“Before you speak, think: Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
/me steps up on her soapbox and clears her throat.
My mother always taught me, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to realize that what she taught me is only partially true; sometimes we have to say things to people that aren’t so nice, but I’ve found that those moments tend to work well if done with respect, grace, kindness and desire to be constructive.
I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes am challenged in following that approach, especially somewhere like teh intarwebz. But as I’ve looked around the SL diaspora on the web, lately it has felt like someone poured a big bottle of mean into the SL blogosphere and Plurk. There has just been way too much nasty going around. Of course, there is nothing new about people being cranky with each other on the internet; I think the first flame war started within weeks of the creation of the web. I’m not even going to touch the whys and hows or psychology behind people being mean-spirited on the web, but I believe we have choices about how we respond.
This is one of those instances in life where I think the very vocal and small minority dictates the tone of the conversation. Yes, some people are mean. Or have different opinions. Or something that just rubs you the wrong way. Yet we consume it. We read it. We share it. We talk about it. While we might find some titillation in the drama of it all, I believe much of it makes us uncomfortable, too.
We’ve got amazing and unparalleled power in our ability to communicate on the web, but I’ve always believed that with power comes responsibility. There will always be people who get their jollies out of being hurtful, but I believe that most of us care deeply about how we treat others. It is up to us to take responsibility for how we communicate.
I believe we *can* do something to help change the tone. So dear readers, I’m asking for you to think about doing two simple things. What I’m going to suggest is nothing new or all that difficult. For one week – just seven days in a row of your choosing – actively decide to:
- Stop consuming content you know will annoy you. This list is different for every person, but you know which blogs, discussion forums, Twitterers, Plurkers, Facebook friends, etc., make you go from calm to irate in seconds flat. Choose to go cold turkey on this content for seven days. See how you feel living without it.
- Avoid generating content that pours gasoline on the smoldering fire. For seven days, take a moment to pause and ask yourself the Sri Sathya Sai Baba quote from above any time you put your thoughts out in the web (except maybe the improving on the silence part, otherwise we might see nothing posted :P). We can choose to be civil and still get our point across, even difficult ones.
Even if these don’t resonate with you, I hope you’ll think about the role all of us play in the civility of our little corner of the digital world. Finally, my readership is tiny and have no illusions that this will do much; hell, I’ve been to baby showers with more people than typically read one of my blog posts. If this resonates with you at all, I hope you’ll find a way to spread these thoughts in ways that work for you. Write your own short blog post, retweet a link, whatever, just help spread the idea that we can create a more civil tone.
So, let’s hear it, who is in?
/me smiles, thanks you for your time and steps off her soapbox.
(Finally, props to ChatBrat Pippita and Harper Beresford. ChatBrat has long had the Sri Sathya Sai Baba quote in her profile; it was our discussion about this that helped get me thinking. I’m stuck using an older computer while mine is out for repairs and Harper snapped the picture for me; thank you so much!)