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Life's Too Short For Quibbling On Social Media

posted Nov 28, 2015, 4:22 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Nov 29, 2015, 1:32 AM ]

Every time there is a controversy the social media gets flooded with strong opinions that turn into mud slinging matches. Soon it is no longer about the issue, but about who can come up with the best insults. Even people who start out expressing their opinion in a reasonable and balanced way succumb to provocation and start spewing venom. 

Then there are two possible outcomes:
Either you come across as unbalanced and possibly loony and no one takes them seriously any more.

Or worse yet, the mud slinging escalates and upsets you. Then you are in a bad mood for the rest of the day and take it out on your loved ones who deserve none of your anger and you can't focus on your work. At the end of the day you feel drained though you have achieved nothing except probably debased yourself to saying things you are terribly ashamed of. 

Neither of these outcomes is worth my time, energy or dignity. Life is too short for these kind of days. 

So what do I do?

However glamour-less and cowardly it sounds, I believe, the best thing to do is not give in to to provocation at all. If some one has posted something I strongly disagree with, I don't have to respond, because that person is usually not interested in my disagreeing with them. If the language in the post is disrespectful or profane or the tone is scathing, all the more reason to avoid it like the plague. I ignore that thread. If possible, I turn off all notifications for the thread.

Being passive aggressive, I have learned, does not help. It is not enough to use polite words that cloak condescension. That only goads people further and escalates matters and in the end, it is my time that is wasted.

There are so many things we want to do in life. Spend time with family and friends, see places, work, exercise, indulge in hobbies etc. Then who has time to engage in a war of words that usually leaves both parties bitter and often solves absolutely nothing?

But it is so hard not to respond to provocation. The worst part is, sometimes no one is provoking me personally. They have just posted something that is hanging around in social media. I notice it, get angry and have a  primal urge to respond. Yet the times I do succeed in restraining my self I feel so much better in a few hours. 

The first half an hour is usually the hardest. The ideas and words rankle as I play it in my head over and over again. But this way I only lose that half an hour. If I respond and inevitably get a response in return I have lost a couple of hours and probably more. There is no winning this game because there is nothing to win. Also every time I do respond to an offensive post, I only call attention to it. If none of us gave it any attention, it would probably disappear from everyone's view in a short time and be totally inconsequential. So sometimes responding is helping them get the publicity they are craving and ignoring is the more effective way to fight it.

I have discovered that people do not change over night and you simply cannot convert them to your point of view by cleverly insulting them. I have learned that, if you really want to change them to your point of view your best chance is to let them figure it out for themselves. Supposing there is one correct perspective, and you are correct, arguing the matter only makes them more reluctant and defensive. And if they don't see it your way even after considerable time, then that is their right. May be you were wrong or may be it is a complicated issue with more than one perspective that needs addressing. Sometimes I like to revisit the issue when I feel less emotional and look for other valid perspectives.

Am I saying we should be apathetic to the world around us? No. I believe the way to make the world a better place is through your work and other constructive endeavours. Volunteer your time or donate to help those in need. Organisations like Toybank are striving to give kids a better childhood for a better tomorrow. If you have a talent you can use it to raise money for a good cause like Subha is doing. 

Kovid Goyal has made his e-book management software free and open source because he believes that reading is too important to put a price tag on. Arunachalam Muruganantham, the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine has made a huge difference to the lives of so many rural women. 

If you do some research there are lots of regular people like you and me making a constructive contribution everyday.
I write children's e-books and make most of them available free because, I believe children should have easy access to reading material. Give it a little thought, and I am sure you'll find something you do to make the world a better place.

So there are ways to make a difference that do not involve ruining your day or someone else's. In fact, I think, you are doing it right if it leaves you feeling happy and eager to do more.

So in future when I read a post that irks me, I'll think of all the constructive things I have done and can do and then, hopefully, correcting or contradicting someone won't seem so important any more.