Putting yourself out there is difficult. No matter how well-meaning or uncontroversial you think it is, if you post on social media, you open yourself to the possibility of being vilified.
Can you think of a single successful person who isn’t ridiculed or insulted by someone? Politicians, actors, musicians, scientists. You just need to spend 5 minutes on Facebook or Twitter to witness the amount of people willing to hurl personal insults at others – no matter who they are. This makes us incredibly vulnerable; how are we to ever feel worthy or good enough with this constant barrage of criticism and abuse?
Of course, there are plenty of clever people out there telling us we just need to convey our message in the right way. It’s our own fault if people respond badly! Really? Could it be that simple? If it was, would there be wars and murder and brutality almost everywhere we look? Is it really our fault for not being able to convey a message that every personality type and mood state will simultaneously find acceptable? Even the Dalai Lama is a figure of hatred to some, for example those who worship Dorje Shugden (they’re Buddhists too), and the Chinese government. Must we be better skilled than the Dalai Lama to avoid being attacked? He meditates for 7 hours per day; I need to walk the dogs and mow the lawn – I’m not going to fit it all in. I think people should be held responsible for their own actions – If somebody punches you in the face, is it your fault for having an annoying face? Because if that’s going to be allowed, I’m going to need to stay indoors.
On social media people lose all sense of responsibility and moral decency. They become enraged by anything which doesn’t agree with their opinion. They hurl insults and say nasty things; they construct straw man arguments. A straw man argument is the distortion or misrepresentation of the original statement in order to bolster one’s own position; look familiar? But I like to remember – no matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world (Robin Williams).
We are all vulnerable. We’re frightened of being found out; we are frightened of not being good enough; We’re frightened of loss of connection. Like it or not (and I don’t) we’re social beings and we have an innate fear of rejection due to not being good enough. No amount of success takes it away. If anything, the more successful you become, the more you feel the pressure. Just look at the number of successful people who’ve turned to drugs or taken their own lives. Social media supercharges our susceptibility; but it’s also the catalyst for those who are doing the judging and throwing the insults. They are also vulnerable and frightened; so much so that they attack (from the safety of social media) anyone who dares to not be just like them. Of course, there is no clear dividing line; we’re all susceptible to being dragged to the bottom of the pond.
We all need courage – we need the courage to put our message out there without needing to be perfect or accepted by all. We also need the courage to accept differences without making personal attacks, without being mean, and without witch-hunts. If we can’t live peacefully without things being just the way we think they should be, we will never live peacefully. On the other end of every comment is a real person feeling vulnerable, just as you do.