While surfing Twitter not long ago, a couple idle thoughts rattled around in my thick skull: 1. I vehemently disagree with at least half of what’s out there. 2. I’m offended beyond belief by the other half. Yes, the social media universe is generally a steaming pile of stuff, so there’s that …
In case you haven’t noticed before now, I like words. As a college sophomore, I decided words were my calling and declared a major in communications – print journalism, to be exact. I wanted to chase stories. I wanted to put myself out there on the written page, and that’s what I did. I don’t know if I can fully describe to you the thrill of waking up each morning to see my own words in print, scattered to the four winds of campus. Who cares if my stories were about such truly consequential issues as car-less dating or weather patterns over the Utah Valley? They were my stories, and it was fun while it lasted.
Then I went to law school. Talk about a buzzkill. Well, law school can take the journalist out of the newsroom, but it can’t take the newsroom out the journalist. Even after all these years, I still feel the itch. I still yearn to put my words out there. Then along comes social media, promising likes and an audience, and the allure is too great for me to resist.
Suddenly, I have a megaphone again, but you know what? Everybody else does too, and it’s tempting to think that therein lies the problem. As Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain or Larry the Cable Guy once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to tweet it out and remove all doubt.”
More than simple ignorance, however, the paranoia and anger take it to a whole different level. I shudder to think how much online content consists of (at worst) outright lies or (at best) gross distortions of the truth that serve no other purpose than to incite you to anger toward Democrats, Republicans, protesters, police, the media, Fred Rogers, puppies, the Wiggles, and your own grandmother, to name a few. What a shame. We’re so much better than that. At least we should be.
But as I surveyed the wreckage of the Twitter-verse, I had another thought too. Somehow the desolation is beautiful in a way. I’m glad you get to be wrong. (The failing is one I will never know, of course.) I’m delighted you get to offend because speech is messy. Freedom is messy. Life is messy.
I just wish more of us were actually listening to one another. I wish more of us were trying to understand. Because I think to myself what a wonderful (virtual) world that would be.
Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and his six young children. He has a B.A. in print journalism from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Chris enjoys music by The Piano Guys, flying kites, and pumpkin pie. He also spent two years in the Dominican Republic without a pillow, but that’s a story for a different day.