Monday, May 30, 2016

Social Media Hate Storms

Just south of where we live, at the Cinncinati Zoo, a gorilla was shot dead when a child fell into its enclosure. The ensuing hate storm on social media scares me sick.

When did we become a nation of people without mercy or compassion? This situation is a tragedy all the way around. The zoo's enclosure wasn't fool-proof, or five-year-old proof. That will, no doubt, be fixed. But the hate and scorn and derision leveled at this boy's mother shocks me.

Who among us parents has never had a preschooler slip away from us? I lost Jack at the Cinncinati Museum one day. One second he was right beside me, and the next he was gone. The following 15 minutes of my life took at least 15 years off my life. He was safe. But it all escalated in an instant.

Who among us has perfect attention, perfect awareness, perfect control of our our children at all times, every minute of every day, in every situation?

Not. One. Of. Us.

So why the scorn? Why the hate? Why the desire to humiliate and punish and tear down a mother who was, like all of us, human? Because we've become a culture of blame and reactionism, and social media gives us the perfect outlet. Everything is somebody's fault, and we use social media to shame and condemn others, full of righteous certainty that we are better than that person.

"I would NEVER lose control of my child at a zoo. I would NEVER look at the animals instead of my own child when visiting a zoo. I would NEVER assume that zoo enclosures are child-proof."


Of course some things are criminal and blame-worthy. But this is determined by courts of law and due process, not Facebook page or post likes. Thank God and our country's Founding Fathers for that.

Long before social media gave everyone a format for expressing their hate, people passed judgment on others without mercy and without taking time to consider our universal human condition. In the early 1990s, a coworker's son drowned in a lake on the Fourth of July. People refused to contribute to the fund we collected for funeral expenses because they didn't want to help the parents in any way. Their negligence allowed their son to die, their reasoning went, so why should they give them any help?

These parents have lived every day since knowing their responsibility for their son's death, pondering "if only we had...." I cannot even imagine their pain and suffering and guilt. My heart broke for them.

Despite all our best efforts, accidents happen.

Let he or she who has not sinned cast the first stone. Instead of blame being our first reaction in social media, let's offer compassion, or at the very least silence. Let's humbly recognize that we could, at any time, become like that mother...guilty of being a human being.

Mercy. Grace. Compassion. Love. These four tools give us what we need to fight the hate storm in social media.

How will you use them?