Compassion seems to be a difficult thing these days. As strange as it seems with all of our ability to stay connected to people around the globe, that connection does not reach our hearts.
Reading a celebratory post or tweet inspires jealousy of rather than rejoicing with a friend. Pausing at a tragic post may provoke a near-tearful 10 seconds before we move on to the dancing cats lolzing about dogs and cheeseburger. All of our access seems to have shut off our ability to feel with the life experiences of others.
I can’t count the number of blogs I have read about people’s frustration with image-crafting on social media, or complaints about one cause getting buzz with a hashtag while the blogger’s cause goes unnoticed. While I would never claim that people don’t filter their social media lives, for many this happens unintentionally. I don’t know many people IRL who stop and think “How will this post add to my overall image?” Instead, they post the things that are big and meaningful. A new baby. A new job. A new love. Death. Divorce. Despair.
As for hashtags and forwards and shares, we tend to jump on board and pass on the things that instinctively trigger our support. Maybe that means supporting with a retweet an article with the better headline, not necessarily the better fact-checking. Sometimes that means promoting with a hashtag the cause with the more emotional pictures, not the one with the greatest impact. Nor does our slacktivism translate into real life action or even attention on the part of many.
So how do we bring compassion back?
I say we start with ourselves. Assume the best of your connections. When you read a post that irks you, stop and think about why this person may have posted or shared. Does it reflect a deeply held value? Is it an expression of their sense of joy, or loneliness? Don’t start by assuming they posted it to annoy you. (Maybe they did, but that is their problem, right?) Chances are their posts are about them, and have nothing to do with you. (Narcissism goes both ways.)
Choose to rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. For real. Stop and take a moment to write a personal message to that friend with a new baby. Like the cute pics, but go further and start a conversation, offer to come do their laundry or bring a meal. Real life interactions help us avoid the Noid. Program a reminder in your phone for a week or two from now to text that friend who just suffered a big loss. Commiserate on facebook today, but lend lasting support. Say a prayer for them now and do the same tomorrow.
It takes extra effort to forge deep bonds with people when we don’t see them face-to-face. Take some time to talk to real people in the same room with you, and when you communicate over the internet remember those are real people, too.
Compassion and empathy, definitely part of a Refreshing Life!