‘What we need is personal interaction and private conversation’

Published: 6/30/2020 8:14:21 AM

Can we have a civil conversation?

   Social media is not a good forum for important dialog to affect social change. People change on social media, but not for the better. Individuals give themselves over, perhaps unwittingly, but quickly to become part of a mob — often an angry mob. It has been said that “a person is smart, but people are not.”

Social media fosters mob mentality where common sense and decency are almost completely abandoned.

As soon as people started communicating over the internet, as early as the 1990s, we discovered that people hiding behind the anonymity of their monitors will say things they never would in person. There was a whole new boldness and almost all decorum vanished seemingly overnight.

Now that everyone has been locked up at home for months, people are getting punchy. It doesn’t take long browsing a social media news feed to see rage, and relationships are being destroyed. This is tragic and sad. If there has ever been a time when relationships need rebuilding and strengthening, now is that time.

Much is being said about dialog regarding countless social issues and concerns. Dialog is truly essential if people are going to live together with any semblance of peace. But to have dialog we have to have face to face conversation.

You can’t engage in dialog if you really want to monologue. Social media enables monologuing, not conversation. Note that a monologue is not only uninterrupted, but it is typically used to disrupt conversation. While a response can be made, that response is likewise a monologue. It would be best classified as a rebuttal, which is an opposing stance in a debate, or argument. This is not dialog. It is fighting with no beneficial outcome. We do need dialog.

What seems to be missing for many is why. Why do we need dialog? To build, strengthen, develop and protect relationships! If that is not the target of dialog, I struggle to recognize it as dialog at all. It becomes one-sided and too focused on proving who is right or wrong. This is utterly destructive to any relationship.

Relationships are personal. They are also private. Open and honest relationships are difficult to maintain when they are constantly on public display. So many of the social issues we see today are the sad result of a breakdown in relationships which in turn results from a lack of communication. We continue to try public display, which all too often presents as plastic or forced, and ultimately proves to be false.

What we need is personal interaction and private conversation. Get to know people rather than judge them without getting to know them. It is counterproductive to publicly embarrass or shame everyone else in the world. Nobody will respond well to that. Rather it triggers defensiveness. This behavior is more likely to perpetuate the very attitudes we wish to change.

Mark Liberatore is a resident of Bernardston.

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