By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Each year, I look for the perfect New Year’s resolutions: get just a little more exercise, eat just a little bit better, be a whole crazy heck of a lot more organized. And like most people, these resolutions have largely fallen by the wayside by the time you’re reading this (except the organized one - that fell apart about 10:15 AM on January 2).
Now, nearing the end of January, I find there’s one behavior I have picked up – and it wasn’t on my list: apparently my 2020 New Year’s resolution is to stop paying attention to the comment sections on the internet.
Now most internet-savvy people would tell you right away that these sections are cesspools of anonymous rage and trolling and very, very rarely add anything to the discourse of the article. Most are there to somehow use the article to bash millennials/boomers/liberals/conservatives/other commenters/the author/the website/etc. Many sites have removed the ability to comment for just this reason. I know the comments are useless and only serve to get either my dander or my schadenfreude up; and I know I never come away from them feeling better about myself or the world in general. And yet, I was incessantly drawn to them. What was I hoping for? That some vitriolic hate-baiter is finally going to get their comeuppance? That a lone voice of reason is going to quell the tidal wave of snark and insults?
Then, after a conversation with my much wiser wife, it occurred to me: I read the comments because I made those comments.
I didn’t make them online, mind you – I have no desire to jump into that pool. But all throughout my day I’d see human interaction – acts of good, acts of negligence, acts of ill, and all the gray areas in between – and I’d have a comments section running in my head. Judging, assuming, rationalizing, criticizing. I read the comments because I was reassuring myself that I’m not the only troll out there.
So what happened? There certainly wasn’t a revelatory shaft-of-light-from-heaven moment. I just noticed that I wasn’t doing it anymore. Then I thought about a conversation we had about modeling behavior for our son – about how even the subtle actions we may not even notice are picked up and mimicked by children. And we talked about the constant snark we heard coming from some of our friends and family members, and how easy it was for us to fall into that pattern. I recognized the less I allowed myself to fall into that behavior, the less I needed to see others engaging in that behavior as well.
It’s not perfect, and it’s only week four of 52. But I do feel a little better about myself, and a little better about the world. Maybe this is the perfect New Year’s resolution.
Christ the Good Shepherd
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