PLEASE NOTE: If you want to just skip the reading, scroll down to the awesome video from Teaching Tolerance on Countering Online Hate Speech.
Whatever your size, shape, skin tone, sex, sexual orientation or preferences, religion, political opinions, ethnicity- you name it: you deserve a space to speak. We may not agree with each other, but we both deserve the opportunity to state our cases. If we follow the other ideas I list below, we should be able to coexist. We may get along life BFFs. We may choose to disagree and have little to do with each other. Or, we may choose to see where we can work together despite our differences. Whatever the case, neither of us should try to silence the other.
2. Acknowledge everyone deserves space to be.
Ever want to just run away from it all and hide? Believe that you deserve the space you’re in. Breathe in that fact and exhale the fear and/or anger talking. Ever feel like that other person should just go and die? Believe that they deserve the space they’re in just as much. Breathe in that truth and exhale the fear and/or anger talking. You and that “other” person are both human beings. As bystanders, if we see someone trying to silence another, we should calmly and directly say, “I think __ has the right to their opinion and I think what you’re saying is hurtful/sexist/etc.”. If we see someone run in fear, we should calmly and directly say, “I think you have the right to your opinion. I told them I think what they said was hurtful/racist/etc.”.
3. Think and speak with “we” in mind.
No one likes to be looked down upon. We should talk in ways that keep us looking at each other eye-to-eye. You may not believe it, but the way we say things affects how others take in what we say. Choices like “You people need to…” and “You women should just…” kill respect, light fuses and try to place the speaker as someone high up in a fortress, looking down on those they are addressing. Switching it around to “I think we could…” or “I disagree with that opinion…” will still get our point across. I used both “you” and “I/we” in this paragraph. Which sentences made you feel more more relaxed or more defensive?
I’m really tired of the phrase “keyboard warrior”. As I’m exploring in my book for those with type 1 diabetes, the term “warrior” does not need to mean a vicious, cut-throat and cloaked vigilant. It’s true that we can do/say things behind the anonymity of a screen that we might not do in public. That’s why meeting with and talking with people directly is vital to our humanity. The students behind the March for Our Lives are doing this over the summer, with their cross-country bus tour Road to Change. Coffee shops, concerts, conventions- even video conferencing like VLive or on our phones- anywhere were we see and hear each other in real-time can build our connections with others, helping us see the other points I’ve outlined so far. The keyboard time can be turned toward building those relationships, too, so we become warriors standing in solidarity against hardships and things, not each other.
5. Understand that opinions are biases, not facts.
I’ve emphasized “opinion” here, because what we think and feel cause most of our wild behaviors. What about facts? Facts can be used as weapons to stoke opinions. I’m reminded of the amazing reply that Adam Savage gave to the question, “What’s your biggest science no-no?”. His reply: “Bias.”. Facts shouldn’t be affected our attitudes; at their root, they simply are what they are. It’s vital to look at facts calmly and ask ourselves what is the exact truth involved, and what is what we feel or wish. I can say, “---- are kings!” and cite data to support. The data are facts proving some relative influence in the world, but my original statement is purely biased opinion. I can say, “Politicians are killing people with T1D” and cite data on insulin prices. The prices are facts but my original statement is simply my opinion to get my point across that we as a country need to look at health care. We should clearly label each other’s and our own biased opinions.
When we feel attacked, our instinct can be to retaliate or run. When we read something that ticks us off, our knee jerk reaction might be to “put that person in their place”. Even when we reach out to defend someone in need, we need to remember these other points I’ve outlined and not seek another’s annihilation. Hurting others keeps that destructive cycle going and should not be an used- even if we feel justified and tempted to use it in the defense of someone else.
Forgiveness. If we can’t manage that, let’s choose forgetting and calmly walking away. Those options remind us that we all make mistakes and there’s hope for eventual change. They remind that we all have baggage. That none of us is superior to another. That no one is a lost cause and we can all someday, somewhere, help someone out and do something good.
We’re never going to eliminate all the negatives in humanity. But we can reduce their influence by the choices we make every day. As in parenting, kickback from those soaked in these destructive behaviors will occur when we begin. However, if we persist, support and work together, we can make positive changes.
Helpful links from Teaching Tolerance:
Teaching Tolerance Countering Online Hate Speech This is a great video with specific examples and sample responses to use when we encounter hate speech online.
How Does "Fake" News Become News? This is a light-hearted but informational video detailing how confirmation bias and filter bubbles affect what information we tend to believe and spread. If your social media are negative, you have built it that way. With help from this video, you can change it, too!