By Michelle Farnsworth
Trolls. Not the cute little fellas with the bright colored hair to the sky. I’m talkin’ about people online that make negative comments; going after strangers in social media posts. Or sometimes these days it doesn’t have to be a stranger, perhaps it’s a close friend or relative.
Have you noticed how negative social media has become? Our culture is slipping into the abyss with hate, fighting, and poison-tipped tongues. And when you feed the “trolls,” it’s just giving them what they want. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and you might want to share your own online, but can choosing to open up on social media be unhealthy?
Since I’m not the authority and I don’t have any training, I decided to seek a professional opinion. I reached out to Heidi Demars, founder of Mindful You-Mindful Me. I think we are on the same wavelength with this cultural grenade being hurled around on a daily basis from person to person. Heidi specializes in training people of all ages about the benefits of practicing mindfulness, which include calming, focus, centering, anger management, and impulse control.
Here’s our Q and A session:
Michelle: Heidi, have you noticed the negative nature of comments on social media?
Heidi: Yes, people have become very brave behind their screens. But I see social media as neutral. It really comes down to the user and how we use it. I think if people spent more time focusing on their intention, it would shift the tone. I ask myself, “What is my intention with this comment or post? Am I communicating to be right and point a finger, or am I trying to understand and be understood? Am I using it to promote what I love or condemn what I hate?”
M: Besides political upheaval in our world, what do you see as another issue that seems to get people worked up?
H: I think it stems from a lack of true connection. It seems counterintuitive since social media “connects” us now more than ever before, but I’m talking about true connection, to ourselves, our values, and each other. For many, social media is the only outlet to have their voice heard, so suddenly it becomes a source of power and validation.
M: In your daily life, how do you use social media in a positive way?
H: I decide before I post something if it will be of benefit to others. That doesn’t mean that I’m not opinionated, passionate, and outraged by what I see happening day to day, but I want to be a part of a community of people that can rise above the noise and negativity and contribute to the greater good. Being conscious with our communication is the first step in doing that.
M: What are your suggestions to help stop negativity online?
H: Be a part of the solution! Check-in before you post something by taking a simple mindful breath and ask yourself the following questions:
- Would you say this to a person if they were standing in front of you?
- Is this contributing to the solution or the noise?
- In 10 years will this really matter?
- Or my favorite, what would my grandma think of this if she read it? (Both of my grandmas were wise women and I think they would have a few words for all of us on how to behave online.)
I completely agree with all of Heidi’s questions, especially with the grandma suggestion. My grandma Florence Engstrand was an Assembly of God minister. She was cool and always got the joke, but would not be tolerant of all the online noise.
I challenge everyone to be kind. Be gentle. Be supportive and giving. Post something that brings you joy. Make a comment on someone’s post that will put a smile on their face, instead of a pit in their stomach and anger in their heart.
Heidi Demars, creator of mindfulness education and training for children, teens, educators, and organizations can be found at mindfulyoumindfulme.org.
Michelle Farnsworth is a local writer and owner of her own Younique Makeup and Skincare business. Two humans, one fur baby, and her husband Richard occupy her free time.