Social media has been a wonderful way to bring people together, reconnect with former classmates, brag about your children and share more information than most people are actually interested in. I’m typically quite entertained by Facebook posts or tweets from clever, funny people. Unfortunately, social media also attracts many who use it as a place to bully, demean, argue, rant, complain, swear, and generally work to make the rest of us miserable. I’ve wisely hid or unfriended these people yet periodically a nasty Facebook post finds it’s way to me and that has led to some soul searching on my part.
The other night a particularly vicious post that misquoted and took out of context the words of a woman who was discussing victim blaming of women who had been raped, caught my eye. This woman had been raped herself and now courageously spoke out to support others. The website that posted it (two women) used the misquote to make fun of this woman and to label her as uninformed and stupid. This alone was dreadful enough yet the fact that someone I know reposted it was so disturbing. As if that wasn’t upsetting enough I made the terrible mistake of reading the comments on the original post. This is when my faith in humanity began to waiver. The comments were aggressive, sexually violent, racist, bullying, demeaning, and cruel beyond reason.
I sat in my family room filled with anger and hurt, wanting desperately to lash back at the cruelty and judgment of people who seem so miserable and so ready to hurt others. My 20-year-old son came into the room at just that moment. He looked at me with his young, innocent eyes and his delightfully optimistic, idealistic personality and said, “Mom, can you recommend some life changing books for me?” I just stared at him and part of me wanted to say, “Don’t bother. The world is a cruel, terrible place. People judge and hurt each other for no reason other than the pleasure they take from it. Arm yourself with the pessimistic, negative shield that most adults carry and empty that overflowing optimism glass of yours.”
Happily, I didn’t say this and instead decided to reach out to my friends on Facebook to ask them for their book recommendations. That’s when the magic happened. It was 10:00 at night and I assumed most people would be sleeping already and I wouldn’t hear much until the next day. Instead, the recommendations came in fast and furious along with supportive, loving comments. Friends of friends responded, adult children responded, old college friends wrote special private notes with some of their favorite, life changing books. The people who responded represented both political parties, most major religious groups, different races, and different ethnicities. No name calling, no disagreeing or condescension just pure love of reading and sharing that love.