Like most people, one of the first things I do after getting home is turn on my computer and log into Facebook. I catch up with what my friends are saying, doing, and thinking. A number of times in the last several weeks, I’ve found myself coming home from work in a good mood; maybe we had a lot of laughs, or people were especially friendly to each other, or perhaps the weather was nice. But often — disturbingly often, in fact — within five minutes of logging into Facebook that good mood ends up with a single bullet to the back of the head, execution style, and left in the alleyway dumpster.
There’s a lot to talk about these days. Most of it painful. Much of it controversial. Politics, social justice, and armed conflict have been lightning rods for heated discussion since humans gained language. And perhaps they should be since they can determine our future as a species. But in the era of the internet what we say, positive and negative, rises to a volume that we rarely seem to comprehend.
Facebook seems filled with argument, mudslinging, and swearing. All of it by people who the website calls my Friends.
Whether we’re arguing about Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, immigration policy, or the latest “Star Wars” movie, we think nothing of calling the person we disagree with an idiot. We have two modes of argument: either we don’t care about being offensive or we try to be as offensive as possible. The more controversial the topic, the bigger the mudballs we sling at each other become. And the bigger they are, the better chance we have of hitting more than just our target.
It amazes me that in an era when our words travel farther, move faster, and shout louder than ever before, we seem to value them less than we ever have. We have no respect for their power. We ignore what their consequences might be.
If I have a prayer for 2016, it’s that we might realize what we’re saying, doing, and thinking when we comment or discuss. That we’d learn the meaning and practice of tolerance. That we’d learn to respect the inherent God-given worth of other human beings — and the inherent God-given power of our words.