What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

13 October 2016

Words Can

This one's been gnawing at me for a few days, so here goes. I keep seeing folks saying all over social media some variation of, "They're just words.* That's all."

No. "Just" words do not exist. Words have power. Words matter. Words can wound or heal (but it takes a lot more to heal than to wound, despite that stupid "sticks and stones" tripe). Words start wars. Words create relationships and rip them apart. I've cut people out of my life because of their words. People have cut me out of their lives because of my words. We've all heard of, and possibly have known, teens who committed suicide because of bullying--because of just words. Because they didn't see a way to go on through the wall of words assaulting them on a daily basis. Maybe because they didn't have anyone nearby to offer the right kind of words.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that any words are "just" words.

Words have weight, in this case quite literally.
Source: Daino_16 on freeimages.com.
Debate is healthy. Debate is a cornerstone of a free society. Debate is what happens when this many humans get together in one place and have to make decisions. Now, I wouldn't necessarily characterize a lot of what happens on Facebook as "debate" so much as "I need a drink," but at least I know it's not unprecedented: in his book Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years, Tom Standage describes the furious printing of pamphlets and taking sides that followed Martin Luther's 95 Theses and created the Reformation. My favourite bit of that story is someone sending Luther a heated personal attack, and his response was to tell the writer, "At least the last guy brought data." (That's my paraphrase. What he really said was much fancier.)

By the way, here's a little online debate tip to avoid that sort of scenario: Your first response to someone posting a thing you disagree with shouldn't be "You obviously think ____." First of all, no, you really can't determine what someone is thinking from a couple of statements. And even if you could (you can't), what does it matter? Your issue is what they've said, not every thought they've ever had. Make that the issue. Starting with something like, "Can you clarify what you mean by ____?" or "Do you have a source for ____?" is a better way to (possibly) get into a productive debate instead of (immediately) setting the place on fire. (Of course, getting into a disagreement on social media is pretty much a one-way ticket to a dumpster fire anyway, so proceed as you will.)

And finally: it's tempting to rant about the perceived others, even not in an election year--rival sports teams or disliked actors can also fall into this category. Please keep in mind that always giving "my team" a pass for bad behavior while ranting about the folks on the other side is not exactly cricket, and over time will diminish the chances of being taken seriously about anything. It's also a foundation of democracy to hold our own folks accountable.

Words matter. Words have power. Let's give words the seriousness they deserve.

*In case it's not abundantly clear, "mere words" are what is meant here, not other meanings of "just."

Also, if you've come by to tell me why I should support the candidate you support, please feel free to keep on moving. Why you're voting the way you're voting is your decision and none of my business.


Sharlan Proper said...

Well said.

Gary Greene said...

Eloquent. Meaningful. Relevant. That's what your words in this post are.

Joy said...

Spot on!

Su Wilcox said...

Thanks, y'all.

J E Oneil said...

This. A million times this. They're never just words.