This weekend I found myself falling down an Instagram rabbit hole. I put the girls to bed Saturday night and sat down to check my phone (just real quick) before getting to more productive endeavors and ended up wasting most of the evening. What caught my eye was scrolling through the feed past a news anchor I follow and seeing shockingly ugly comments underneath a picture she posted with her co-anchor before their show. I ended up reading through them all and of course had to look through comments on her other posts as well as her co-anchor’s. While I gawked at the fact that there are people who actually expend their energy to say something mean to someone they don’t even know, the minutes turned into a couple hours and I had wasted my night.
I truly don’t understand why people can be so hateful. Admittedly, some of the comments were so specifically insulting that they were kind of funny. Again, who are these people that feel the need to attack strangers on the internet?! And am I any better for reading these comments? What concerns me the most is how easy it is to spread hate whether that’s how someone really feels or is just commenting for the sake of piling on in an attempt to get a laugh. I would hope that people with a large social media following and some sort of celebrity status are above caring about the opinions of others and can just ignore all the ugly, but what about the people who might look up to these celebrities?
As a mother of two young girls, I am already overly concerned with ensuring they grow up to be strong, confident and godly women. I’ve taught middle school for several years now and am thankful for the opportunity to be proactive about instilling confidence in young lives (at least I pray I am somewhat successful in this). Knowing a little about the typical insecurities of young people, I am bothered by seeing all of these mean comments posted online. I think we can all agree that our society is anti-bullying. It’s easy to agree with that sentiment when you assume the person being bullied is a shy, nerdy kid. How dare anybody pick on them? It’s easy to say something behind a screen to a public figure maybe because we don’t think of them as being relatable. But when someone bullies a public figure, what message does it send to the shy, nerdy kid reading those comments?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29
When anything a person might be insecure about is publicly attacked in another person, you are doing more damage than a simple Instagram comment. When you call a beautiful, educated and successful career woman “ugly” or “dumb,” human nature is for anyone reading to project your words on themselves in comparison. “If he went to an Ivy League law school and I didn’t even graduate high school, then I must be really dumb if people think he’s an idiot…If she’s a size two and I’m a size six, then I must be a whale if people think she’s fat…If he gets attacked for his height and looks, then no girls will ever be interested in me…” The list goes on. Just as a simple act of kindness has the power to spread exponentially, cruel words have a much further reach and impact than just their intended target.
We live in a time when insults can fly at lightning speed thanks to fiber optic technology. I think in normal conversation we all put our foot in our mouths and sometimes can’t prevent word vomit, but I think we are capable of editing our words when it comes to an online presence. I’m not even talking about reading something through before you hit “send.” I’m talking about not opening up apps or scrolling social media at all if you are doing so with a hateful heart. Just like anything else we spend our time on, we should be approaching it with prayer and godly intentions. The saying goes that “hurt people hurt people.” This is definitely true when it comes to internet trolls, but in the end, they aren’t just hurting themselves. Not only are they manifesting and living with all of their hate, but they are poisoning anyone who might come across their words. I hope I am preaching to the choir on this, but before you write something ugly on social media, contemplate if that is what you want the next generation to grow up seeing. While social media has been a great way for me to share my faith and connect with others who are grieving, I think it is important for us to pray about our screen habits to ensure we are using our modern technology to glorify God and not fall into the trap of hate and idolatry.
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