This message has been displayed across social media extensively this week, for obvious reasons. The effect of being kind and choosing words carefully has been more prominent now than it ever seems to have been before.
It’s been well documented that I’ve been through a really negative experience before where unkind words and bullying really affected me. I was at the point of nearly leaving my career and, even now, I still struggle with having confidence in myself. One comment can still sometimes be enough to make me think that I am not good enough.
This being said, however, it’s easy to forget that people have different versions of what they think is being kind. It’s very easy for context to be lost on social media – nuances of conversation can be lost in written word and cause offence where it wasn’t intended.
I try really hard – especially given my past experiences – to be really kind and positive to everyone I interact with. As a few people who I confide in know, I’ll often worry about what I reply sometimes in case I come across mean or rude. They’ll get redrafted tweets and messages with me needing some confirmation that what I’m saying is okay! One of the things I dread most in life is upsetting people with what I say as I know the impact it can have.
But Twitter can be a total minefield. I’ve seen – during my 4 years on the platform – a range of different conversations that probably would have been totally avoided if they’d been had in person. A lot of us are very in touch with how we feel ourselves and although we like to think we’ve thought about the impact on others, we haven’t. Not really. Because our own view of what kind is has blurred what the experience of others might be.
For example, I tweeted an opinion about a certain author. Not once did I say I didn’t let children read him, or that they shouldn’t (for the record, I have two of his books in my classroom!) but people made this assumption and then jumped on my tweet criticising me for this very thing. It blew up bigger than I ever thought when I posted the tweet!
Luckily, other than the usual ‘do I sound too mean in my reply?’ I navigated it okay and actually learned I can defend myself without being seen as ‘mean’ (my eternal worry). But there will be other people that, when this happens to them, withdraw into themselves and become affected by what they’re being told.
We never know what anyone else is going through and small acts of kindness, forgiveness and tolerance can be the difference between a positive and negative experience for someone else.
Our views are different: some we will agree with, some we won’t. But we do need to embrace that our differences are what make us each unique – do I agree with everything I read? No. And some people absolutely open up some much needed discussion. But sometimes it’s okay for others to disagree!
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me’ is an outdated proverb. One we should ignore.
So this is just a reminder to take a minute to think about what you say to others before you type or speak.
Words do hurt. Words can kill.