Today I received a meme that caused me to chuckle and laugh out loud. It was politically- focused, and put down a candidate not to my liking. I thought, “Who would laugh at this like I did?” Obviously, people who think like me. And so, I sent it off to a handful of friends. I could have sent it through social media and reached more people, but somehow, I knew the joke was too good to be true. Could this be photo-shopped? misinformation? linguistic manipulation? I hesitated. But then I pressed “Send” and off it went.
Most recipients sent me back smiley faces, thumbs-up emojis and comments like “yup”, “so true”, and “right on “— except for one. He telephoned me, brandishing me with I have enough stress in his life without reading divisive memes whose message is unproven. Spreading negative messages is nothing anyone needs, especially at this time!
I got off the phone, a bit stunned, yet texted, Sorry. But this exchange lingered and continued to occupy my thoughts. Specifically, the word, “divisive,” reverberated. “Divisive?” I thought. So not me – I value inclusivity, diversity and fairness. Hmmmmm.
Two Aha Moments!
As a result of my friend’s courage to share this feedback, I experienced two aha moments. First, I realized, funny or not, by sending something pejorative and unresearched, I was participating in transmitting something negative and divisive. Moreover, this innocent send could reach thousands of people I did not know and potentially color their perception of me. I could be giving myself “bad press” by exposing my bias. Though some folks would agree and laugh; others might smirk and judge, the message, and the messenger.
The second and more important Aha moment was the realization that my fleeting thought (first paragraph above) that… somehow, I knew the joke was too good to be true (could this be photoshopped? misinformation? linguistic manipulation?) was a voice to be listened to. This was my “gut” or intuitive self-questioning speaking, which I chose to ignore. So my aha here is to: trust your gut.
And to put all of this into our present day context, I believe that social distancing and working from home with all its boredom, stress and internet overuse, can be the tipping point for impulsive choices that might otherwise be questioned or avoided. People want to engage. The internet provides that connection. For the sender, discretion may be less vigilant now than ever before — with negative impacts going unnoticed.
At this time, we need more positive and hopeful messaging than humorous and mocking memes that are unproven and divisive. We also need to be present to our instincts, listen and trust them and have them guide our actions.