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Over the past week, I finally had to give in to the fact that the flu had hit my chest and I was going to have to wait to train.
Inevitably, this led me to prowling around on Facebook & Twitter more than I normally would.
What struck me this week, is the exhausting amount of self-righteous posts, proclaiming one group or another to have been slighted by someone else, what we should or shouldn't be doing or saying or seeing or feeling.
In one session I read about a barista who left a note with the word "diabetes" on it and offended the customer, period taboos, 48 sexist things women hear that men don't, beauty stigmas and ageism, how awful it is that Jennifer Lawrence has a different opinon to Scarlett Johanson, Seasame street, how you shouldn't sit down to poo, how we should hate tampons because they're created by men, Bill Clinton not thinking about what he's saying or thinking about it and sounding equally as bad, student fees in America, how it is "cruel and evil" to eat meat....
From this, what struck me is that simply EVERYONE is able to get offended by something and furthermore, it's likely that each and every person can get offended by something different. I shut down Facebook simply incapable of reading another word. I was beyond exhausted. So many vitreolic opinions, so many things being shouted from headlines that you can't or shouldn't do.
Don't get me wrong, in the same day I also got into an argument with another person in WoW because they appeared to think that joking about rape in an open chat channel that is home to a few thousand avatars was appropriate.
We all have our crosses to bear, we all have opinions and we all have experiences that leave us with memories - good or bad.
What it got me thinking of, was, how can we live in such a connected world when everyone has an opinion, and the likelihood is that the stranger across the screen from you has a VERY different set of life rules and expectations?
The only conclusion I could reach is that we have to accept that fact. People DO have different opinons to us. Even the people closest to us are likely to have opinions we don't agree with but does that mean we need to keep posting these relentless (and usually badly researched) opinions into an open chat channel?
As I left the heated "conversation" I was having in WoW, one of the last things I said was "it's fine if you feel that way, but it's one thing to joke about that with a bunch of your closest buddies, it's another to post them in an open chat channel which is populated by thousands of people. People you don't know and you have no idea what effect you have had on them."
Was I right?
For me, as a rape survivor, that conversation made me sadly shake my head and wish that society was different. Wishing we had a system that didn't see rape as a joke, to be made fun of. Naturally there were people taking place in the conversation who said "it's only a joke, I don't see why you're getting so into this."
They wouldn't though, would they? These people didn't know me from anyone else. They didn't know the struggle, the pain and the eventual release my life had taken me through. Why would they? We're strangers.
And that is exactly my point. I believe the only way we can survive in such an interconnected society is to realise we're talking to complete strangers.
For all I know, the people on the other end of that conversation could have been abused, stolen from, divorced, depressed. I didn't know them, so what right did I have to find myself upset at their words? Maybe the person joking was also a survivor, turning to humour to help them cope. How could I ever know?
I didn't and I can't. So my conclusion was simply this:
People have the power to speak. To use words. Some people use this to say things that could be hurtful or to bring things up that are contentious, or to raise awareness of an issue. Some people prefer to live a peaceful life and not inflict suffering on other people.
What can we do about this?
We can understand that it is exactly that. Words. They mean what we make them mean. No, I don't believe it's right to joke about rape, killing, racism or anything else. And in my own circles, I choose people that wouldn't do those things to be around, but when I'm online, I'm interacting with thousands of other people. You simply cannot control the environment when there are so many variables.
What I'm really saying is: let people use their words. Don't let them make their words about you.
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