Intersections

Exploring the crossroads of religion, culture, and science through a Pagan lens

Surviving Social Media’s Ocean of Negativity

3 Comments

Celebrity wife beating. Beheading. Bombing. Complaining. Outing. Doxing. Name calling. Name calling back. More name calling. Retribution. Cursing. There so much nastiness permeating the world and the internet right now.

So much of it is truly awful. Whether on a global scale, a pop culture scale, or within the small confines of the pagan community, many recent events have fully deserved the anger and attacks they created. Sometimes, as this cartoon about the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice incident shows, inaction only leads to more pain:

 

Ray Rice

Photo: sbnation

But the problem I have is that most of the nastiness that circulates around social media, both within and without the pagan community, is petty and exhausting. There’s always someone complaining about life, the universe, and everything. They complain about their work day; they beat dead horses about situations that were resolved long ago; they call out friends for silly things.   We have all this amazing technology to build community around the world, and we use it as our personal bitching platform. If anger and argument were a drug, we’d need a national 12-step program.

Worse, when our newsfeeds are flooded with all that low level complaining, it’s all too easy to drown. And once our head goes under, it can be extremely difficult to re-emerge. So what do we do? We have two choices. Some dive in. They join the rush and ride the wave of constant nastiness. Others, like me, avoid it. We learn to skip over the attacks and anger just to save ourselves.

Either way, we rob the power out of those situations that truly deserve our attention- things like Ferguson, Ray Rice, and vicious personal attacks within the community. Those who are steeped in negativity begin to discuss these topics and the call to action goes out. Unfortunately, those people are often calling to action on every little thing they see in the world, so those issues that truly deserve it get lost in the ocean of all those other problems. Those of us who maintain sanity by skipping over negativity then skip over the really important stuff, and so we remain blissfully ignorant and unaware of them until it’s too late to provide help.

It sucks. We don’t do it on purpose. We want to help when our friends are in trouble, but we are so wary of newsfeeds that cry wolf that we sometimes miss out when the pain is real and action is vital. On the other side, as magickal people we know that the world changes in accordance with our will. When people dish out anger and pain, we will always see the world and angry and painful. It seeps into our consciousness. Research in social psychology has shown that your interpretations of people’s actions are influenced more by your own insecurities, goals, and expectations than they are by reality, mainly because you have no idea what the other person’s inner motivations really are.

There has to be a balance. For my side, I know I need to be better about engaging in causes and issues that that need immediate and decisive action. People like me need to acknowledge that our blissful ignorance is not a good thing. We need our more engaged friends to help us identify issues that need immediate action. We don’t want to be the NFL, conveniently ignoring a savage beating until forced to respond, then doing nothing to help the victim. Here are some thoughts on ways to help us more effectively identify these issues:

  1. Criticize behaviors, not people. When I see a personal attack on someone, I shut down. I have no interest in perpetual drama, witch wars, or personality conflicts. When a person is attacked rather than their behavior, the issue loses relevance.
  1. When people honestly apologize, accept it and move on. To do anything else is to admit you are a drama addict. Obviously, I’m not referring to halfhearted “I’m sorry you misinterpreted me” type apologies, but when a person admits wrongdoing and resolves to be better, give them that chance. How many times do you wish you were given a second chance?
  1. Post with intent. If you are having a hard time and need support, say so and accept the love that flows your way. If an issue needs attention now, post it. But tell us what can be done, and please try to avoid saying mean things about other people (or yourself) all the time. It gets tiresome. Look for solutions rather than perpetuating drama.
  1. Don’t take things personally. If someone does not respond, it is not an attack. Often, they are just busy with other parts of life.
  1. Remember that we are your friend because we love you. We want to see you happy. When you say good things about your life, we will respond with happiness and support. Of course we will support you in times of trouble. We don’t want to be fair weather friends. But brighten your own day and ours by including some fun stuff too.

I love what the Temple of Witchcraft is doing: filling up its own feed with pictures of flowers to disrupt the flow of negativity.  Here’s a pretty picture of a flower:

Rose to feel better

 

Feels good, doesn’t it?

I’m not trying to ignore the suffering of the world here. Actually, it’s the opposite. A call to action from someone who is constantly calling to action gets lost in the crowd, but a call to action from a good friend who needs help once in a while will get noticed. Friends will respond. You’ll get support. The issue will get action from more people. Everyone will be happier.

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Author: Tim

I am a teacher, a theater lover, and a High Priest in the Temple of Witchcraft. I love to point out the places where the everyday world, arts, science, and religion intersect. I stand for interfaith cooperation and the belief that people of all religions, political beliefs, and nationalities have more in common with each other than differences.

3 thoughts on “Surviving Social Media’s Ocean of Negativity

  1. “When people honestly apologize, accept it and move on. To do anything else is to admit you are a drama addict. ”

    Sorry, but I have to very strongly disagree with this. Sometimes an apology is not enough. Sometimes amends and reparations have to be made. To hold someone to a higher standard than a simple apology is NOT being a “drama addict”, its a demonstration of true ethics, ethics that so many in this community fail to exercise.

    • Alley: thanks for making this very important point. I think I had in my mind that reparations were part of an honest apology, but that want clear. I appreciate you bringing it to our attention.

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