Social Media in the time of Covid-19

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On my area’s Next Door app, a person, now working from home (Angry Neighbor) lambasted his next-door neighbor for having a new roof put on (Roofing Neighbor) because of all the noise that disrupted the Angry Neighbor’s workday. Without even checking with Roofing Neighbor, he concluded the roofing work was not necessary, was not of an emergent need, and therefore Roofing Neighbor was ruining everyone’s work-from-home experience out of utter rudeness and with ill-intent.

Roofing Neighbor responded by saying the work was being done because of leaks that were disrupting family life and causing an unsafe environment for their family of five. It was indeed an emergent, rather than an elective, roof repair.

Angry Neighbor and Roofing Neighbor went back and forth and back and forth while those following the stream excoriated Angry Neighbor for being such an )&*?+^$%^&#% to the tune of 47 comments by the end of the day. I happened to notice that Angry Neighbor and Roofing Neighbor had stopped commenting way before that time so they had obviously removed themselves from the fray.

The next day, there were 137 comments, none from Angry and Roofing Neighbor, but comments nonetheless from uninvolved people still ticked off at Angry Neighbor’s rudeness in bashing his next-door neighbor.

What is this all about?

It’s about fragile psyches angered and worried about the state of our country and our world in the time of Covid-19. Sure, such social media harassing and bullying has been going on for quite some time now, but I have to believe it has worsened because of how vulnerable all of us feel.

A dog backed into a corner lashes out at perceived threats.

We are all backed in a corner right now with no proven safe way out. Most of us are doing our part in trying to contain a menace that threatens our very existence and that of our loved ones, but thus far, no relief is on the immediate horizon. We are petrified, and instead of treating each other with kid gloves, some of us are kicking others when they are down, a practice that need not happen. Instead…

As a human race, we must choose between:

  • the violence of adults, and the smiles of children;
  • the ugliness of hate, and the will to oppose it;
  • inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man, and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves for naught.

Even in darkness, it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. Every moment of our life is essential; every gesture is essential. Our role in life is to give an offering to each other. – Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Elie Wiesel


Kindness Fridays

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I’m really going in a different direction with this week’s post, so bear with me.

A person can’t live in this world without being personally offended or attacked for any number of reasons, whether founded or unfounded, countless times during the course of his life.

In this world, there exists those whose modus operandi is to criticize others, bring others down, make fun of them, even bully them. The person with that MO may have any number of “reasons” why he or she acts that way, but none of those reasons are justified, plain and simple.

What do we do when someone acts that way toward us? I know how we feel, we feel hurt and angry; we feel we must be on the defensive and maybe we even want to dish out the same pain, or worse, than what was inflicted on us. A defensive action, however, turns us into someone no better than the person who lashed out at us; we join their ranks.

When an unkindness is said or done to us, the higher road is to not respond in kind. By that I mean maybe it’s better we don’t go on the defensive, we don’t fight fire with fire. Oh, let me tell you, the base part of our character wants to let loose with our own brand of meanness, but each and every one of us has the ability to choose a contrary response. Each. And. Every. One. Of. Us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you lavish the offender with peace, love, and happiness – there are very few of us who could pull that off – but what I am saying is that we can choose to stay silent. We can walk away – both figuratively and physically – and leave that person to wallow in the slime they just created.

I learned long ago, that if someone yells at me and I choose not to yell back, their fire goes out. If I don’t feed their anger, it has nowhere to go but down. Quite frankly, my decision to walk away hurts that person far worse than any words I could ever spew back. I guess sometimes you just have to kill them with kindness.

Just. Walk. Away.

Being connected in a fragmented world

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Much has been said about how impersonal – or even cruel – social media can be. That certainly is the case many times over, but social media can also be a way in which to stay connected with those you care about but with whom you are not able to get together as frequently as you would like.

That is the case for me.

I currently have 60 Facebook (FB) friends, most of whom are those who are close friends and family members. I’ve never felt I needed to post ginormous numbers of friends in order to be a valid Facebook user; I’ve just always been thrilled to be able to follow the lives of those with whom I have a history.

When I first opened my FB account I sent friend requests to everyone I could find on the site. One of those was my daughter, Erin, who indicated that she preferred to keep her FB life separate from her mother/daughter life. I totally got that – and still do – so Erin and I aren’t FB friends but we communicate so much, we always know what’s the latest and greatest in each of our lives.

It’s just this year that my FB family has been enlarged; I’m reaching out to my nieces and nephews and other fabulous family members who – when I first started on FB – were quite a bit younger than they are now. And joy of all joys, they’re reaching out to me! Quite frankly, I figured why would the younger set care about what this geezer-in-the-making is doing with herself? Turns out, they do care, and it’s been glorious, and I certainly care about what they’re doing. The added benefit is that when we do get together, I’ll be far better acquainted with them because we’ve stayed connected on an ongoing basis.

Connecting with others – having contact with them – tears down walls that need not exist. I’ll leave you with a quote from The Power of Kindness about what lack of connection can result in:

We can also do the opposite: build walls, as well as find ourselves in front of others’ walls, and decide that this is an easier, more practical way to live . . . Distance may be safer. But our lives are poorer without the nourishment that these people can give – nourishment in the form of stimuli, different points of view, fresh emotions.

The incapacity of being in touch with others can become a tragedy of solitude. We become our own prisoners.

No thank you.



Theological bullying

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Forced faith is not faith | Opinion | The Seattle Times.  The syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., has proven yet again how fabulously he writes.  His writing can only attain that quality, however, if what he writes comes from a sense of justice, compassion, and truth.  Therefore, hands down – his writing is fabulous.

The title for this blog piece comes from Mr. Pitts’ article where he quotes Martin Luther King’s definition of faith as being, “taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  The columnist says that given what the Sudanese Parliament has done by imposing the death penalty on one of its citizens who wouldn’t disavow her faith, “faith has less to do with hope and assurance and the courage to take steps in the dark, than with justifying just this kind of theological bullying.”

This story centers around choosing one religion over another.  My writing on this story does not pit Christianity against Islam, (or vice versa) rather, it’s a story showing a conflict between two religions that very well might end horrifically.   It’s a dramatic story because the “guilty” party, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a mother of two who married a Christian man, will receive 100 lashes and then she will be killed after her youngest child has been weaned – nothing short of outrageous and barbaric.

Can you require/force someone to have faith?

Can you require/force someone to love you?

Mr. Pitts asks:

Can faith ever truly be faith if it is imposed by force of law or threat of violence?  Is faith faith if it is not freely chosen?  If someone swore at gunpoint that she loved you, would you believe her?

Faith can move mountains; religion can't.
Faith can move mountains; religion can’t. (Painting by artist, Mary Riesche)

The Sudanese Parliament has no concept of what faith is.  Again, I’m not talking about Islam in general, I’m talking about the actions of the Sudanese Parliament.  Its members are simply trying to force this 27-year old woman to leave her Christian religion and follow their religion, Islam.  They are proving that they are a bunch of fearful wimps – so afraid are they of any religion that differs from theirs.  But we all know the truth: the strongest person represented in this travesty is Meriam Yehya Ibrahim.  She’s not holding on to her religion, she’s holding on to her faith.

Bullies are weaklings in disguise whose only weapon is to assert a strength they will never have.



No one is perfect

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A big issue for small minds | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. had an Opinion piece in the January 19, 2014 Seattle Times Sunday newspaper.  His article focuses on the cruelty that comes out of the mouths of people who feel they are obligated to point out the obvious to others.  During and after her appearance on the Golden Globes, the exceptional 30-year old actress, Gabourey Sidibe, became the target of many anonymous, and sometimes identified, Twitter trolls who decided to remind her that she’s fat.  One Tweet said she looked like the Globe in the Golden Globes; another stated that she missed the hour glass look by 10 hours.

Leonard Pitts questions when and how did this type of truly sadistic personal meanness become acceptable, even common place? “Everybody’s got something…some physical or emotional blemish measuring the distance from you to perfection.”  So why do we think it’s any of our business to criticize someone else’s imperfection?  Doing so is an act of judgment of someone about whom we know very little.

When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: "It's too bad that everyone isn't as perfect as us."
When us kids would say something cruel about someone, my dad would offer the following: “It’s too bad that everyone isn’t as perfect as us.”  Point taken.

What happened to what Mr. Pitts calls “home training” that is supposed to teach us that there are just some things you don’t say to – or about – people in a public forum?  Are these grown adults mimicking the behaviors from their upbringing, or did they just decide on their own to cut people to pieces, not caring a wit about the harm such cutting banter will have on the recipient?

Bullies – all of them.

Whether our “something” is shaped like the emotional scars of abuse, an eating disorder, physical or developmental disabilities, bad teeth, or a nose that is too big, too fat,or too small, no one has a right to inflict hurt on us by their words.  Does hurting someone with words serve to downplay our own imperfections and/or personal issues?  Does a person actually feel better after they’ve called someone a tub of lard, or uglier than sin, or dumber than a doornail?

I’ll leave you with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Eli Wiesel’s statement during an interview with Oprah Winfrey a couple years back.  May it be a challenge to me, and a challenge to you.

As a human race, we must choose between: the violence of adults, and the smiles of children; the ugliness of hate, and the will to oppose it; inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man, and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves for naught.

Even in darkness, it is possible to create light and encourage compassion.  Every moment of our life is essential; every gesture is essential.  Our role in life is to give an offering to each other.

Bullies are insecure human beings

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Pity you, Cyber Bullies..

I’m posting this blog piece because it beautifully illustrates the ugliness of bullying practices that occur everywhere.

My opinion on bullies:  whether they look like nerds, terrorists, or invisible men and women on the Internet  – is that they are very insecure people.  They are so insecure that they have to beat others down so that they can appear to be better and bigger than those they victimize.

What a shame.

Bullying: now versus then.

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In January of this year, I provided a workshop for middle school students (8 to 12 years old) during their school’s annual Health Fair.  Given my predisposition to focus on the older population during my career, I was asked to bring forth a topic that might resonate with, and educate, the children who attended my workshops; something about old people, a topic about which they supposedly knew very little.

The title of my workshop was Your Grandparents are Cooler than you Think.  My goal was to bridge the gap that exists between those aged sixty years and older, with the younger-aged set.  My sophisticated, yet relatable, PowerPoint presentation offered many comparison and contrast examples that tended to disprove that any gap exists between such disparate groups.  (That was my goal.)  One can’t deny that some obvious differences exist, but the similarities with subject matters that really count are quite revealing.  First, I offer you a quote from the Atlantic Journal, challenging you to guess when this particular entry was published.  I read this same quote to the middle school students.

The world is too big for us.  Too much is going on.  Too many crimes.  Too much violence and excitement.  Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself.  It’s a constant strain to keep peace  …  and still, you lose ground.

Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment.  The political world now changes so rapidly, you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out.

Everything is high pressure.  Human nature can’t endure much more!

If you guessed that the above quote was ripped from today’s headlines – or thereabouts – you are incorrect.  These vital words were written 180 years ago, published on June 16, 1833.  The common sentiments of that time seem almost indistinguishable from what is in the minds of people today.  Amazing.  I guess we’re not much different from the people living in 1833.

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the topics these middle schoolers and I discussed was Bullying.  The students were divided into eight groups of five each and asked to discuss the similarities, if any, of this globally prevalent problem.  Their insights were astounding.  Here is my paraphrase of some of their comments:

I think bullying in the olden days was more physical, whereas today, it’s psychological in nature.

Bullying a long time ago was limited to one-on-one interaction.  Today, if just one person is bullied, that act is broadcast to thousands just by the push of an “enter” key on ones computer.

I think there is little difference between bullying now, versus then.  You see, the motivation is the same; the intent to make someone else feel small; to exert ones power over another.  It doesn’t matter what that looks like or when it took place, the motivation remains the same.

I was humbled by these students, but I should not have been surprised by their astute thinking processes.  Perhaps the person who learned the most during my workshop was the presenter.  I thought I needed to convince them of how similar their elders are to them.  I guess the joke was on me.

The inspiration to write this article can be attributed to the driver behind me on my way home from the store today who bullied me by riding my bumper the entire way home.  My going the speed limit must have been quite an affront to her sensibilities.  (I couldn’t pull over to the side of the road but she had plenty of opportunities to pass me – evidently choosing not to do so.)  At almost sixty years of age, I felt threatened, powerless, and humiliated.