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Posts tagged “Freedom of Speech

Learning to Swim

Well friends…another week has come and gone. And although I have a few posts in the cooker, I’ve decided to make this week’s a bit of a brain dump. Lately, my thoughts, as I am sure you can relate, have been reflective of the apparent state of the world. I’m not just talking about the multitude of negative stories that abound in the news and in social media. I’m talking about a general feeling of chaos that seems to permeate everything.

Personally, I live a life that is somewhat detached from the weight of the world. Not that it is devoid of heaviness. That could not be farther from the truth. But I don’t see any reason to add to my own issues by remaining relentlessly alert regarding the state of the union, so to speak.

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Up until recently, my online presence was very limited. There is safety in remaining invisible in an increasingly vocal and connected world. You can dive the depths of still waters as the information EAC rushes by, the sounds of battle muffled and sometimes altogether muted leaving you free to wax philosophical about life, death, and other intangible things. The unplugged perspective illuminates the bigger picture at a time when leaders are screwing up countries and technology is simultaneously saving the planet whilst destroying the world.

But eventually, you realize that you have something to say; that the life you lead and the perspective you have gained is valuable and could possibly help or inspire others. And the only way to put it out there is to put yourself out there; to dip a toe into that current and become visible.

So you mentally prepare yourself. You plan your dives before you venture forth into the sea of opposing opinions and frenetic news on a Facebook feed. You determine your privacy settings and filters and friends, and after carefully checking all your gear, you dive, confident that your entry will go something like this:

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…only to find, not long after, that you have been sucked into the void and it feels a whole lot like this:

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I can’t tell if heightened empathy makes me more vulnerable to the tumult of opposing opinions and passionate pleas I now see every day, or if it just makes me more conscious of my reactions to it. But I am very aware of the negative impact joining the Facebook masses has had on me. Sometimes it feels like the ~touching reunion~ and ~cute animal~ videos only serve as a backdrop to highlight troubled times and misguided people. One minute you are watching doggie cuddling kitty and the next that guy you know through a friend of a friend is ramming his politics down your throat.

When I say “misguided” I am not referring to specific points of view. I am referring to the intensity with which individuals assert their opinions. It is the intensity which closes us off to each other. It is the intensity which fosters blindness and oppression. It is the intensity which narrows minds.

Tempering our intensity can change an argument into a much needed dialog.  Somewhere in the midst of all this yelling is a middle ground big enough for all of us to stand on. It’s a solid foundation, a slower pace. It’s born of appreciation, respect, honesty and trust. And the journey to it begins with the understanding that it is more important to see the people around us so that we can talk ~to~ them instead of ~at~ them.

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I suspect that the world is no more or less chaotic or in peril than it was before this age of information overload. The only difference is that we are constantly immersed in a never-ending game of “he said, she said.” And that’s not just with regards to the nightly news.

A few days ago I was wondering if I had made a mistake by joining Facebook. It made me feel even less a part of society than I had before. My lack of desire for broadcasting my opinions on every issue and my lack of patience for the people who feel it is necessary to do so left me wondering if it would be better to let the world spin without me once more.

But I don’t believe that unplugging is the answer. The age of information is not upon us by accident. And it’s not going away any time soon. But it issues a challenge that we need to recognize. It dares us to be better people; people deserving of this freedom that we often take for granted. If we refuse to govern ourselves and our mouths on an individual level, with thoughtfulness and respect, we will, as a society, sink beneath a sea of angry words. So, with this in mind, I am learning to swim.

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