The rise of the keyboard warrior

“Thank you for your email. Human Decency is out of the office on extended vacation. If the matter is urgent, please contact Hostile Harry, Selfish Sally or Rude Roger”.

Tell me I’m not the only one who has noticed an increase in the impolite manner in which people are conversing these days? In person, I’d say we’re still resembling civilized creatures (though perhaps not in peak hour traffic).  This demise of human decency is overwhelmingly evident via text, email and social media.

I have always claimed that my words are my weapon. Whenever I have worked with anyone less than professional, I have always prided myself on using just the right selection of words to stand up for what I believe in. Your words really are your weapon, choose them wisely. In the end, we all end up in the same hole in the ground or as the same pile of ash, no matter if you were a CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or scrubbed toilets for a living. If the only real legacy you leave behind is your character, don’t we all want to make our character one to be proud of?

Malcolm S. Forbes, former Forbes magazine publisher and son of founder, B.C. Forbes, has some very poignant quotes. One of note is; “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” I adore this quote and try my very best to live by it. This is what concerns me. I am noticing a very fast-paced society where everything is so easily accessible; You can buy a whole outfit on a Monday afternoon from an App on your phone whilst sitting at your work desk, then have it delivered, for free, to the very same desk the next morning. You can try it on in the bathroom, and if it doesn’t fit, you can have it sent straight back, free of charge (yes, I’m talking about The Iconic, someone delete my App before I spend every last cent to my name!) No wonder retail is dying. I used to adore wondering through the shops, now I only go to Westfield to buy groceries. I do all of my other shopping online. The internet has made everything so easy and convenient hasn’t it? In turn though, people’s patience seems to have shifted and we seem no longer willing to wait for anything, and some of us become quite outraged if we can’t get exactly what we want on the spot. We are living in a world full of convenience and not nearly enough kindness.

Have we created a generation of The Simpsons’ character ‘Fat Comic Book Guy‘ sitting bravely behind his keyboard, attacking anything and anyone, just because he can? Is it just a way for the insecure to be heard?

I’ll bet on your last trip to a country town, you noticed that people said “hi” to you on the street, or chatted in line at the shops, or didn’t walk with their heads down staring at their phone. Perhaps they haven’t bought into the same society as us where our phone is our lifeline. Perhaps they’re not on fast-forward like us city-folk, so they feel they have the time to stop and connect. Maybe they’re just living a better life. Maybe they’re just happier.

One of my best friends just closed her tattoo business and recently received a text from a former client looking to extend his hand tatt to his arm. My friend responded with a very lengthy text advising of her change in circumstances and offering many alternative tattooists who may be able to help, as well as some other advice on picking the right design. His response was “LOL”. To which, my very intelligent friend responded, “not sure why that’s funny but OK”. This lovely man then proceeded to tell her that it was funny because her information was completely useless to him. Her information was of course not useless, it was rather helpful and informative but because he couldn’t get exactly what he wanted when he wanted, he pulled a Veruca Salt and had himself a little tanty. Here’s my question; do you believe his response would have been the same if they were standing face to face? I do not. I believe he wouldn’t have been delighted; but would have felt somewhat embarrassed to say these words out loud, for fear of sounding like a spoiled brat.

Remember when you started dating your current partner and you would send each other naughty texts? Oh, how I love those first few weeks (must stop blushing, people around). What was great about these texts, was that you felt so much braver to say everything your hormones wanted to say via text rather than to his face (accept after a few bevvies when you ended up sounding like you should be charging by the minute).

The same principal applies in all texting. As a society, we’ve gotten Dutch courage hiding behind our phones and keyboards, and we’re voicing opinions that are very often crossing the line. Remember a time when people used to live by the old adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Just because you believe something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you always need to share it with the world.

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I was scrolling through Instagram this week and saw a pic of Britney Spears lounging by the pool with one of her sons, who is surprisingly grown up now. I was impressed by how amazing Brit looked. So toned and so fit (note to self, must wake up early and go to the gym tomorrow). I think I left a comment saying something like “Hot damn” with a little fire emoji. I noticed the comment underneath said; “shame she doesn’t have the decency to cover up in front of her son”. She was in a bikini. She was at a pool. Seriously?  Then of course people came out in her defence writing comments like “didn’t realise it was the 1800’s”. I thought of a few comments myself but if I jumped on there and trolled the woman who trolled Brit, aren’t I part of the problem? Watching people attack one another online reminds me of those zombie movies where one bite takes over the next host so within seconds, an entire village has been claimed.

What amazes me, is that this woman chooses to follow the popstar. Why not unfollow her if she is offending you? Why try to correct her? Maybe she’s happy. Maybe her son is perfectly happy. I’ve unfollowed people I happen to love, on social media, because some of their opinions or posts hurt my feelings or did not sit well with my beliefs. I did not feel the need to blast them for their views. I just didn’t need to witness it. It’s called self-preservation and I make no apologies for it. Contrary to popular belief; Social Media is not life. It is a very small part of life. Some of the most important people in my life are not part of my Social Media world. Facebook will not be my measurement of happiness. Eckhart Tolle (yes, I will continue to quote he and Louise Hay at every opportunity I get) believes that people’s need to be right or their need to get others to hear their opinion is the ego. The ego needs to be right or to be heard to survive.

A few months ago, I, like most of the country, was caught up in the hype that was Married At First Sight. My friend Gill and I would talk about it constantly at work, so she invited me to a Facebook MAFS Group to get caught up in all the latest goss. For the most part, it was pretty entertaining. I made one post on the page that went a little something like “Every meal these guys eat is on white bread, they must be constipated AF”. A few minutes passed, it got a few laughing face emoji’s then I went back to work. I opened the page up again on my train ride home and nothing on this planet could have prepared me for the onslaught of comments that attacked my trivial post. And attacked me as a person.

Oh here we go, listen to the f###ing gym junkie”. Sorry I have biceps.

“Oh shut up you idiot, white bread is full of fibre”. Um, not really, but OK.

“You must have way too much spare time to notice that”. Yes, I had a spare seven seconds.

It’s people like you who are ruining the world”. Yes, I should be locked up with rapists and child molesters.

“I’ve been eating white bread for 70 years. I am perfectly healthy. You’re probably the one who’s constipated because you have a stick stuck up you’re a##e.” That last comment was from someone’s grandmother.

OK so in hindsight, it’s a humorous situation but I’m telling you now, I was rattled. The comments continued to come, one after the other. I left the group immediately. The whole night, I felt a state of anxiety. I felt not so good about myself. I don’t believe I am the kind of person who needs compliments or external validation to know my worth (not now anyway) but I have always been the kind of person who feared words far more than sticks and stones. Bruises heal. Psychological scrapes and bruises tend to linger for me. I would understand if I wrote something mean about one of their favourite people on the show, but I talked only about food. It has no pulse! I know carbs are delicious but how can anyone be that protective over a baked good?

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You see it every day. And it’s just gone too far here people. Just because you’re hiding behind a screen, it doesn’t take any impact away from the words you are projecting to another human being. Some will point the finger at moderators of groups or organisations or schools to do more when people are getting bullied, but I believe we all need to be more conscious of the way we are treating others. Let’s teach our children the importance of being a good person more than the importance of winning a race or a dance eisteddfod. If someone is being bullied, comfort them and be there for them. If someone is bullying, ask them if they are OK. Chances are, they’re not OK. Those who cause pain for others are usually in a great deal of pain themselves. We need to eliminate the ‘us’ v ‘them’ mentality in life. We’re all people. We all have battles to fight. We must cultivate kindness in our everyday lives. You can say that it’s what separates us from the animals but I gotta say, I see a lot more compassion coming from animals when I watch Youtube videos of elephants banding together to pull a fallen comrade out of a ditch or birds passing food to dogs who can’t reach the treat bowl.

In a week where yet two more creative celebrities have taken their own lives (Rest in Peace Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, you were wonderfully unique spirits who made your mark on this earth) we have to be aware that the human race is in a state of pain and agony. We’re hurting. Cruelty and bullying is a pandemic and the reason it has gained such momentum is because the internet has given it a global platform to spread like disease.

I am a staunch believer in kindness. I believe that if you think something nice about someone, anything at all, tell them. When I see a stranger on the street in an outfit I like I always say;“hot dress!” when I see a man with a gorgeous English Bulldog I always say “what a lovely dog you have” (I also say good morning to birds and trees but let’s start small). Mother Teresa believed you could change the world by smiling at strangers. One smile at a time. Boy was she spot on. You don’t have to create a fundraiser or make huge financial contributions, but you can add your small piece to the world. That small piece is more valuable than you’ll ever know. Your smile can create a domino effect. Kindness spreads like wildfire just as much as hatred does.

Please go out into the world this week with the objective to share kindness to others. Both your loved ones and to strangers. Even if the recipient hasn’t been particularly kind to you, in fact, extra points if you bring joy to a troubled soul. Resist the urge to share your opinion if it’s intent is to stick it to someone. Imagine each day as a score sheet to get into the pearly gates. One point for each act of kindness, minus one point for each time you inflict pain. What will your ‘for and against’ points look like on Judgement Day? I hope for your sake they’ll be in surplus.

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