If it has then what can we do to change it?
Social interaction online can be harsh
In our daily lives when we witness bullying or exclusion how can we move beyond fighting and trying to prove who’s wrong and who’s right and just listen to each other stories and honour the reality of other people’s lives?
Both my partner and I have recently had experiences of strangers interacting with us in quite rude ways online because we shared something personal.
I shared that I find it difficult that I haven’t seen my mum in over a year, that I don’t know when I will see her if ever.
My partner shared that it looks like he is going to be forced to leave his job (which he loves) because vaccine mandates are being introduced.
The interactions from strangers were confusing and based on loads of assumptions.
Someone told me to stop crying about it and do something and that there are ferries to the Netherlands and that I should go have an adventure. This person also told me that I just needed to know my shit and that there were reports of people finding ways to travel but when I requested more information they didn’t have any resources and couldn’t point me towards anything. I find the whole thing very odd, especially since this happened in a local online group where I thought we were trying to support each other.
I did my best to engage with him and told him that I was going to cry about not seeing my mum if I wanted to. Also tried to clarify whether he was trying to motivate or support me of if he was being rude on purpose. Apparently rudeness was in the eye of the beholder and couldn’t be helped sometimes…
I really feel that it is easy to forget that there are people as real as yourself and in as much pain and as frustrated as yourself on the receiving end of messages shared online.
Can we make space for painful and unwanted stories?
I think this video is very poignant because he tries to articulate how devastating it is that we seem to collectively struggle to be okay with different experiences and different choices.
There is a harsh censoring of narratives that dont fit the government agenda of doing as we are told and trusting the science. Sharing stories of adverse affects from drug medical interventions has always been tricky but has become deeply politicised now. Asking questions has become scary too, which is very worrying.
When we hear politicians and see media headlines that induce fear and divides us into good and bad citizens – what do we do?
How do we talk about it with each other?
How do we question it and make sure that the bullying we are all on the receiving end of doesn’t seep into our daily life interactions with each other?
How do we dispel the distrust that we are being encourage to feel towards our fellow humans?
Being in community in crisis
I think we underestimate the impact of the rhetoric in media and from government and institutions. If I listen to the messages from these I start feeling anxious and confused. I lose my sense of judgement and trust in myself and in other people. There is an intense sense of alienation, that if you don’t go along with the dominant narrative you are just short of being considered criminal and it is sanctified by government and main stream media to attack and ridicule you.
Where I live I can feel the tension in the air at times, especially amongst young people. I overhear deep fears being expressed and topics being avoided. There is an awkwardness at times but there is also a stubbornness to keep doing what we need to do to live and work together in our communities.
Experiencing the keep calm and carry on mentality is very different to seeing it on mugs.
It is not an apathy, it seems quietly defiant. It is ignoring the signs everywhere telling us what to do and what to believe and instead just doing what feels okay. Conformity and non-conformity existing simultaneously in people and between people.
I absolutely love where I live and feel more hopeful and connected when I spend time at our local market or I go to exercise classes or just chat to people on the bus.
It’s obviously not all wonderful, but I do find that a lot of the polarisation I witness online has to be negotiated differently when people meet face to face. English propriety as well as a ‘live and let live’ attitude seems to be helpful. I also have a theory that because we live in a flood prone area we know that we have to rely on each other even if we don’t like each other. Because the council and other institutions can only do so much and are usually slow to respond due to bureaucracy. So it’s our neighbours, local businesses and volunteers in all kinds of capacities who makes the community able to move through crisis.
We are all suffering
I can understand why people who already feel on the margins are moving towards very strongly held beliefs about the corruption that goes on and that there is an organised elite that are wilfully inflicting pain and suffering on the general population.
I can also understand how a lot of people just feel overwhelmed and want to keep their head down and wait for things to change in some way.
I can also understand why people go online and express their frustration and anger through aggressive interactions with strangers. But I don’t think it is particularly helpful way to make space for these feelings in the long run. And I don’t think it really honours that awesome warrior within us that wants to have an impact.
I know I have written a lot of stuff like this in the past 2 years and I am repeating myself but I feel deeply that collectively we need to be a bit braver – find the courage to be empathic, to be different and honour difference in others.
Let’s stop pretending that being aggressive and defending your point of view and winning an argument is the same as being strong.
If I go out and spend time with people locally whether I agree with them or not, I feel safer and more confident. We can disagree and co-exist. We can take different approaches to safety and still co-exist.
Online social interactions are often a very distorted reflection of what we humans are actually like when we get together. We have so much to give each other.