Why are hateful social media posts often impersonal, but taken personally? Why do they happen in the first place, and what can you do to bring Compassion into the conversation?
Negativity And Hate On Social Media
Ah… Facebook and Twitter… the contemporary bastions of all that is good and wonderful in the world. Where people talk about Love and Compassion, and spread Joy throughout our society as if it’s simply second nature.
I would love to be able to say that, but the last thing I want to be known as is a liar or a lunatic. (Well… maybe not the last thing. I’m sure there are labels that would be worse, but those two are right up there). That’s obviously because social media is predominantly full of anger, hate, negativity and just pure mean-spiritedness.
Sure, on the one hand, the great – and cathartic – thing about social media is that people have a place where they can speak their mind, say what they feel, and get out into the open the things that keep them up at night in a way that seems relatively safe – because you don’t have to deal with the immediate effect and anxiety of saying these things to others in person.
On the other hand, the awful – and poisonous – thing about social media is that people have a place where they can speak their mind, say what they feel, and get out into the open the things that keep them up at night in a way that seems relatively safe – because you don’t have to deal with the immediate effect and anxiety of saying these things to others in person.
Bit of a quagmire, that social media, yeah?
Now and then you get those sweet or funny posts about cats, dads, kids, and cats again. Every once in a while you see or read something meant to be uplifting.
But most of the time you see things like:
“Cops are terrible people who just want to use their power to abuse others – especially minorities – and if you don’t agree with that, you’re a racist.”
“Democrats have a socialist agenda that will take everything away from you and if you plan on voting Democrat, you’re a Communist!”
“The military is nothing but a government sponsored mercenary-for-hire program, so if you support the military you must be all for the murder of innocents!”
“Liberalism is a mental disorder.”
These are actual posts I’m using here. Some of them I paraphrased a little just to make a bit of the colorful language palatable. But you’ve seen it yourself.
Here’s a shocker – you may have even posted it yourself! (I may have too!)
What is it you notice about posts like these (apart from the obvious negativity and hate, of course)? If you personally identify as being a part of one of these groups of people that are being attacked here, you take it rather personally, don’t you? And if that happens, your defenses go up, don’t they?
But more often than not, your name never really comes up, does it? If that’s the case, who really identified you as “part of that group”? If it wasn’t the original poster or a subsequent comment… was it you?
Or was it something (or someone) else?
He Calls You By Your Sin
Apart from a lack of a specific person being called out in these posts, what I see first and foremost is a lack of Compassion. From a logical point of view it makes sense – it’s simply easier and saves you the time of having to deal with each person one by one. It also creates enemies that you really don’t even have.
Why do we do that? Apart from the whole time and ease factor, why are we so willing to create enemies out of people we don’t even know?
And why are we so willing to identify with the group called out in these posts, thereby allowing ourselves to become the poster’s enemy? Or, put another way, why are we so eager to make ourselves the victim?
I’ll tell you why…
…Because that’s how Satan works.
Satan may know your name, but he calls you by your sin.
When you go on social media to make a post throwing an entire group of people you don’t know into one bucket, turning them all into your enemy… That’s Satan’s work. He gets you to drop any sense of Compassion you have – after all, you’re right! He boosts your sense of pride and narcissism – after all, won’t those who feel they identify with you be so proud of you! Won’t they think you’re so virtuous! He gets you to do his work for him – by getting you to call others out by their supposed sin instead of their name!
When you see a post like this on social media and you immediately identify with the attacked group, either responding in kind or seething throughout the rest of your day, thereby allowing yourself to become that poster’s enemy (or, to make yourself the victim)… That’s Satan’s work. He gets you to drop any sense of Compassion you have – after all, since you identified with this group, you’ve been personally attacked! He boosts your sense of pride and narcissism – after all, they’re wrong about you! He gets you to feel the literal response to being called by your supposed sin and not by your name! And that happens even though – more often than not – this supposed sin doesn’t even apply to you personally!
Note: This is how politicians and other people in power use things like Identity Politics to divide people for control. It’s also something social media sites love – despite what they say otherwise – because it’s this kind of triggering that keeps you on their platforms longer.
In doing this, Satan gets us at each other’s throats. He gets us to make enemies of each other. By convincing us that we are so right and good and just and that the enemy is so wrong and bad and evil, he gets us to say and do terrible things to one another.
I don’t have to cite examples. You’ve seen it. You continue to see it. It’s everywhere.
It’s like “Real Housewives of Atlanta”… but real.
So now that you recognize – with regard to your activity on social media – where Satan is doing his work in you, how can you fight back, change your behavior, and be more Compassionate?
He Calls You By Your Name
If one of the easiest ways that Satan convinces you to create enemies is to call people by their sin and not their name, then it would stand to reason that the easiest way to move toward Compassion is to call people by their name, and not their sin.
At first it may sound like I’m saying that it’s alright to post “Johnny, you’re a liberal and you have a mental disorder!”
That’s not at all what I’m saying, obviously. To know someone by their name means to know them. Or, at the very least, to know them well enough. Yes, that may mean you know their supposed sins – their flaws – but you also know who they are and why they are. That’s why something as simple as being known by your name at work, rather than by a number or a metric, has profound meaning – my name is part of my identity and who I am, and it suggests acknowledgement of my existence and my character.
Does this sense of Compassion feel rather familiar? If it does, I’ll tell you why…
…Because that’s how God works.
Where Satan knows your name but calls you by your sin, God knows your sin but calls you by your name! He calls you by your name because you are far more than your mistakes, flaws, or sins (real or perceived). He calls you by your name because He knows you. And because He knows you, He Loves you.
You can’t know a person and not, on some level, Love them.
That means, when you post, it might come out something like: “Johnny, I know you’re a liberal, but I also know you to be a good person with a good heart and good values. I know your experience and your life and I know what brings you to the conclusions you’ve made. I don’t agree with them, but I understand them.”
Hmmm… that sounds more like a defense of someone doesn’t it? It doesn’t sound like you’ve accused Johnny of anything at all. It almost sounds as though Johnny was accused of something by someone else – probably painted with that broad brush I spoke of. And although it’s reasonable to assume by the above context that you might have identified with the group that accused him, you stood up for him anyway.
This is because, where Satan is the accuser, Jesus is your advocate.
Jesus advocates for you, despite all your faults, because He knows you. He is Compassion.
It’s reasonable to see how a post like the above is really in defense of someone else. If Jesus is the advocate, then it’s very much like He has become something of a lawyer on your behalf.
So be the advocate. Be the lawyer on your friend’s behalf.
Better yet, be the advocate for those you don’t even know. Act as if you know them and Love them. You may find you understand them much quicker.
Being The Light Means Working On Yourself
Satan’s strategy works because I steadfastly believe that we hate in others what we despise most in ourselves.
No, that doesn’t mean you hate pedophiles because you, yourself, are one. You hate pedophiles because of what they are and what they do to and with children. But your specific hate, focus, and seething disdain for pedophiles could also be because you hate that you never had, or could never have, kids. Or perhaps it’s because you believe deep inside you haven’t treated your own as well as you could have (true or not), or haven’t made as many memories with them as you would like. Or you hate that you don’t know how to protect them – or fear that you would fail in doing so. Or you just can’t get over that they’ve grown up.
The point is that there’s a very deep hangup lingering around children, or perhaps your own childhood, that drives you to this level of hate and focus. Beyond what seems justified.
We’re not talking general, reasonable dislike or disapproval. We’re talking something on the level of obsession.
Satan preys on that. Even when aspects of it are justified. That sense of “justice” is sometimes where he can do his most vile work. After all, it’s very easy to equate “vengeance” with “justice” and to act as if you are acting in pursuit of the latter when you’re really acting in pursuit of the former.
You may argue that it’s good to hate pedophiles. They’re vile and evil, right? But then you’re throwing Compassion right out the door. You know nothing of these people or what drives them to such behavior – not to a person. And in doing so you become more apt to throw anyone who questions your disdain for pedophiles into a bin marked “pedophile”, or “pedophile supporter” or “pedophile adjacent”. Or at the very least those people become your enemy because you refuse to let them know anything about what brought you here.
And beyond that, your sense of hate-filled “justice” doesn’t really attack the problem. It attacks your perception of it – or, in a sense, the problem inside you. The more you hate, the more subjective you become. And you never truly defeat pedophiles because you never truly understand them. You’re more concerned with how you hate pedophiles than you are with doing anything about them, despite how it may sound.
That’s the thing – Compassion is Compassion whether you like it or not; whether the enemy “deserves” it or not. Compassion is not subjective – you don’t get to choose who to be Compassionate to. Compassion does its best work when it’s at its most difficult.
Even the vile and evil are Loved by God as much as God Loves you! The vile and evil didn’t start out vile and evil… so what happened? Are you not, at the very least, curious?
Personally, I love a good mystery!
So let’s be honest – what you’re really doing is ignoring your own sins. You’re perfect. It’s everyone else that’s the problem.
There’s definitely change that needs to be had in the world. But the change outside needs to happen inside first.
So the next time you want to post something angry and hateful – no matter how right or justified you think it is – stop. Remember what Satan is doing inside you. Remember that he wants you to make enemies. Remember that he wants you to lose friends. He wants you isolated and alone and lonely, ready to do terrible things in your own self-loathing.
It’s much easier for him to get you when you’ve no one else around to protect you.
And the next time you read a post that you feel is pointed at you, even though you were never mentioned, and even though said post doesn’t actually describe you, don’t respond and don’t let it ruin your day. Remember what Satan is doing inside you. Remember that he wants you to feel personally attacked. He wants you to make an enemy out of this person. He wants you to lose friends.
He wants you isolated and alone and lonely, ready to do terrible things in your own self-loathing.
Last of all, remember that people are not the enemy.
Something else is.
And now you have a key to fighting it.
People are not the enemy.
More often than not they are prisoners.
And now you know how to set them (and yourself) free.
Can you think of times where you’ve taken an indirect comment (whether or not on social media specifically) personally even though it wasn’t at all pointed at you? Can you think of times where you’ve engaged with excessive hate even if your initial instinct about the situation appeared justified? In either situation, what might you have done differently? Can you see in those moments how evil can play on your pride and cause you to react in negative ways? Can you see where acting as the other person’s “advocate” – with Compassion – might cause you to act in a more positive one? Share your thoughts and experiences below!
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