A couple days ago I was pointed toward a very interesting article from the New York Times. The author concludes his well-written piece about online shaming – the mob mentality – with the following (slightly reworked) comment;
“Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval … [each user’s] motivation … [is] a bid for the attention of strangers … hoping to amuse people [we can’t] see.”
This struck me and I put it in the back of my mind to think about again at another time, but today one of my favourite bloggers decided to write some reflections as well and so I thought I’d put out a few thoughts the two interrelated articles have given me.
Last week I wrote about our (seemingly) collective inability to listen. And while I still agree with everything I wrote, I’ve noticed as I’ve been trying to practice what I preach that what I actually seem to want is not to be better at listening to others; I want others to be better at listening to me.
I am a selfish creature.
Taking the time to understand where someone else is coming from …
Digging deep to try to listen to the context of what someone else is saying …
Suspending judgment before knowing the rest of the story …
… These are all things I don’t do so well. And if I’m honest with myself, I don’t want to do.
Before even reading an article someone sends me, I know I am already categorizing it so I know, in advance, whether or not I will like it and/or agree with it. Certain “key phrases” online (or in conversation) are sure to send me down a path where I do not want to actually hear what the “other” person is saying. I do not care where “others” are coming from, all I care is that I am right!
While exaggerated (and I hope people who know me well would leap to my defence and tell me I’m really not so bad), the truth is we all act this way to one degree or another. It would seem that I – like most, I would assume (… or hope) – am selfish and “tribe”-oriented. I don’t tend to take other people’s feelings, situations, or consequences into consideration when I make my decisions and/or respond. I will definitely think about how what I say will be received by people close to me or within the boundaries of what I consider to be my peers, but “the other”?; the outsider?; the person who thinks differently than I do? … who cares.
“They started it”, I’ll say, or “Someone has to respond to that or else they’ll think I agree.”
Any number of excuses or “blame-shifting” will do. I just need something to get the focus off my own selfishness and internally determine that I am justified in how I am acting.
“They” are the ones who need to be corrected.
Who enters into this category of “they”, “other”, or “outsider” depends on the situation, the day, and the topic of conversation. “They” could be close friends or distant enemies, but “they” are always wrong.
As I’ve been thinking about all these (perhaps random or unrelated) things, the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:3 keep coming to my mind. Here, Jesus asks the question; “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?”
It seems to me that one of the centrepieces of Christianity is the notion that the problem is never “them”, the problem is always “me”.
I tend to spend a lot of my time thinking about how others are wrong or that the world would be a better place if people would just listen to what I am trying to say, but, in actuality, the problem is my inability to listen to you. If I would simply spend the time working on how I interact with others, I wouldn’t have too much time left to be concerned with how others are treating me.
If my concern is relationship with you, my own self interests should disappear from consideration.
Perhaps the issue all along is not out there, but in here. It seems to me that maybe we’re fighting the wrong battles; that perhaps everything that we see is wrong with the world is an invitation to see those same “evils” in ourselves and try to eradicate them inside ourselves first.
As Paul says in Romans 2:1; “Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things.”
Maybe the world would be a better place if I (both myself and every “I” on the planet) started to look inside for the problems rather than looking around for others on whom to cast blame, judgement, and shame?
Just a thought …