As I sit here in front of my laptop I am disappointed in the human race, and more importantly the “keyboard warriors”, as my husband refers to them. They are the people who sit on their phones or behind their laptops and find their opinion about other people’s looks, decisions and career-paths as being relevant.
As I have shared with all of you in previous blogs, as well as on my About page – my husband is an Afrikaans Music Promoter, and therefore he and, as a result, we have many friends and acquaintances that are considered as “celebrities”. They are well-aware that due to the fact that they are in the limelight and therefore have a wider audience reach than you and I may have, that they will receive a lot of criticism, but it has seemed to me that social media commentary and the negative nature thereof is escalating.
A popular Afrikaans musician who lost a child a while back was told that she deserved to have a miscarriage and has even been referred to as a bad mother and horrible wife. One of my husband’s best friends was referred to as being “arrogant”. My husband’s mother was a popular and well-respected Afrikaans singer, and many people questioned whether her car accident was suicide. And one of my close friends was recently referred to as looking like a man. I won’t even go into all the other horrible things that have been commented on their posts, TV-shows, careers and looks. It’s easy to say water off a duck’s back, or take it from where it comes, or they’re just jealous. But, it hurts. Because even though from your point of view they may have amazing lives, with minimal financial stress and sponsors for days, they also have daily battles they have to fight.
Without going into detail or disclosing any personal information about the people I have intimate relationships with, I just want to ask you to put yourself in their shoes:
- Imagine going through a divorce and having strangers add fuel to the fire of an already painful situation?
- Imagine going through a miscarriage, which is a pain that no one else will be able to understand, having to hold your baby that you know is not going to make it, and then be told that you deserved that pain?
- Imagine being questioned about your parent’s death and have someone suggest that your parent intentionally took their own life?
- Imagine being severely scrutinised about the way you look or lead your life or the work that you do?
There are several groups on Facebook where people ask an innocent question regarding their children, or where to eat or what to do, and all of a sudden, at the post of a comment, the entire thread turns into an opinion about the person’s parenting skills, personal life and / or looks. I have read posts about how people voice their opinions about how the citizens of certain African countries deserve to die and not have any resources given to them, and it ended in a dispute between an American and a Mexican arguing about who has a right to live in the States. Really?!?!?
Suicide is the third leading cause of death of people aged 10- to 29-years old (4400 per year), with cyber bullying creating a greater suicide ideation than normal bullying. 38% of frequent bully victims report having attempted to commit suicide, and yet, not all who attempt suicide actually die: so many people have to live brain-damaged, paralyzed or forever affected by their attempt.
What if you were the reason?
What if your opinion about the way someone looked or lived their life or did their job caused them to consider taking their own life, impacting not only their life, but also that of their parents, children, friends and colleagues?
Just a disclaimer, before someone climbs onto the bandwagon and completely misinterprets what I said: not one of the celebrities or people referred to above have or are even close to contemplating suicide. I am more hurt by what was said than what they are, but my point remains: what if your “heat-of-the-moment” opinion caused someone else to question their self-worth and decide that the world is a better place without them?
What if it was you?
As a young girl I was bullied for so many pathetic reasons, and it affects me till today. I always thought, as soon as I’m out of school then the bullying will stop. Yet, I could go home after school and have a break from mean girls. Lately, with technology there is no break. Any day, any time, on any forum people have access to emotional and verbal abuse.
Now, almost 30 years old, it seems that high school never ends and the level of bullying is worse than ever.
It seems that because almost everyone is on social media, and can hide behind their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram Profile they possess “technological courage”. What if you had to hear how ugly someone else thought you were (in looks or in character)? What if you had to be told how you deserved anything bad that happened to you? Or that you’re a bad parent? Or that you’re arrogant? By people who have not even made the effort to spend five (5) minutes in your company. And just because someone did it to you, does not mean that you should “return the proverbial favour”.
I can defend each and everyone that I have met or spent time with, but it’s not worth it. No one actually deserves an explanation of the type of people they actually are. I can, however, say that they have hearts, like me and you, and that they are all fighting their own battles that you know nothing about and that no one besides them are entitled to know.
It’s easier to listen to the critics and doubt yourself than to listen to the positive things people say and focus on that.
I urge you, the next time you read something that you don’t agree with, or the next time you see someone that you may not consider to be beautiful, or even if you just have an opinion about what may suit them better, use three guards between yourself and your mouth or your fingers:
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
If it isn’t one of the above, leave it and know that even though you may be entitled to your own opinion, you aren’t entitled to breaking someone else down.
Let’s use social media to connect to others and not to break each other down.