Social Media "Venting" is the New Road Rage
© Terry L. Craig 2020
If you've been out on a road more than a few times, you've most likely experienced it. A person, so intent on getting somewhere, or so convinced that his/her right to have the space you're currently occupying that your rights, your safety, and your perception of the situation mean nothing. JUST GET OUT OF MY WAY!
Wikipedia defines road rage like this:
Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by motorists. These behaviors include rude and offensive gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another.... in an effort to intimidate or release frustration.... Strategies include long horn honks, swerving, tailgating, brake checking, and attempting to fight.*
I understand. These days (in the middle of a pandemic, turmoil over rights, and an election year!) people are frustrated. They feel marginalized, used, forgotten, squeezed into solitary spaces where all that pent-up aggravation just wants to pop out. So they "vent" on social media. All those who share the internet superhighway with them get to watch as they plow through, shouting expletives, calling names, and spewing their indignation in post after post after post OR, there is the unrelenting litany of manipulative public shaming. And if you are the friend of someone doing this, it can almost feel like you're in a car with them as they throw away all caution and blow through signals that rational people would heed. Sometimes, you wish you could hold up a sign in the passenger window that says to everyone, "Sorry! I know this person and he/she isn't really the jerk you're seeing right now." And, you may try to reason with your friend.
Have you ever tried to reason with someone on a full-blown internet rampage (that would make the meltdown of a two-year-old look tame)? Sigh.
"If you don't like it, then UNFRIEND ME!"
Golly, I wish I had a dollar for every time I've read those words at the beginning and/or end of a public rant. The real tragedy is that, if this person was being true to the person they really are inside, if they were sitting with you and looking you in the eye—most of them wouldn't say those words (or so many of the other ugly things they're saying).
Just. Get. Out. Of. My. Way. . . . Or, Just. Submit. In the moment, expressing their demands has become more important to them than relationships. And, just like highway driving, when navigating the internet it becomes easy to consider others (most of whom we don't really know) as completely unnecessary obstacles to the satisfaction of attaining a goal.
Normally, when internet friends get in prolonged online rant mode, I just "mute" their posts from my personal page (arrange not to see their content in my newsfeed) for a while. It can be refreshing—like taking a detour through tranquil countryside. But, twice this year, after several spates of "muting" ongoing ugliness, I actually took people up on their blanket offers and unfriended them. It's not something I'm proud of. I like knowing and hearing from people with varied opinions. I don't want to live in an echo chamber where everyone is just parroting the same views. But I can also tell you, I don't want to stay on an extended trip in the same (virtual) space with people who've forgotten civility.
Everyone gets angry and frustrated at times—anger isn't the problem, it's how we choose to deal with it that becomes the problem. Venting is something that should take place in private, with a friend who knows you, who can help you process what you're feeling and move on.
Do I have opinions on political, moral, and other current issues? If you are a personal friend, you know I do! But the world doesn’t need to know everything I think or want.
When I'm out in public, more than anything else, I am responsible to give an account for the HOPE that is in me. At least for me, it's a sobering thought.
When it comes to my stretch of road here on the internet (my feed, this website, my posts), I am responsible to set the tone. I need to be respectful of others. I must be willing to moderate the responses that appear under my posts. I want to give people the space to share their view in contrast to mine, but if they want it to remain visible, it must be civil. When I'm on someone else's conversation thread, I need to moderate myself... and remember that some debates just aren't worth having.
I must remember, that Father God doesn't call me to agree with all people, rather He calls me to see them as those for whom Christ died.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. [Gal. 5:22-23 NIV]
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. [1Pet. 1:5-7, NIV]
Terry L. Craig 2020
*Road rage definition accessed on Wikipedia 7/13/2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_rage
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
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