I stood up for an Internet stranger.
I don’t quite know what made this one single post my breaking point, but it did. It struck a chord, hit a nerve, and I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore. It wasn’t by any means the worst post I’ve ever seen, or the most controversial, but to me it was something much worse. It was passive aggressive and worst of all- it was shaming another mother by sharing a post from her personal page and ridiculing her. So I stood up for her.
I’ve got a pretty basic tenant I live by: if I couldn’t say it to someone’s face, I will never write it online or send it in a text. We as a society have become “keyboard warriors”. We are so brave behind a screen, when in reality, that bravery is simply a lack of accountability and consequence for anything that we do or say online. It’s exhausting and part of the reason why I have come to not enjoy social media nearly as much as I used to.
Now, the person who made this post is actually someone I really like and respect, but I am so tired of people using their platform to ridicule other people. If you don’t agree with someone, simply scroll on. It is THAT simple. If you are really offended and feel their morals are not a match for the life you lead or how you want to be represented, shoot, unfollow them and disconnect from them. If their post is concerning to you, to the point where you truly feel compelled to say something- well, say something, but say it to them. If you claim you are concerned about them, posting about it to your page for the sake of commentary and to “bring awareness” to those who will listen, well, I hate to break it to you but you’re not helping much. Either say it to them or leave them alone. Respect is just a nonnegotiable, no matter how right you may be. You are still dealing with and talking about, and sharing photos of another human being who deserves the same level of respect you would expect for yourself.
I didn’t know this mother. But someone I know shared her Facebook status, showing herself in the driver’s seat and her child in the back seat- with her car seat dangerously and incorrectly buckled in. In addition, said mother was also wearing her mask below her nose. The caption of the shared post (again, with a mother and her child’s picture being used for an academic exercise in “increasing awareness”) said, “Carseat safety is not a parenting choice. Also YOUR MASK DOESNT WORK LIKE THAT” (sic).
Now, tell me how this is constructive in any way. No, really, I’ll wait.
It isn’t. And so I stood up for an Internet stranger.
Of course, I was met with push back but that’s to be expected. No one wants to be confronted, especially not by a peer. I suggested the poster reach out to the mother directly and help her realize how unsafe the situation was instead. Simple. If you want to actually do something to change a situation…do it. Talk (or typing) is cheap.
A mentor once shared a quote and I have not stopped thinking about it ever since:
“When you debate a person about something that affects them more than it affects you, remember that it will take a much greater emotional toll on them than on you. For you it may feel like an academic exercise. For them it feels like revealing their pain only to have you dismiss their experience and sometimes their humanity. The fact that you might remain more calm under these circumstances is a consequence of your privilege, not increased objectivity on your part. Stay humble.”
Your words matter. When you call someone out, or their way of living, actions, or simply in this case use their picture with their infant to simply highlight their wrong doing as if they don’t matter and deserve to be shamed, you have zero to lose but that may be their everything. I hope to always remember this; I hope that I am never the reason why someone who used to love sharing his or her pictures, stops. I pray I am never the reason why someone’s light is dimmed. Our social media profiles are platforms, and especially in the world we live in now, we have to do better. We have to be better. We have to be the light. We have to empower. We have to speak up. And we have to stand up for each other. I stood up for an internet stranger, and I hope you will do the same.