Propagate Peace…in Person!

WAY too many people are astonishingly angry these days, and it seems to be an anger born of a stingy, self-seeking outlook. It would appear that a lot of folks are looking out exclusively for themselves, from their own, tiny perspective, and really have no interest in broadening their minds or adjusting to a challenging situation or loving their “neighbor,” and no desire to truly listen or compromise or give others the benefit of the doubt. What in the world has happened to us? I personally believe that our attachment to electronic devices and social media outlets have made this negative and dangerous way of social exchange more and more common. Cyber interaction has not made life better. Rather, it has morphed and complicated our relationships with one another, by building tiny cells of detachment around each and every one of us. The walls are made of bricks fired in a kiln of miscommunication, apathy, distrust, ignorance, and just plain bad manners, and the mortar is our own, individual yearning for significance. How many minions will follow my social accounts if I rant and rave about someone or something? Or, on the other hand, how many feathers can I ruffle with my brazen and unflattering comments? It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s not uncommon these days to see entire news stories built around obnoxious Twitter posts (particularly if the posts are by and/or about “household names”). There was just a Twitter-based news story earlier this week, about Lady Gaga’s “fat roll.” Seriously….this was a posted news story, showing all the Tweets from (quite possibly) couch potatoes suggesting that Ms. Gaga should lose a few pounds, or get to the gym pronto. I am probably the farthest you can possibly be from a Lady Gaga fan, but I was stunned by the gall of the catty crowd. First of all, this is just brutish and hateful behavior, and second, WHY IS THIS NEWSWORTHY, on a well-known, national news site?! If we make news articles from these kinds of Tweets, doesn’t it just encourage the adolescent behavior? The saddest part is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What I read in that questionable news scoop is happening constantly, daily, hourly, on all the social media sites around the world. The malevolent mob is constantly on the outlook for negative, often scandalous, news items or memes or gossip to share (and reshare, ad infinitum) about whomever they have taken a dislike to at the moment. Those of us with any trace of benevolence and charity must dig deep within ourselves and find the resolve to push back, by making an extraordinary effort to exhibit peace and goodwill to all we come in contact with. I know that you are out there, too, on social media, but you are the quiet ones. Or, perhaps you were out there, but have had to ditch one social media site after another, in an effort to hide from the landslide of incivility. Well, I say it’s time to take our efforts out into the streets, and bring positive, personal, interactive exchange back into vogue….but where do we start?

First of all, if you feel so inclined to ditch Facebook or Twitter or whatever, go for it. I think it might depend on how many followers you have. It is always best to limit your “friend” list to people who you actually know, and if you have friends whose posts you often disagree with, fight the urge to comment…let it slide! And, don’t be afraid to unfriend or unfollow when people cross the line (the line being whatever you think is unacceptable behavior, in view of a kinder and more empathetic way of exchange). But, most important, do not allow electronic devices and social media to become your main way of connecting with fellow human beings!

When you are out and about, running errands, working-out at the local gym, standing in line at Starbucks or the airport or wherever, make a special effort to smile and say hi to those nearby. My new joy in life is making people smile. I not only acknowledge everyone with a greeting, but I often compliment people on their clothing or hair or good manners, and joke around with people whenever I can. Just last week, I noticed that the man in front of me at the grocery check-out (whose ethnic heritage was not the same as mine, and quite possibly, we [GASP] voted for one or two different candidates in the last election) was “carded” for a purchase of wine. It was quite obvious that he was old enough, so I made myself say something. “How do you feel when they ask for your ID,” I asked him. He didn’t mind, he said. It made him feel young. I then proceeded to tell him that it bugs the crap out of me, and I think that my wrinkles and gray hair should be good for something. He stood back, looked at me and said, “So…’re what…maybe 22?” Ha! I lightly smacked the side of his arm and laughed, as I said, “You’re messin’ with me!” We both walked out of the grocery store with big smiles on our faces. This is what has been happening to me repeatedly lately, as I strive to love and spread good will wherever I go. I am beginning to see, more and more, how much people crave positive interaction with those around them, even when they might seem reluctant at first. Trust me, I have played to some rough audiences, and been rewarded with a smile from my persistence. Granted, there are also those who hardly even acknowledge my attempts, and even some who look at me as if I were mad, but that will not stop me, and I beg that you not let it deter you either. This is a war, and we must proceed at all cost, and we must cling to the hope that love (and respect and kindness and charitable interaction) can change the world….because, I promise you, it will!