Consider What Helps & What Hurts
No one fully stands in your shoes but you, which means no one can truly know what's best for you, except you.
We figure out what's best for us, by trial and error, or by figuring out how to listen to our inner voice, filtered out from the voices of our parents, our societal and cultural standards, and our egos.
As if that wasn't a tricky enough journey to navigate, our whole lives we are interacting with others--people we love and love to hate, people we bully or admire, people who seem to press all our buttons with impunity, people we would do anything for. Our lives are unique, and so are our intricate relationships.
There are a billion or more ways to approach this conundrum. In an era of globalization we now cultivate relationships with people we don't 'physically' know, sometimes halfway across the world, sometimes through online searches or television obsessions or books. We may even develop relationships with entire cultures, countries, generations, or minority groups, attributing a few experiential 'truths' to everyone of a certain 'ilk'.
(*I don't know about you, but my 'relationship' with Tabitha Brown, a woman in Los Angeles I don't actually know, is still a good one.*)
The issue with these new 'globalized' relationships is that humans aren't quite evolved enough yet to cultivate as much understanding and acceptance in the digital world as the in-person one. As shiny and user friendly as these online platforms have become, they are a poor substitute for in-the-flesh interactions, which carry nuanced cues and subtle energetic exchanges that can't quite be captured in a text message or even a Facetime call. That's why the internet is full of trolls saying the craziest shit but the streets are full of mostly polite and considerate people just trying to buy their groceries or make a decent living. That's why our Facebook posts and text messages are 'spun' to be as clever and flattering as possible, but our real-life selves are constantly making messes and mistakes (and googling the solutions).
This is one of the consequences of our 'connected' world: more disconnectedness in our daily lives and physical relationships, and an influx of regrettable content with no consequence but our own detriment.
I have two juicy solutions to this:
1. Routine unplugging
2. More deliberate and mindful interactions (both on and offline)
#1 isn't too hard. Leave your phone and other electronics outside of your bedroom, or put them in airplane mode until all your morning rituals are complete and you've grounded yourself in your purpose for the day.Turn electronics off at a specific time every evening. Take breaks if you work on devices all day: go for walks, cook, water the plants, stretch, or read something printed on paper. Don't overthink it, and if you mess up, just try again. It takes an open, forgiving mind to build a better habit.
#2 is my primary focus today, especially with the overwhelming gamut of inciting language and controversial nonsense out there. In my opinion, you can achieve this with one rule: every time you message someone or post something, ask how you're helping and how you're hurting--anyone including yourself, the person/people you're addressing, and the subject of your words.
--If what you're about to say doesn't necessarily help anything but your own small enjoyment of the moment (like a meme, a link to a silly TikTok, or all the reasons you didn't really like Breaking Bad), and it doesn't hurt anyone either, great.
--If you're helping one thing but hurting another (like, say, cheering your friend up by lambasting their ex, or spending all day building your IG following at the expense of your mental well being, or posting an article full of great news, that isn't fact checked), ask yourself how you can limit the interaction, or reduce the negative consequences of it.
--IF you're not really helping anything but you're definitely hurting someone/some cause, stop. You have so many other options. A little research into how best to approach things goes a long way. As does a more authentic action than a snarky comment or a text message in the throes of triggered anger. Just take a breath. Is it worth potentially spreading stereotypes or misinformation? Is it worth leaving someone feeling shamed or helpless? Is it worth bullying another human being, even if their beliefs/actions are wrong to you? Is it worth putting your reputation as an honest, open communicator on the line with whoever might see your content? The answer is usually no.
--If you're unsure about the consequences of what you're about to say... hold off on saying it. Do a little more digging, or just sit quietly with it, or write it out beforehand and run it by someone you trust. Now is a great time to be more impeccable with our words: online and in person.
The last step we might take is to stop judging other people when they make mistakes, and assume their intentions are good. As we work to make our interactions kinder and more meaningful, there will be days when those doing zero work and just blindly posting potentially hurtful stuff will drive us crazy, but the other half of our mindfulness work is to let go. Gently inform when it feels safe to do so, ignore inciting 'bait', and approach bad facts and communication fails with the same love and forgiveness you yourself deserve.