Across society, we are seeing protest and unrest as we reckon with the sins of past generations. As we view these events, we may feel excited, upset, confused, or enraged.
As members of a networked, social society, this makes many think that they should post that awesome hot take that attracts attention, gives your commentary, or trolls another group.
The challenge with the Internet and social media is that there should both great power and great responsibility involved in its use. We believe that when we send off that hot take, it will perfectly share our narrative, and shut down any other arguments. That is as far from the truth as possible.
Begin With The Self
You can have the most impact on yourself. You are the easiest person to fool and the hardest to change. This is an opportunity to sit, think, and reflect.
This means that you need to do the work decentering yourself.
Human beings are miraculous beings. We can be both actors engrossed in the unfolding story of our minds’ experience as well as third-person observers of society. The capacity to shift experiential perspective—from within one’s subjective experience onto that experience—is fundamental to being human.
Decentering is a way of understanding the world and all that binds us. Our perspective is just one of many perspectives. There is no single way to read an event, or institution, or text. Considering varied experiences from many individuals gives us a greater understanding as we acknowledge many different interpretations from many different individuals.
As an example, I am a White, heterosexual, cisgender male. I need to constantly work hard to listen to the multiplicity of voices and viewpoints as I strive for understanding. Most times this involves me being silent and listening. This also involves me being wrong at times and willing to admit my mistakes or misunderstandings. This also involves me centering and amplifying other voices that are different than my own.
Work at the local level
After we have done the self-work, connect with people at the local level. Share your viewpoint with friends, family, and neighbors. Yes…this means that you actually need to talk to people.
Talk to people in your home or on your block.
Tell them about your viewpoints on the topic. Listen to their response and consider their perspectives.
Consider your reason for sharing and communicating. If you want to yell and just have people listen…there may be better options. If you want to understand, and work to some resolution, you might have more success.
You may not consider yourself a teacher or scholar, but you should most definitely strive to be a critical thinker.
As you interact at the local level, think about your identity, purpose, and perspective. Think about the perspectives of others around you. Think about those around you as you learn, connect, and communicate.
I have two rules that guide my interactions. If everyone is like you in the room…you’re in the wrong room. If you’re the smartest person in the room…you’re in the wrong room.
Carefully Move to the Global
The Internet holds great power and opportunity. We need to do the self-work first before connecting and participating. As we engage with others we must start with understanding and connecting the local before moving to the global.
The ability to tweet a message that will be consumed by a global audience is very enticing. The belief that a vast audience will listen to your words and you will finally be heard very rarely happens. There is also a lot of risks associated with this mindset.
I know that you get that dopamine kick when you post. You go back looking for those notifications to see who responded and reacted to your comment. You read the different reactions (like, love, haha, wow, sad, angry) like hieroglyphics to feel validated and possibly measure your tone.
The truth is that digital information remains with us forever. Any missteps will be documented and digitally archived for all to review. Your memory is short but history is long. Digital spaces extend that even further. How will you feel in a year or a decade when you revisit your messages? How will your future generations view the posts that you share?
There is also a lot that is missed in text conversations. Mood and tone are often missed in messages. This is why I include too many emoticons, emoji, and kaomoji in my messages. Lately, I’ve been trying to include more tone tags in my messages. I want people to know when I’m telling them to go to hell…and when I’m just kidding. /srs 🤣
Digital content is also highly transportable and easy to manipulate. That means that critics may take your words, intentions, content, and narrative out of context in an attempt to smear or harass. Risk and reward are involved when engaging in these practices and with these texts.
Seek first to understand, then be understood
I understand your rationale for wanting to post that hot take. You’re excited, upset, and want attention. It is a normal human reaction to want to exhale, scream, or preach.
I often have those same feelings. I’m a digitally native scholar. I think of about 25 things a day that I want to tweet, write, or comment. Several times a day I write, revise, write, revise, and then ultimately delete messages that I’d like to send.
I ultimately delete these messages because I’ve learned (and continue to learn) the hard lesson that nothing good happens when my ego and emotion take control. I feel the same way when I watch friends and family post something online and think to myself…that’s not going to age well.
I’d urge you to focus on first doing the work yourself before you move to the local context. Read up. Problematize your perspectives. Question your assumptions and biases. Listen to others.
If you can learn to see things from another’s point of view before sharing your own a whole new world of understanding will be opened up to you.
The greatest gift that we can give to ourselves and those around us is the chance to reflect and strive for a better future. Laura Jimenez captures this beautifully.