Do you ever notice when you’re talking to someone that they’re not really listening to what you’re saying, just calculating what they’ll say next? Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? I know that I do. It seems these days that we all believe ourselves to be experts at and feel the need to weigh in on virtually everything. From politics to pop culture, feel-good news stories to world events, we all have this inflated sense that our opinions are supremely important and we demand that they be heard whether they should be or not. More often not.
The comments section on websites and social media has become a sad display of this vacuous behavior so common today. Any time I read through the comments left by the public, I’m flabbergasted by the venom, audacity, ignorance and nastiness of what I see. When did this become normal? Most of these people would never dream of voicing their comments face to face but they jump at the chance to do so anonymously from behind their keyboards. There is even a sub-category or commenters called “trolls” whose sole agenda and purpose is to add ugliness and stir the pot at any and every opportunity. But why, what joy or contentment comes from it?
Perfect example of this: my 101 year old Great Grandmother was recently invited to her first professional baseball game by the Governor of Arizona. They rolled out the red carpet and gave her the royal treatment. She met players and received a jersey with her name on it, she was absolutely thrilled. What a wonderful thing to do for her! The local news picked it up and reported about it and I was thrilled to be able to find the story online from Michigan and watch my Grandma’s face light up like a little girl as she enjoyed her special night. Then I scrolled down to the comments. To be fair, some were wonderful and congratulatory. But far too many were negative, criticizing the State of Arizona and the Governor for wasting time and money on such a silly thing, for focusing on nonsense instead of important issues. Some were even flat out nasty about her age. Seriously?!?! How miserable are you that you feel the need to be so mean on such an upbeat and positive story?
When we allow the internet to drive and dictate our lives, we fall victim to algorithms that show us only what they think we want to see. So whatever we click on and read, we keep seeing more and more of the same until pretty soon our whole view is completely skewed. Using Google Search, different people get different results based on their history and the data collected on them. But how can anyone ever change or grow or understand anyone else when all they’re able to see is their own views reflected back at them? When we dehumanize and view each other only as an avatar on a screen, we lose the ability to relate and empathize with each other as real people. And I believe we’re seeing now the effects of that happening in the world around us.
The truth is that I’m not an expert at anything. (Clearly, did you see that picture up there? Experts don’t have crazy hair and smiles like that!) None of us are. I’d like to think I’m an expert at my life at least, but then I look back and see how my ideas are always changing and evolving and I realize that I’m a novice at best. In my 20’s I would’ve told you with stubborn certainty that making more money and owning a home was of the utmost importance, that I would never be in a relationship where I was abused or stay in a marriage after being cheated on, that my political and non-religious beliefs were set in stone and not open to change in any way. Oh, the naive conviction of the young. At 41, I’m happy making less money, my home is for sale so that I can live in an RV and travel, I left a terribly abusive relationship years ago, my marriage survived my husband’s infidelity and is thriving, my political views are ever evolving and I’m always seeking and learning.
The only thing I consider myself an expert in is my awareness that I don’t know much of anything at all. As I said before here and here, all any of us have is our life experience and background as reference. Actively seeking out other perceptions and frameworks keeps my mind open and accepting of concepts that seem foreign or opposite from the thoughts I have. I recently found the most amazing and eye-opening collection of stories called Risk and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m reading the book and listening to the podcasts right now and the stories are truly captivating. The openness and vulnerability of the speakers and authors inspires me to be more honest and vulnerable in my own life. Hearing the real tales of lives that I’ve never imagined and being able to relate to them and empathize with those experiences, it just opens my mind and my heart up to people I might otherwise never have the opportunity to know at all. And isn’t that the point of why we’re all here together, to learn from and love each other? At least I think so.
Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. All images taken by me unless otherwise stated.