Saturday, October 8, 2016

Don't Let Social Media Steal Your Fucking Empathy

I happen to enjoy a twisted sense of humor. I find that many outrageous and inappropriate things make great fodder for jokes. In fact, I should probably be ashamed of how nearly limitless my well of comic relief is - or, perhaps, I should be embarrassed... Well, I'm not. 

I enjoy the public "Roasts" that are aired with the person of honor picked apart and teased. Their every little flaw or mistake tossed in the air and twisted and shaped into something that's humorous. Laughing, especially at ourselves, is required to keep us humble and accountable for our misdeeds and life follies. So, I love to laugh and I'm a card-carrying member of the "life is short, so laugh until you die" club.

I like to think my sense of humor is limitless. However, I choked hard and quite suddenly the other day on the fine line between making light and fun of myself and my life versus deriving pleasure and humor out of other people's misery, misfortunes, and highly regrettable mistakes. There I was, skipping through my vast fields of social media comedic fodder, when I was smacked upside the head with my very own empathy. Because you know what's not fucking funny? People's personal misery. Cancer isn't funny. Rape isn't fucking funny. Child abuse? Not funny in the slightest!

You know what else isn't funny? My ex-husband's philandering penis finding its way into no less than FOUR of my coworkers while we were married. And that probably falls, for me, into the small, specialized compartment where I can (and will) laugh on occasion rather than cry about it. But it wouldn't be fair game for YOU to laugh at it. It's a soft, vulnerable area of my spirit that has been damaged. I know my own pain threshold. I can poke at it once in awhile and find humor in what once utterly devastated my life, my dreams, and large portions of my innocence and trust. But you don't know where those limitations are for me, so it's not fucking funny if you do it.

So why in the actual FUCK do we think social media gives us a pass from being humane and caring humans to other's suffering?

I don't think there are many of us, if given the opportunity, would walk right up to a devastated wife and make some tasteless, sick joke about her husband's well-known affairs. So why do we think that would be okay online? Is it because we don't have to actually look the injured party in the face and be witness to the agony when we stick our funny little sword into their tender, bruised heart?

Why do we think that's okay to do to celebrities? Is it because we don't see famous people as human beings? As though, if they're famous, those false child abuse allegations are funny? Is it because if they're wealthy we tell ourselves their spouse's affairs don't hurt them the same way as ours do? 

What the fuck is the matter with us? These are people, for fuck's sake! Real, live human beings with thin skin over their skeletons and with tender, vulnerable spots in their hearts just exactly like ours!

Social media and hiding behind a computer or phone screen does not give us a pass to be cruel. Cyber bullying is causing death in our technologically-advanced world. It's cruel and disgusting and lacks any sense of basic humanity. 

So, I have a new standard to which I'm holding myself. If it's not something I would say to that person directly to their face, I'm not posting or sharing that shit. If it's not something I could look into the eyes of the butt of the joke and feel righteous in the face of that person's pain, I'm just not spreading it around. I'm not letting the lack of responsibility and low-level conscientiousness that social media provides us to whittle down my personal conscience and real life sense of compassion to nothingness. I fucking refuse to let it harden my edges of respect, common decency, and empathy towards other people's pain and suffering.

For example, Monica Lewinsky is a fucking human being, people. She's just a regular woman like you or I who made some poor choices at the tender age of 22. I made some pretty stupid choices at that age as well, and I can't help but think to myself: Thank, dear baby Jesus, that my stupid actions, choices, and mistakes weren't broadcasted all over the fucking Internet and television back when I was a ridiculously foolish 22 year old - only to be dragged out of the closest again some 20 years later all over again for people's sick delight in the misery and personal insult it might create for a current presidential candidate. Her bad choice has made her the butt of jokes for more than two decades now. Is that not enough? What if that was your daughter and you had to sit by and watch her life destroyed over and over again by her mistake ?

Is it really funny anyway? Have we actually reached the lowest level of humanity where we truly think adultery is funny? Is a violation of marriage vows actually fucking hysterical? I sure didn't think so when it was my husband! What if it was your sister's husband? Would it be quite as funny?

The Internet and social media are powerful tools. They should come with an understanding that only human beings have the intelligence to use them, and it still should require a sense of fucking compassion and responsibility. Public insight and easy access into people's lives does not give us the right to be cruel. All powerful tools can be used for good or for evil. Just because we don't have to look into the eyes of the people we use those tools to tear down doesn't mean that the personal agony it creates doesn't exist in an actual living, breathing, human being out there somewhere, struggling with life in many of the exact same ways we are struggling.

I'm all about laughing through my own misery and finding humor in some of my misfortunes as a coping method. That will never change. I just will not allow myself to lower my own threshold of integrity, though, to laugh and poke fun at yours. I refuse to look for humor in your pain and suffering: Not your drug addicted sister. Not your mother's 26 marriages. Not your brother's married yet still wandering penis. Not even your adult child who had a scandalous and infamous affair with a married man. Because I understand that any one of those situations could have once been or may someday be my own pain and I would not find it funny at all. And I'm certain I would feel grateful for some sense of compassion and mercy towards me or my loved one if it were my struggle.

I will still laugh at most everything, myself included (and especially!) as laughter is the greatest medicine of all for this wild roller coaster of life. However, I will not allow myself to laugh at her bad choices, or his personal struggles, or their misfortune, or your private misery. I'm making a conscious choice to refuse to let social media numb me and deplete my compassion simply because cruelty seems to be accepted by so many. Even on the "anonymous" Internet, I will choose to practice the Golden Rule and treat others how I hope to be treated - with compassion and empathy. 

Chloe Jane

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