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The Burden of Your Online Voice

It’s election season – I’m sure you’ve noticed. I’m sure you’ve noticed the amount of animosity, intolerance, and general memeification that has become our generation’s case studies.

With election season, comes the reminder that your voice has power. We, as a general population, have devalued ourselves as individuals, and we often forget how much of an impact one “tweet” can have on our personal networks.

Did you know that the six degrees of connection is now 3.57? We are now within 3.57 degrees of everyone in the world.

And yet, when we post our memes, our comments, our statuses, our pent up feelings, we forget that someone is listening, in a more meaningful way than a “like”.

There’s a quote from my favorite book, The Book Thief:

“The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.” – The Book Thief

Amidst the season of outrage, fear, and upset, we forget that our feelings that we capture so succinctly in 140 characters are impacting the way others think, feel, and decide. In other words, we forget the true power of words. And while that might make a few of you feel incredibly powerful, I think it makes the wise, the best word shakers, terrified.

Before you accuse me of condemning you to silence, I beg you to wait.

It’s not silence I’m looking for, but thoughtfulness.

A 15-year-old, Trisha Prabhu, wrote a software system that encouraged adolescents to reconsider if they really wanted to send a message on social media. It asked a thought provoking question that interrupted the “post” process, asking them to ReThink their content.

It reduced hurtful messages by 93%.16052656369_56e07d05e3_o

There are two things that every human being wants to feel – validation and normalization. In other words, we all want to feel normal, and that we aren’t alone.

These condemning memes, these hurtful statements, they further the isolation, increasing our fear of being alone, misunderstood, and, even worse for the situation, defensive.

It’s like debating a toddler – once the defense walls are up, we as humans are trying so desperately to maintain our self-worth, our value, that we ignore the reality of the situation: we are just two humans trying to live a life worth living.

You’ll “win” more people to your side with honey than vinegar. You’ll convince more people to your cause with compassion, normalization, validation. You’ll convince more people to your cause if you start by saying, “I’m scared, too.”

So no, I’m not afraid of conflict. I’m not afraid of having difficult conversations. I’m afraid of what we will be when we’re done “winning”.

I’m telling you to be a word shaker – one who knows the power of your own words, and uses that power wisely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Lindsey Sanford

Lindsey Sanford
I’m an ultimate Frisbee loving, marketing exec who loves Reno a little too much. I knit, I read, I write, and I love long walks on the beach. I’m trying out this new “standing-desk” thing – and finding that it’s not quite so bad. I’m a recent mom of two, my little one was born on September 21st, and I still can’t sleep. Above all else, I believe in being honest with our struggles, to paint a more accurate picture of what motherhood means – leading to a supportive community of fellow swimmers.

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