I have the worst timing. One year ago, I informed the editors at Ignitum that I had written my last article for them—at least for a while—citing an equal-parts mixture of zero time, zero creativity, and zero desire to add another plot of land for Disqus to bloom in. My sabbatical from writing included a firm commitment not to comment or reply to media of any kind, whether I found it on-point or off-rail.
One month ago, I contacted those same editors, asking if there was space for me to jump back on board, and was told that I was welcome to start whenever. Not knowing or caring much about the date of the GOP debate, I chose this week. Yes, I chose this week to start back up with an article lamenting un-restrained responses, comments, replies, and posts. I chose this of all weeks to encourage people to steady themselves, remember everyone’s humanity, and, if at all possible, just put a sock in it. Oh, well. Once more into the fray…
From my armchair of year-long digital silence, I noticed two things which I’ll be covering in this and next month’s article.
First, having hit my own mute button, I was suddenly unable to assert my opinion and wisdom to the greater world even though I was certain they were eagerly awaiting my input and would be adrift in a sea of confusion and doubt without me. I was wrong. It all kept moving at its usual vehement pace; I was just unable to keep up. I suddenly felt like I was finally getting my comeuppance for all the snark, sarcasm, and shade I’d thrown out in my younger days, WAY back when the internet was new, chat rooms were a thing, and comboxes seemed like they had potential.
Instead, if I chose to venture out into the intrawebnet, I was doomed to receive the ignorant jabs like a powerless fool, keeping it all to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still got to write people off; I just didn’t get the satisfaction of letting them know I’d done it which, honestly, takes all the fun out of righteous indignation. And when I chose to truly ponder something that I would normally have disregarded, I found that the silence not only stung a lot more than getting to lash back, but I actually felt some of the spite and spit that the writers intended, on every side of every fence. I was experiencing a bit of what I’d dished out through the years. To quote David Gray, I felt like I was “in collision with every stone I ever threw”. It was exhausting and painful.
Consequently, every time I clicked on an article, I first had to evaluate whether or not I was in the frame of mind to be appalled, outraged, impressed, etc., and still not reply. I was forced to actively decide not only what to let myself ingest, but also how I would let it make me behave since I wasn’t allowed to respond. I had to just shut up, take my hands from the keyboard, and breathe in and out. I had to contain my ire, and, contrary to intuition, the box I’d put myself in was liberating!
I was suddenly able to choose my battles. I could choose to let my guard down and be influenced or to move on to something that might be more important like cooking dinner, running errands, or even—dare I say it—praying. As a result, I ended up reading a bit less of the opinions I zealously agreed with since I couldn’t give them a nod anyway, and in many cases it would simply have been self-affirmation. I also ended up reading a bit more of the opinions I furiously disagreed with, since I couldn’t get mired down and tangled, trying to silence them with my un-arguable, airtight logic submitted 593 replies down in the comment box.
I’m sure you’re all different. Odds are you’re perfectly balanced. You’re most definitely open to new ideas, yet still anchored in the good old ones. You’re soft on the softs, firm on the firms, no mountain molehills, no minor majoring. However, in the rare case that you’re like me and the talking heads know how to push your posting buttons, please allow me to offer you a mild remedy.
Pump your brakes, kid. Just stop for one ever-loving minute. Put your hands in the air and slowly step away from the computing machine. Take a few moments and honestly ask yourself a couple of questions.
First, is what you’re about to say actually able to build up humanity in truth, goodness, and beauty, or is it yet another of your self-bolstering tirades, serving as the “great response” you can bore your spouse with later tonight?
Second, is there any logical reason to think what you’re about to send out will be genuinely received, or will it get lost in the piffle, bulldozed into the Livefyre landfill?
Once you’ve answered those questions, and most likely once you’re back from buying milk, then proceed—just with caution. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that we should not engage in heated dialogue, both in person and in avatar. I’m saying we need to be drastically more wise and loving in how we do so. I know that holier people have called it “self control“, but I prefer to think I’ve discovered a new virtue, especially since I’m going to be writing about it now. For a fee. Under a pseudonym. With the comment section disabled.