I don’t know how many times I’ve said, and observed others say, I think I am going to take a break from Facebook. It usually follows some event on social media that elicits horrible, and divisive, posts. Recently, the drive by some to secede from the United States and become a part of Canada was one of those events. Calexit has elicited cruel comments that demonstrate the darker side of our nature. A friend of mine, who did not like the election results, stated she was happy the west coast states were going to become a part of Canada. She was not serious, but several folks made comments, resulting in her stating that she will only post pictures of puppy dogs from now on, and how she is debating with herself to about giving up social media for a while.
I have noticed several of my “friends” have ben absent from the common areas of discussion, and I could only guess that they are fed up as well. As I ponder this, I reflect on previous discussions I have had about vanishing civility in our common areas of discourse.
Several years ago my wife went to a theater to see a popular movie. As the lights went down, and after the ubiquitous encouragement by the theater to turn off cell phones, several cell phone lights could be seen. There were several young people in the theater, who it appeared were attending together. With the lights down they began texting one another. Next thing you know there was giggling, and someone, obviously older, loudly stating to be quiet. One of the younger people said F _ _ K you, and the older person yelled back “shut up you skank.” Then the movie started.
The lack of civility in our society has continued to degenerate over the years, which is evident in our common areas of discourse found on social media. Because our comments are thrown out with very little thought, we think we can get away with this incivility, not realizing the effects it has on our society.
There have been many events in history that has demonstrated human kinds ability to demonize the other, and maybe it is just because I am now that old guy that sits on the porch yelling at people walking by, but it does seem to be getting worse. Instead of respectfully disagreeing with one another, we have to destroy each other. It is not good enough to win the argument, we have to obliterate the other. Or, just because one is black there are this, or because one is white they are that. I mean come on, lets be civil. We can disagree and still be civil with each other.
This very same discussion occurred back in 1998. Stephen Carter, one of my favorite authors back in the day, wrote several books on conditions in our country. “The Culture of Disbelief,” “Integrity,” and “Civility” ¬were all social commentaries of the day. His book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy¬ had much to say about our current situation.
Carter said this, “So where did all the civility go? And when?” He continues this quote by mentioning the decline of religion, the rise of television, geographic mobility, and the end of the Cold War. However, he decided to focus on the birth of postmodernism in 1965. “That was the year that . . . many venerable American traditions – some wonderful, some horrible – all withered at the same time.” I would agree that some of our moral common ground has eroded, and is even non-existent in the social media realm.
Yesterday in my class we discussed organizational culture. We focused on many aspects, but one element is relevant to this discussion. Culture within organizations help to create an internal unity. Culture involves shared values, norms, and behaviors. In all organizations there is multiculturalism, but there is an overarching culture that creates unity of purpose. There is no reason that we cannot achieve that in the United States of America.
Carter states, “There is a well-known line from The Brothers Karamozov: If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, would obviously gravitate to that comment, but in a multicultural United States that does not see God the same way I do I think we can find a common unifier. Carter describes it as “the singular meaning.”
I believe that the concept of servant leadership is critical as we move forward. I think that embracing the other we can create a more civil discourse, because if we don’t our discourse will continue to erode. Carter states, “The alternative is to continue our destructive tendency to engage in behavior aimed only at satisfying our own wants or needs. In our rush to self-fulfillment, we forget the crucial civilizing insight of the enlightenment – that human freedom is good because it is better to do right voluntarily than be coerced into doing it.”
That last comment resonates with me. If we don’t learn how to have a discourse in public arenas, who knows what type of control will be initiated to ensure public safety. But if we chose to be servants, concerned about the other while giving our opinion, just maybe we can have a democratic dialog leading this country to a new understanding of singular meaning. If not we just may be witnessing the death of social media, and maybe more.
And that is my thought for the day!