mature way. Get to the root of the problem and solve it instead of dwelling on the anger.
If you really can’t seem to figure out why you are feeling angry, frustrated or irritated, do something that will release those feelings. Exercise is one of my favorite means of doing this. Nothing feels better than running, lifting heavy weights or doing some other form of activity. And honestly, if you work hard enough, you will be too exhausted to feel any anger.
Second is to find other ways of self-validation. My best suggestion: go out and volunteer. I know what some people are saying. How is volunteering going to help me feel better? It’s not directly helping me. But from personal experience, I will tell you that volunteering is one of the greatest ways to feel good about yourself. You are making a positive impact in the world and people who run volunteer programs are more often than not some of the most grateful people you will ever find. Until you volunteer, you don’t realize how valuable your time really is and how appreciated you can actually be without having to give anything physical other than yourself.
Volunteering not for you? Pick up a hobby. Little successes can make you feel fantastic. I always feel great when I hit a new note when singing or when I get through a whole song on the piano. Sometimes there are setback that make it difficult. However, not only do the successes make you feel good, but the fact that you can overcome the roadblocks make you feel good about yourself as well.
My third and final point really is aimed at people who work with children (parents, teachers, babysitters, aides, even public figures of any kind at any level of fame). Teach respect. It is that simple. I always say respect is earned not given. I am pretty well-known in my friend group for saying that. However, the way I mean it is a little different. No one deserves your respect in the way that you do anything and everything you can to help/appease/support them. However, everyone deserves basic respect and dignity as a human.
But enough of my mini soap box and back to my point. We need to teach respect to children. We need to teach them that even if you don’t agree with someone, tolerance is key. You don’t have to like what someone says or does. You don’t have to agree with it or accept it as your own morals and principles. However, as long as it isn’t doing harm to someone, you have to tolerate it. We need to remind children that they need to treat others as they would want to be treated. If they wouldn’t like someone attacking them on social media or calling them names based on what they believe in, then they shouldn’t be doing the same. We need to be examples for children. Children live by example. I have learned that you can tell a child something left and right but if you aren’t doing what you say, the odds of them listening to you are slim.
My favorite quote ever is “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. As the world continues to change, and technology becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, we need to be the change and set an example for all people no matter their age. I propose a challenge. Instead of attacking someone on the internet or digging up negative posts or articles, let’s try to do something or say something positive to someone who you may not agree with. Set the change in motion and let the ripple effect happen.
Okay. This was much longer than I expected initially, but I really enjoyed writing it and I hope it can lead to one person changing their mind about saying something cruel and inspire one person to go out and do or say something positive!