Recently Facebook sent a series of those “memory” notices documenting things I’ve said in the past on that platform. For the most part, I’m comfortable with my online presence over the last eleven years.
But some of it was not so good. The overposting. The arguments over politics and issues such as gun control, racism, religion and environmental issues. I get triggered easily because I care passionately about such topics.
At times I have become unkind.
Remorse and regret
I just wrote a piece on my blog about the Fine Art of Leaving Old Friends. It documents both the remorse and regret one feels in finding out that someone you used to like and trust becomes someone you no longer admire.
That is one of those moments when you find yourself questioning your own character.
I know there are people out there who view me in less than a kind way, people whose viewpoints I’ve challenged or questioned. Some people take offense at that. In fact, almost everyone takes offense at that. Most people don’t like change, and especially refuse it from sources and forces outside their trusted sphere. When they additionally find out there are people they assumed were part of their sphere, and thought like they do, but don’t, the sense of betrayal feels extra keen.
Hard to be kind
That’s exactly what makes it so hard to be kind in this world. Even a mild question can turn into a major point of difference if it is misconstrued. I just had that happen on Linkedin this morning. A man made a comment directed to me that was meant to be complimentary and positive. But I misunderstood his intentions and responded in a defensive way.
So I communicated with him off the main feed and learned that his actual intentions were kind. I then apologized and even offered him a complimentary content strategy consultation if he so chooses. He thanked me for that and said that he might well take me up on that offer.
Asking forgiveness in that circumstance was the right thing to do. Of course there are people online who actually do have malignant intentions with their comments. We call them trolls in some case, because they seem to pop up like angry little beasts when you least expect them. In many cases they are exceedingly unkind. Cruel even. Some turn out to be monsters indeed.
As a competitive person, I don’t like to give in to bullies like that. But on some occasions I’ve stood my ground and persisted in the most truthful responses I can manage. One of those exchanges lasted a full day with a guy that hated my “liberal” politics. By the time he’d made all his accusations and exhausted himself making arguments, he finally admitted that on many issues I had made good points. We both learned something along the way.
Write it down
When the world makes it hard to be kind, it is kind of hard to take the high ground. Abraham Lincoln once said that the best thing to do when angry is to write all your worst thoughts in a letter, then crumple it up and throw it away.
It’s hard to crumple a nasty response on the Internet, but the Discard button works just as well. I try to use it as often as possible, lest some of those memories come up ten years from now, if Facebook and I are still around.
Or try a weird trick and write something kind in place of something nasty. “Kill them with kindness,” the saying goes. It does funny things to your brain, I promise you that.