Isn’t it great when small things make your day better?
One of my favorites is seeing happy, friendly people when I’m out and about. I love it when someone thanks me for holding the door, holds the door for me, or even smiles as they walk by. Those simple gestures have the power to quickly lift my spirits. Life seems a little bit easier when we allow these small joys to help carry us through our days. Okay okay, I know I sound like a hippie, but it’s true.
My Crazy Nolabees (yes, she’s Crazy with a capital C,) needs a long walk everyday, or she’ll bark at me until I comply. It’s actually a win-win. Our walks are amazing because I not only get myself out, but I also get to meet all the lovely people who are all around. I get the chance to see the best in people, and it’s all thanks to Nola. People light up when they see Nola on the street. Kids interrupt their recess at school to pet her. Every day several people tell her she’s beautiful, and I think, “how lucky is this dog?” How great would it be to naturally bring happiness to others while they love and compliment you all day long? And Nola gives a lot of love in return. She loves all people and all dogs. She has never met anyone who didn’t make her jump (unfortunately literally– we are working on that,) for joy.
Then I go home and sit down at my computer, which always involves the usual distractions. When I see what’s happening through the screen, I see an alternate universe. I see otherwise friendly neighbors insulting each other on Nextdoor.com, mean people bullying others on Twitter, and arguments (not discussions) over the most innocuous of subjects on any given forum.
It makes me wonder, are these are the same wonderful people I met on the street earlier that day?
I’m not the first to worry about how communicating through screens is affecting our behavior. We don’t know how to navigate the social norms of this new segment of our society. Are we are losing the very thing that makes us human– our empathy, our manners, and our ability to communicate without slinging (irrelevant) personal insults? Are we creating such a strong sense of “other” behind the screen, that we can’t discuss an opposing viewpoint with decency? Do we always have to be right, and do we always have to have the last word?
I’ve been guilty of it myself. I remember the last time I was a jerk. I had just set up a twitter account and posted a joke making fun of a celebrity after some horrendous plastic surgery she had. I didn’t even consider that it was mean until I realized I had also tweeted my comment to her. (I clearly don’t know how twitter works.) When I realized I had sent my “funny” comment to her, I felt bad for this stranger who didn’t ask for my opinion. Although meant to be funny, it was unintentionally vicious, and I would never say that to someone. When I realized she would see it, the empathy bug hit me! I remembered how it felt when strangers came to my blog and said irrelevant things to me like, “I feel sorry for your husband. It would suck to be married to you,” or, “You’re a whiny bitch.” And here I was, doing the same thing to her.
When I made my joke, it didn’t really matter what I said about her. What mattered was what my words said about me– that I was judgmental and mean. And while I may be those things at times, I know that’s not who I want to be. Putting that energy out into the world, doesn’t help me be who I want to be, so I stopped. I started behaving online the same way or better than I would behave if I were standing in front of someone.
While I may not be able to change or influence the way others behave, I can control what I do. I can choose to jump for joy like Nola. I can try to always be the person who smiles at a stranger, or holds a door, or tells my neighbor that her dog is pretty, or who tells my neighbor that she is pretty. Whether we’re online, in a coffee shop, or at the dentist, maybe we should all remember our humanity… or maybe try to be a little more like Nola.
It seems like a good time to try. We could all use a little more of that right now.