As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other night while my little one was asleep, I saw a post by one of the bloggers I follow. She had uploaded a picture of her clock and her caption was basically a lament about how tired she and her husband were because their baby wasn’t sleeping through the night. She said she was at her wits end. She had over 50 likes and even more comments. Some were suggestions but most were digital hugs and offers of support like “I’ve been there. It gets better.” I know this because I was one of the ones who sent her a digital hug.
The following day, I got an email saying that she had a new post on her blog. Her latest entry explained that she deleted that particular Instagram post because all the digital hugs and comments like “It gets better” weren’t actually helping her, but instead were making her feel worse.
I was bewildered. Hugs we’re making her feel worse? Then, I couldn’t help but think: if she didn’t want to get “hugged”, why didn’t she ask for suggestions on what to do instead of posting this “I’m-tired-and-I’m-so-exhausted” rant on Instagram that left her open to any sort of feedback?
I mentally shrugged then moved on. But a couple of other things have happened in my life since then. Things that have all been related to messages, posts, and the power of words, particularly written words.
I don’t consider myself a good writer. Ines, my brother, and my good friend Jason are three people I know who are blessed with a gift for writing. Not me. I need to work at it.
When I write posts for this blog, I need to think things through very carefully. I plan it out. I read and re-read what I’ve written. I pause and choose the words that will hopefully, aptly convey my thoughts and emotions. I stop, edit, re-write, and edit some more. I try to be witty, honest, and interesting.
When I write for this blog, at the very least, I tell myself that I ought to be coherent; but more than that, I strive to be thoughtful.
After I hit that button to send or publish, I know that what I say, what I write, and the very words I choose to use on this blog, will be up for critique and review by anyone and everyone. Furthermore, I know that I won’t always get the reaction I wanted to evoke. And that’s okay. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, even if they don’t agree with mine.
But when it comes to text messages, chat, or Facebook/Instagram status posts, I’m not as mindful with the words I choose to use. It’s so easy and quick to rattle off what’s on my mind through these various social media platforms, all in 150 characters or less. And so often, because of the process being quick and easy, I’ve been thoughtless.
Carelessly said, in the heat of anger or in a fit of temper, we know spoken words can easily hurt people. But in today’s day and age, where we often “speak” through various social platforms or applications, written words can be even more harmful. There’s no tone of voice, facial expression, or body language to gauge when you’re reading a text message or an email. Reading just the words, especially without knowing the context, can be quite harsh, blunt and hurtful. Then, there’s the fact that the recipient, can choose to review, re-read and analyze those words over and over again.
I’ve texted people carelessly. I end up short-cutting my thoughts so as to fit everything into that 150-160 character limit. Cram it all in one text message, that was my S.O.P. In the process, details are left out and the message ends up to be completely different from what I intended to convey.
I’ve hurt loved ones unintentionally because I was in a hurry to send a reply right away.
But why the rush? The very nature of the medium (text messages, email, etc.) allows me time to be considerate and deliberate with what I say. I ought to be able to take a few seconds to review my text message before hitting “send”. I have the opportunity to re-read and edit any emails I write before clicking on “reply” or “reply all”. It doesn’t have to be instantaneous, as in right-this-very-second-or-you-will-die-if-you-don’t-reply-now-now-now! Moreover, aren’t I the one in control because I write these text messages, emails, etc? And don’t I control my fingers?
“Oh, I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings. That wasn’t what I meant to say. I had a brain fart because of not taking a little time to read what I wrote before hitting ‘send’.”
Brain farts. *Sigh.* I’ve had a lot of them lately.
So beginning today, I strive to also be more thoughtful not just on this blog, but with whatever, wherever and whomever I write to.
1 a : absorbed in thought : meditative b : characterized by careful reasoned thinking
2 a : having thoughts ; heedful b : given to or chosen or made with heedful anticipation of the needs and wants of others
Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary