My Humble Attempt to Raise People Up, Rather Than Tear Them Down
Let’s talk Facebook. Or any social network, really. Even Snapchat, if that’s your thing… (for the record, I do not understand Snapchat – which probably means I’m old).
I recently had to take a loooong break from social media. It seemed like every time I opened up Facebook, I’d see fighting, arguments, name-calling and hate speech. And that was just my mum’s status updates!
I follow a lot of vegan pages and groups, and it was becoming exhausting to read all of the horrible things people were writing. Not just non-vegans being nasty to vegans, or vice versa – but also vegans being nasty to each other! At the risk of sounding like a hippy and taking the vegan movement back ten years, it was really bringing my energy down, man.
I found myself getting caught up in debates – pointless exercises mostly, where everyone (including me) was laser-focused on being right. And as anyone who’s ever been in an argument knows – having the mantra ‘I must be right at all costs’ rarely gets you anywhere.
I wanna quickly say that it wasn’t just vegan pages either. I’m also in many other groups, and there are always a few nasty commenters, no matter where you go. Wherever you are on the internet, you’re never more than 6 comments away from a meanie. Kinda like when you’re in New York City – but there, it’s rats, not meanies. Or maybe both?! I digress…
So I decided, after my little technology fast, that I was going to come back with a different approach (well – first I decided to delete Facebook from my phone, but that lasted 2 days). I resolved that until I find a way to avoid the internet forever, I am going to interact there differently. Especially when it comes to vegan posts.
Rather than reading a mean comment and feeling compelled to (even peacefully) debate with that person – which always leaves me feeling drained afterwards, rather than energised – I’m going to seek out those who need a supporter. You know those comments you see where someone’s like, “I wish I could be vegan, but….”; or “I don’t want to eat meat anymore but I don’t know where to start”? Any comment that gives an inkling that the person might be ready to learn some more and make some changes. Well, I decided to pounce on those comments instead. I decided I was going to show those people that support and encouragement is out there, and that the vegan movement is about kindness at it’s core.
So I started commenting congratulations to people who’d made a positive change. I started linking resources and recipes to people who were struggling. I offered to privately message people who wanted someone to help them further. I answered questions and empathised with people’s struggles – remembering how I felt at the beginning of it all.
And something great happened. I started to feel energised by social media again. I felt I was making connections, rather than divisions (which is the purpose of social media in the first place, right?). Other people started liking and commenting on my comments – also offering their support. People unsure about how to be vegan started gaining confidence and making more compassionate choices.
And I felt my ‘compassion fatigue’ start to melt away. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here’s a tongue-in-cheek definition:
Compassion Fatigue (n): That feeling of you get when you’re tired of giving a crap & it seems the whole world is screwed, so you consider living as a hermit for the rest of your days.
Rather than dwelling on the horrible things going on in the world, my focus became doing something to change that.
Rather than dragging people down, I focused on lifting them up. And in the process, I lifted myself up too.
If internet comments are dragging you down, give this approach a try. Or move to an island with no wifi. That could work too. If you can provide tropical food and a sandy beach, I might just join you 😉
I’m going to start adding some ‘copy and paste-able’ comments to my Facebook page, ‘Claire Dicarlo – Compassion & Comedy’. Feel free to steal any of them and use them freely in your social media exchanges. There are also some ideas for documentaries to recommend to people here.
Note: I also don’t condemn anyone who chooses a different form of social media activism. Different strokes for different folks. This is purely what worked for me, based on how debating was making me feel. If you love a good debate – rock on!