Yesterday, disappointment. Today, discomfort.
Something odd happened to me yesterday as I wrote these words:
Yesterday someone launched a concerted attack against someone I admire and respect and, let me tell you, that’s a whole different story. When I see someone I care about being hurt, the desire to support and defend is fierce. I don’t feel one bit like walking away. I don’t philosophize that maybe I’ll learn something. Using the internet to publicly shame someone when one might have picked up the phone or dropped them a note is dangerously close to online bullying, in my opinion. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies. Aren’t we?
I remembered a post that I wrote several years ago, in the run up to the BOE election. It was a piece full of righteous indignation, a no-holds barred narrative of the actions of one person. I’m not going to go into the particulars. What matters to me at this moment is that I remember getting a lot of push-back from readers which said, essentially, “Why didn’t you reach out to her first?”
Using the internet to publicly shame someone when one might have picked up the phone or dropped them a note is dangerously close to online bullying.
Now I get it.
Never mind my justifications—I wasn’t adequately acquainted with the person in real life, she seemed to me to be a public figure, her actions negatated any obligation to go the extra mile in her defense. None of that matters because it was a way I convinced myself that, due to the seriousness of the issue, I had no choice.
You always have a choice.
Witnessing what was done on Friday and Saturday to someone I care about made that uncomfortably clear. You always have a choice. And perhaps when one feels the most righteous indignation is the precise moment one should stop to consider that choice. Am I wielding a pen or a sword?
That carefully crafted post I wrote was “smart”. And it was truthful. But it wasn’t wise. A friend suggested that I had betrayed a trust to my readers. I had taken them someplace they really didn’t need to go. It has taken me a long time to understand that.
Yesterday, in watching someone else use their righteous indignation to slash a sword through a friend’s reputation, I had such a visceral understanding that I felt sick.
I did that. I thought I was right. I was so convinced of my “rightness” that I used the powers I had to wound rather than inform. In a week where I suggested that Howard County should look in the mirror, I have had some powerful self-realization of my own.