The world my daughter is growing up in…scares the hell out of me.
I can remember my mom always telling me… “Michaela, think before you speak,” or “Think before you act.”
Of course, we know this means to take a second to make sure you’re sure you want to respond the way you initially feel is right. Are you being flooded with emotions? Are you going to regret it later? How will what you’re about to do or say, affect someone else?
Today…I hope we all teach our children to think before they type.
Yes, unfortunately, that is what the world has come to.
So many find themselves invincible behind a computer or phone. They feel that they can say anything and they rarely take a second to reflect on who may be receiving that comment and how it may affect them for the rest of the day.
How do I know this? I’ve been on the receiving end of social media comments made by hands connected to puffed out chests that feel they represent all that is right.
It hurts. Bad.
In both of my jobs, the Public Information Office of a law enforcement agency and the morning show co-host and news journalist of an area radio station, I find myself the target of those failing to think before they type.
Even in an effort to share and publicize information that brings positive change or tells a story that arms people with information and awareness I am criticized.
Do they know they are targeting me? No…likely not.
And they aren’t thinking before they type.
Comments explode about an article I researched and authored as a journalist in an effort to share valuable information. I am deemed “another journalist attempting to mislead the public,” I am accused of “lying to society,” and “purposely misleading readers in an effort to achieve ‘high ratings.’”
As the PIO of a law enforcement agency, I work hard and am dedicated to sharing positive information about what the brave men and women within the agency I serve and all others do every day.
And yet, if I forget a comma, more than a dozen people discuss my ‘incompetence’ for hours.
Yes, a comma.
I am human. I am not just a computer receiving the comments you so carelessly typed and sent.
I am not just a social media newsfeed that goes unaffected by your irresponsible, and hurtful messages.
I strive every day to do the right thing. As a journalist, I believe knowledge is power and I work to share that passion with the public.
If you know what is happening, factually, in the world around you then you become a citizen armed with the weapons you need to combat the darkest and most dangerous and hurtful aspects of the world we live in.
As a law enforcement representative, I strive to remind the public that the majority of those in a badge button up their uniform and risk their lives every day because they are driven and fueled by passion and the calling to save lives.
Even if it means…giving their own.
But, in a simply missed comma or a headline that was factual, but mislead a reader simply because they failed to take the time to read the entire story, my heartfelt and honest passion for serving the public in the capacities in which I do, are deleted.
I become an easy target as people viciously attack the tiniest detail because they feel they are flawless.
Have you ever lost sleep because you forgot a comma in a post to social media?
Have you ever felt anxious for an entire day because you can’t stop thinking that you hurt the image of an agency simply because you included the wrong date in a post?…
I have found myself so blown away by what people have typed below posts I have shared, articles I have written…that I keep clicking on the notification each time a new one dings.
Have you ever scrolled through hundreds of comments in hopes that by seeing the majority are positive you can get some rest?
So, how does this strengthen the fear I have for my daughter?
In more ways than I can list.
Not only must I teach her to take a moment to think about how her words will affect those she’s speaking to or how her actions may have negative consequences for her and others around her…but I must explain the damage social media can cause.
I must put into words for my daughter that while living in the world of ‘now’ and ‘immediacy’ you must become a sloth and be sure you’re not carelessly speeding by in an attempt to keep up with the flow of social media traffic.
But, you must be fast enough in order to avoid becoming road kill.
It may not be cool to be the last to comment or to not comment at all, but it may be the right choice.
You may not agree with or you may be confused by a post that you come across, but before you hit send on a sentence that took a fraction of a second to type, think of the hours the receiver of your comment may dwell on the few words you sent.
The lessons we must teach our children are no longer just to be compassionate, respectful, hard-working, and trustworthy.
We now must teach them how those strong characteristics must be upheld within mediums that continue to multiply.
Think before you speak.
Think before you act.
Think before you type.