Cyber bullying. Exclusion. Division. Facebook rants. Broken relationships. Statements like, “you're just a racist/sexist/bigot/whatever” float around, even if unwarranted.
We live in a world where it's so easy to target others from behind a screen.
We live in a world that labels people before seeking to understand people based off of what we see on their profile or in a comment.
We live in a world that's become so filtered and censored and in-genuine.
We live in a world of stereotypes, broken relationships, division over something as simple as different political beliefs over hot button issues, and a world that operates with a silver lining that essentially says, “you're not welcome here if you disagree with me, or because of this choice, that belief, or those words you said.”
How messed up is that?
Cyber bullying and internet drama is at an all time high. It may be due to the fact that more people than ever before are using social media and internet services. Perhaps it's due to the intense political atmosphere. Maybe it's a combination of both.
It's almost as if Facebook comment threads and Twitter wars are like another form of entertainment. And the temptation to get involved can be so strong! You know how it is, when you see something you totally disagree with, something that someone says that's completely wrong and just makes your blood boil…it's almost second nature to want to say something, to defend something you personally may not even be being attacekd for, or to start typing viciously in an attempt to prove them wrong.
It's like we are more eager to research all the reasons we're right and put a 15 paragraph comment on a Facebook post that will likely profit us nothing than we were willing to research a project in school that would profit us a passing grade.
It so clearly reveals the pride in the human heart…the desire to be right and doing whatever it takes to feel as if we “win.”
Maybe you've been bullied on the internet for your beliefs or for taking a stand. Maybe you've simply been an observer of the ugliness and constantly shake your head, wondering when (and if) it will end. Or perhaps you've been one of the instigators, the one who just can't help but refute anything that doesn't line up with your beliefs and perhaps you've even resorted to name calling.
How do we move past this? What do you do when someone else is just SOOO CLEARLY wrong? Aren't we obligated to speak truth when people are off track?
Well, yes. But the likelihood of completely changing someone's mind by challenging them on a social media platform is very unlikely…and it's also incredibly impersonal. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. If you shared something that they totally disagreed with and they responded with a list of reasons why they believe you're wrong, would that actually convince you that you're wrong? Or would a good, natural conversation over coffee be healthier?
Look, you're not going to change people with your facebook comments. That doesn't mean you shouldn't stand for what you believe but I have to think God is far more interested in seeing us LIVE OUT what we believe than He is about seeing us TYPE OUT all over the internet what we believe.
I'll say it before and I'll say it again: the only person you can control is yourself.
The only way to stop cyber bullying and internet drama is not to play into it and stand up for those who are victims of it. Here's how:
1. If you see someone you know being bullied online, say something to them personally or reach out to them with encouragement.
One time, I saw that a friend of mine was receiving hateful comments about something absolutely ridiculous but I knew it would be pointless to stir up further drama by commenting back to the strangers across the world with all the reasons they were wrong. Instead, I reached out to her personally to encourage her. I've had friends do this for me as well and it is so much more fruitful than fighting with strangers online. There's no reason to bite people's heads off via comments online because that really just stirs up more drama and causes them to retaliate or defend themselves. The problem often only worsens.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King
2. Spend less time on the internet and more time in person.
Remember, the internet is a tool for communication, not a place to live. If you've been a victim of cyberbullying or feel yourself constantly getting fired up when you're on social media, one of the best things to do is remove yourself from it. You don't HAVE to get on social media. In fact, time is much better spent being PRESENT with people. Sit with friends instead of scrolling your feed. Learn from them.
Brene Brown says it like this, “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”
We've become a world that doesn't move in, rarely gets close up. We'd rather be separated by miles and hidden behind screens instead of showing up, sitting in someone's living room, and seeking to understand them.
The bottom line to helping the problem is to not play into the problem. You can't stop what others will do but for every person who chooses not to partake, that's one less person contributing to the problem.
See, loving people doesn't mean agreeing on everything. People get so mad and call people “unloving” or “hateful” if they don't agree with everything politically, spiritually, whatever.
I don't agree with my husband on everything yet I still choose to show him respect and love him. We have to remember that's what love is. It means standing firm but not hiding behind closed doors or inside bubbles. It means showing honor and respect, leaning in to listen, and not being influenced by the culture yet still loving those who are.
So, here is my prayer: that we re-learn how to respect one another, grow a thick skin because this is a hard world, and instead of building doors build doorways that welcome in the broken and the outcast but also the jerk and the mean girl because they're broken, too.
I pray we stop trying to prove we are right on Facebook comment threads and start actually doing right in the world: welcoming the stranger, sharing a meal with someone who hurt us, and giving grace and love when it's underserved because that's what God gives us.
We don't make this world a better place by slamming someone when they don't agree with us, gossiping behind their back, or constantly trying to prove we are right.
We make this world a better place by standing firm, holding fast, and opening a door that belts out a resounding, “Your brokenness is welcome here.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42