I love people.
I’m the obnoxious woman in public who is always striking up conversations in waiting rooms, grocery store lines, and any other place where strangers collide with each other and humanity gets a chance to connect with its neighbor. If you’re wearing a name tag, even better, because I will use your name, and I (humbly) guarantee you after you’ve met me, you’ll be smiling for the rest of your day. I even went into a career in public service where my job required me to meet strangers all day long, interacting with each and every one of them to help solve their problems.
Oh, how I loved people!
I loved all of humanity — young, old, impatient, petulant, awkward, shy, liberal, conservative — no matter. I was able to always meet them in the middle with mutual respect, and the common denominator that we’re all in this thing called life together. In other words: Be nice, don’t be an asshole, practice the golden rule, and let’s make the best of the roughly 80 years we have on this planet together.
And then came the internet.
Along with this fantastic life resource for just about everybody and everything (Order groceries from my phone? Yes, please!) came a few new terms we would find ourselves learning: rant, viral, haters, troll, social media stalker, insta-famous, vague-booking — just to name a few.
When I grew up, trolls were fantastical creatures that lived under bridges or sat in your grandma’s garden, stalkers were terrifying people who followed you around in real life and you knew it, the only thing “insta” were coffee crystals, and haters? I don’t know if I ever used the word “hate” to describe any of the people I interacted with on a daily basis before the internet.
But now? Typically about five minutes after being on social media, I am talking to my screen saying, “I hate people.” I hate people for their lack of decency, their lack of self-awareness, their ignorance, their intolerance, and their general lack of knowing how to talk to each other. Who raised these people?
What has happened to us? To me?
What has happened to civil discourse and our love and respect for our fellow man and neighbor? How has this new social environment, in which we all live and interact with people, turned a once people-loving person like me into one who regularly laments that she hates people? How am I now finding myself rationalizing rage?
As a mother living and raising children in this new era of “modern motherhood,” I’ve got the usual giant laundry list of things that make me tired. But what I hadn’t anticipated with the exhaustion that comes with carrying around in my mind a thousand lists is a real feeling of hate for people. That is not how I was brought up, and frankly, I’m tired of being tired from the mental exhaustion that heavy feeling of hate places on my shoulders. I have enough things making me cranky and turning my hair gray without harboring hate for humanity.
So, now what? Do we all need to give up being socially active on the internet with both strangers and people we know so as to prevent the chance we’re going be confronted with assholes? Or do we choose to purposefully make a choice to go back to loving our fellow human, faults and all?
Like so many things going on in this world right now, the answer for me is to choose love.
Will it be easy? Of course not. Will it be worth it? Of course it will.
It will start with me making a concerted effort to “just keep scrolling” when I’m tempted to engage with nonsense that will just trigger the hate. It will start with me remembering the fact that everyone walking this earth is carrying a burden I cannot comprehend, and by metaphorically hating them, I am adding to both their burden and mine. But by coming at them with grace and understanding, both our burdens can be lightened.
It will start with me engaging more locally with actual people in real life — the mom at the park who looks lonely and needs a friendly smile and hello, or the weary waitress who has been on her feet for 12 hours and needs a “You’re doing a great job” said to her face (along with a well-deserved tip). It will start with me continuing to sweep the “all people suck” thoughts out of the corners of my mind, so they stop the exhaustive takeover of my day. I may even try to replace those thoughts with positive “everyone deserves love” type mantras if I’m feeling particularly optimistic.
Wouldn’t our world, both virtual and real, be a much more amazing place if we all started to be more like this? I know mine would. And my hair would be way less gray. Choose to be loving, forgive those who feed your hate and that of others, and spread more joy around the internet. We will all be better for it.