I know this is a bit late, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first seriously considered becoming an author. I’ve spent the last couple of months editing and proofing the next release so the holidays were extra busy and I didn’t get to sit down and write this before now. At least I’m getting it out before the end of 2018.
My family celebrates Christmas more out of tradition than for religious reasons. Our holiday is Yule. That’s when my Wife and I, and our son, do our presents and such. We have a lot of family members who do Christmas, and we still do dinner on the 25th, and presents at the in-laws on Christmas Eve. It’s tradition, and it doesn’t do any harm to do so. Just like it doesn’t do any harm to hear Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, Happy Kwanzaa, or any other cheerful greeting this time of year. It is another human being wishing you a happy day on one of their own most cherished holidays. We need more of that.
Because of my hobbies, and work, I spend a lot of time online. I’m on several social media platforms so I see a lot of ugliness. People treat each other pretty poorly online and it’s easy to get lost in that. It’s easy to look at that and think that the whole world is like that. I challenge everyone to flip that thinking though. Go outside, turn off the news and social media, and look around. You’ll find the world outside your window does not reflect the world on the screen.
Take Twitter for example, where it’s said 88% of online trolling happens. There’s an estimated 69 Million users in the U.S. That’s about 21% of the population of the country. That includes businesses, government entities, and non-profit organizations. Even if you factored all of them into the equation that means if you went outside and met 10 people only two of them would be a Twitter user (if you ignore variables that’s the most basic way of looking at it I know.) How many of those users on Twitter are awful people online really? I’m sure someone’s ran the numbers but anecdotally it’s very few. It can seem like a lot when the same people do it over and over but honestly of the 2,000 plus followers I have, the amount of hate I see is very minimal. Go outside and observe real people in the real world and I think you’ll find the handful of screaming infants on social media are really that, a handful. In the grand scheme of things they are an insignificant drop in the bucket. That goes for the awful stories in the media, the hateful posts about politics, and the trolls in fandoms.
There has to be a greater point here right? Not just me ranting about trolls on social media. There is. We, as individuals, need to start remembering that we aren’t the only people in the world and our ideas aren’t the only other ideas out there. We let our loyalty to our tribe (party, group, fandom, whatever) get in the way of our humanity. We let influencers convince us that our tribe is the only right tribe, and everyone else is the enemy. We forget that they are all people when we reduce them to words and ideas pulled out of context. We dehumanize them to make it easier to hate them. We let these influencers convince us to shun family and life-long friends because we don’t share their ideas.
So get to the point old man! Yes, the point is look around you, not at your phone, or your laptop, or your TV. Don’t let the trolls and haters convince you, with their behavior, that the world is some dark wasteland of hate and anger. Meet your neighbors, the regulars at your local bar, and the people you see every day when you get coffee. Talk to them, don’t listen to what other people have to say about them. Look at how people behave in the real world. If you see an old lady that needs help with her groceries, do you ask her if she’s a Republican or Democrat first? If you see a guy in a wheel chair struggling with a door, do you ask if he’s a feminist before you open it for him? That guy that handed you the dollar you dropped in the checkout line, did he ask who you voted for before giving it back to you? I bet if you dropped your assumptions, filtered out all the media BS, and actually got to know people you might be surprised at how little the world is represented by what we see online.
A few month’s back I was honored to be asked by Rey Clark to speak with her about writing, character development and world building. Here’s our talk.