The Power and Sword of Social Media

You may remember a while ago, back in March, the massacre in Christchurch both shook the world as much as it divided it.

It was distressing to watch from afar, let alone being involved in it. Whilst many criticise the growing obsession with social media, I find that one of the enormous positives is the instantaneous connection we have to people across the world. We are developing a growing sense of global community that was never possible before the internet. Pre-internet we were beholden to what people chose to report in paper based media, and we were much more insular in our views of the world. Now we have the opportunity to be elevated above the needs of our family and friends and small communities and consider what is best for all people, not just ourselves. We are exposed to different cultures, perspectives and stories. One of the more challenging aspects is how far reaching a tragedy such as this one was, and how it can affect us as if it was in our own backyard. The events in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 shocked and distressed the world, but how we chose to react to it also had far-reaching consequences.

One of the peak positives was the amazing compassionate leadership shown by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. And one of the very big lows what the hate that was fuelled towards Islamic cultures.

Without debating the sides of the argument, and taking an umbrella view of what went on, we see what happens often in social media - the polarisation of views, as if there is only one right perspective. Vitriolic, hateful comments spiral out of control, and virtual slamming assaults ensue. We also see whole factions of arguments gathering supporters, when the actual facts behind the arguments are incorrect. Most people are so fuelled by emotions that they haven’t checked the basic assertions, and just respond to what “seems to be ridiculous, wrongful behaviour”. Outrage is perpetuated, and the two camps become further and further divided.

Our actions, every . single . one . no matter how distant we are, have the potential to build or fracture our widening global community.

If we wish for a more compassionate world, if we think that some one else’s perspective is blatantly wrong, what should we do?

Here are my suggestions:

Here are my suggestions:

1. Research the facts behind the issue. Don’t rely on social media to give you the full picture. If some one states “Mr X said Y” - use the power of the internet to read a transcript of what was actually said. Some times words are taken out of context, some times people are misquoted. In fact, they are often misquoted. Is there more to the story?
2. Think carefully about how and when you respond, and what impact it will have. Questions to ask yourself:
*Am I taking positive informed action, or just reacting on an emotional level?
*Will this comment have a positive impact, or is it just adding fuel to the fire?
*Are my comments actually showing compassion or will they contribute to long term division and polarisation.
3. Be calm in your responses, show love to all. We may feel that we are defending a vulnerable group of people, but is it helpful to slam someone else’s perspective and increase the volatility? It may actually have the opposite effect to what was intended.
4. Always be willing to make a stand for those who need our support, even when the view is unpopular, but also be prepared to choose the right time for the message to be heard.

In the wake of the Christchurch massacre, as much as I wanted to rant about some of the responses, I refrained.  I chose to stay silent, as I felt the risk of inflaming and perpetuating the debate had greater negative consequences than what I could positively infuence.  Its not always the case, and I will continually look for the right times to push for compassion and "one-ness", a single unified world where everyone counts equally.

Keen to hear your thoughts....

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