What’s becoming of us? Can’t we just talk anymore?
Our world these days can get ya down in a minute. I mean, common sense doesn’t seem too common, and what happened to mercy and grace?
We’re so quick to judge and attack.
Quick to take things out of context and blow them up into some sensational nonsense in an attempt to advance an agenda. Simple talk, based in reality and empathy, has flown the coop.
It almost makes you afraid to say or write anything. Almost.
I’m worrying about America. I’m worried bout Trump. I’m worried bout Joe, Kanye, our local leaders and our citizens in general. I’m worried!
What is becoming of us?
I know the heart and soul of general goodness is out there. But some days I have to ask, where?
It’s a pandemic. Nope, not the COVID19 pandemic. No…this one stems from another kind of virus I’ll call the 2020 Doomsday Communication Virus.
All too often, the material discussion over solving problems keeps getting hijacked with runaway, absurd communication. Doom. Nastiness. Judgement. Hypocrisy.
I think this virus is real, and I think it stands to cause as much real harm, if not more, than the Covid19 Virus. When you consider the violence, stress, lack of grace and loss of compassion stemming from the vile, inflammatory communication habits of today’s world, the impact is huge.
Words hurt, and right now we’re in a season where I don’t think our culture is using them as responsibly as we should.
I see three major strains of this lethal virus working against us.
1. Social Media. A Window Into Us.
2. The Loss of Journalism in News.
3. The Weaponizing of Words and Hidden Agendas.
Let’s dig into some of the symptoms.
First stop: Social media.
There’s a breakdown of good, old-fashioned simple talk, coupled with an apparent loss of common sense. In addition, a hyper-sensitive reaction over comments made that don’t fit a preconceived, sometimes stubborn agenda. It’s often accompanied with a tendency to stop counting blessings and a loss of gratitude.
Don’t look for mercy and grace if afflicted. But count on a rapidly spreading viral tendency to cast blind judgement.
All of the symptoms of this are exponentially amplified by the unprecedented reach of social media.
I believe the development and use of social media platforms will prove to be one of the most significant technological breakthroughs in history. I also believe it will impact human behavior much more than it should have.
The ripple effect of having access to such a powerful, transparent communication platform may have a lot more to do with our health and well being than you might imagine.
But it’s not really social media that is the culprit.
More so, it’s social media documenting who we are.
The visibility, volume, quantity, distortions and reach of personal expression is illuminating and amplifying the state of our true character and heart at unprecedented proportions.
Think about that.
“The true state of our character and heart.”
Social media is like a window revealing who we really are as a society. It’s not that we’ve suddenly gone crazy. It’s just that social media has exposed us.
It has revealed the personalities, values and mindsets of people in any given moment, with high volume and unedited realness. Sometimes, it’s not pretty.
I think it’s showing us that our core values are steadily eroding, and we need to fix it.
That’s bad enough in its own right, but there is more.
Add to the symptom list:
The loss of journalistic integrity in most of our news outlets.
Practically all of our “Professional News Media” is now more like tabloid news rather than dependable information sources.
I used to stand in line at the grocery store and while I deciphered which candy bar I wanted, (You know how that is. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.)
I’d read tabloids for humor and entertainment. It was kind of fun to see which tabloid had the most ridiculous, absurd distortion of the truth on the cover. And of course, a lot of it was completely made up with no roots in the truth at all.
They were good for a cheap laugh and entertainment, but not facts.
Nowadays, with a few exceptions, most of our so-called news is nothing more than hyped up BS aimed at getting ratings, shares and likes, rather than disseminating facts.
Tabloid news, not journalism.
Like candy bars, tabloid news is good when you feel like a nut, but there are times you don’t want nuts and you want real facts.
Real facts are buried for the sake of sensationalized so-called journalism, because it boosts ratings. The more communication drifts to social media, the more traditional media channels have to stir the pot for attention.
And guess what? The kind of news stories that get the most reaction these days is…surprise!
Gloom and doom! Be it based in truth or not.
However the most dangerous symptom that can hit anybody, and perhaps the worst of them all, is the one that deserves the most self-reflection:
The weaponizing and distortion of words to mask a person’s true agenda.
Weaponized words that stem from individuals, groups and news media, coupled with manufactured sensitivity and out-of-context soundbites is way out of hand.
Whew. That’s a mouthful.
Let’s break this down a little bit.
We now capture and store audio, video and the written word like never before. The technology to research, store and repeat off the cuff comments from a person’s entire life has enabled a ridiculous amount of selective, amplified, distorted, out-of-context judgement. Oftentimes it’s also shallow judgement, without full understanding.
The outcry and spirited debate meant to be seen as standing up for solid foundational beliefs, is often used as a trojan horse.
In other words, there is usually something else stirring in people than what is stated in their agenda. Some other feeling or emotion. Or sometimes there’s an ulterior motive and hidden agenda. But rather than say it, they jump at the chance to amplify negativity and take things out of context if it serves them well.
Authenticity and transparency are lost from many conversations. Replaced by hypocritical, inflammatory fuel rather than kind, diffusing mercy and grace that could be just as easily be added. This is especially disturbing when it comes from some of our leaders.
The loud front, the shock and awe, the trojan horse I speak of is masking the real agenda which often has nothing to do with the problem we’re supposed to care about solving in the first place.
The sad part is the sensationalized rhetoric is often robbing the focus from the real problems that could benefit from calm, sensible conversation. Gentle conversations we can have even if we don’t all agree.
When I feel upset and worried and struggle to understand someone’s point of view, I dial in as much empathy as I can. I remind myself that I ain’t in the judge’n business.
Right now I’m giving a lot of thought to what really goes on in a person’s mind that sparks such outward negativity. The kind we see daily on social media, in the news and in our communities.
When a person lashes out and sets aside mercy, grace and understanding just to be vile, do you ever wonder what the true feelings and agendas are underneath the words?
It’s hard to do, but do you ever set aside your initial emotional reaction and give thought to what it is that motivates a person to lash out like they do?
The sad part here is that the masked agendas causing the outburst are often worthy of deep thought and discussion. But too often, those issues are hijacked by misguided rhetoric.
Sometimes the loudest voices come from those who are more caught up in the act of speaking out than the act of caring and problem solving.
And what in the world is happening to our commonsense approach to communicating?
We are so quick to jump on leaders and public officials when they say words that aren’t spot on. God forbid they use a colloquial phrase or idiom. We’ll crucify someone using a figure of speech to make a point. A point that was never meant to be taken literally. (Crucify. See? It’s just a figure of speech.)
But today it seems we’ll take a person’s comments out of context in a heartbeat. We will then argue as if they meant something literally when we know good and well they didn’t. The arguments quickly rise to the point of ridiculousness.
It’s as if none of us grew up learning the nuances, slang and oddities inherent in the English language.
We can have an urban dictionary full of derivatives, new words and slang that keep us “woke”. But the criteria to judge when it’s ok to use those language exceptions is weighted with a double standard. If one person’s views don’t line up with another, then we’ll drop the hammer on them for using figures of speech, slang, idioms and so on. We’ll put a spin on it and repeat it out of context to fit a self-serving agenda whether it truly fits or not. It’s distracting, distorted, selfish and just wrong.
(Note, no hammer was really dropped here)
Think about it this way. We get all holier than thou over sayings and soundbites, but what if you were to look at your average top-hits music playlist or your favorite radio station. What if you use that same judgement on what you are hearing there?
Practically every genre of music except Christian, plays songs with suggestive, fictional lyrics detached from reality with what could be perceived as real, violent undertones. It’s full of figures of speech, symbolic phrases, slang, metaphors and then some.
We’ll listen to songs over and over with crude slang and figures of speech under the veil of art and that’s ok.
But let a leader use an age-old figure of speech and it gets
magnified and distorted beyond literal common sense. Butter my butt and call me a biscuit. That’s just crazy.
And how about this? If somebody in leadership said something 20 minutes or 20 years ago, we’ll string those together to fit our own current agenda and argument. It’s like none of us ever said stupid things when we were younger, or last year or last week. Even our “news journalist” will selectively edit and practically rebuild a conversation and the context of a story to prop up a preconceived agenda.
Turn that microscope around on most of us and we’d fail the test we’re trying to hold others to.
It seems our understanding of the right to free speech has also granted us the impression that we have some sovereign right to pass judgement on everybody but ourselves.
If only we’d turn that same criteria and process on ourselves and look long and deep in the mirror.
Here’s what I know.
Actions speak louder than words.
If we don’t like violence, let’s be kinder. If we want a better future, then let’s focus on future actions to get us there. Constructively, we should spend more time looking underneath the “stated agendas” in search of the simple truths.
The truths underneath… that’s what is important to know.
The real issues are understandable, if we could only get to them. The sad part for me in society today is that underneath all the gloom and doom communication, I think we all share more common ground than not.
So what do we do?
In times of challenge I like to pray a simple prayer. It goes something like this.
“What Lord, am I to take from this?”
In all trials, I think there are valuable lessons we are supposed to learn from. Right now, it’s like the world is screaming at us to learn some big things. On the surface they may be hard to see and so I ask… What Lord am I to take from this?
Maybe it’s a call for a big exhale.
Some calm. Forgiveness. Kindness. Commonsense. Unity.
Maybe it’s a call for perspective and gratitude.
A lot of mercy and grace.
With all of our troubles, I see people really working hard and trying. I see leaders, teachers, moms, dads, and kids doing their best to make really hard decisions. Struggling with unprecedented times without a playbook.
I understand why we’re so wigged out. It’s hard. It’s stressful. If there is ever a time for togetherness, kindness and buckets full of grace, it seems to be now.
One of these days, when the anthropologists do their study of 2020, I hope they look back and find that in the latter part of the year there was a turn in communication.
A turn in the soul of our culture. A turn towards kindness, empathy and authentic compassion.
I hope it reads that grace, love, commonsense and positivity found their way back in our society and onto social media.
I hope and believe it will show the true state of our character and heart had been there all along.
We just forgot to focus on it for a while.
Let’s remember, life is good.