More often than not, I find myself reluctantly proclaiming my Millennial identity because, more often than not, I find there to be more criticism than praise regarding Millennial tendencies. But, as with any generation, while we fall behind in some areas, we gain speed in others. One of the benefits that I have seen develop in the midst of our generational timeline is the opportunistic world of technology. It seems now, more than ever before, technology has opened up a vastly more comprehensive arena for communication. Almost right before our eyes, we have seen how technology has harbored relationships that are distanced worlds apart or how it has allowed information about a remote people group, a distant political crisis, or a removed cultural tragedy to transcend national, cultural, and political boundaries. But, while we have seen so many positive consequences stem from technological efforts, we may also begin to realize how we have conformed to the patterns of technology.
Throughout the development of our generation, technology has created an instant form of communication. With a simple push of button, we are able to trade our words, expressions, and thoughts with complete strangers. With the push of a button, we have the power to uplift one another, encourage one another, share in grief, sorrow, pain, joy, love, and celebration with one another. But, with the push of a button, we have the power to completely devastate the spirit of another person. With the push of a button, we can experience the immediate guilt of not being able to retract our words. With the single push of a button, we can paramountly affect someone else’s life.
And while I have perused the Internet’s various different layers, something has struck me: the way we are able to communicate with each other, with people we do not even know nor may ever meet, is a powerful indicator of the way that we treat one another. I often observe the comments section of articles, social media posts, and videos and have been shocked to see the way that people speak to one another. I find hatred in judgement, negativity in a better-than-thou repertoire, and unkindness in misunderstanding. I am not one to say that I have never harbored unkind, judgmental, or negative thoughts for someone else, but I have grown concerned about our nonchalant ability to use that negativity in the way that we speak to people over the Internet. While searching for a different way to use this communication, I have found that in order to begin to change the attitude of our opinions, we must be able to allow a flexibility in our perceptions of others through their social media outlets. Through social media, we are able to look into the lives of people we have never met before. We are also able to portray a story of ourselves that we wish people to see. But, we should realize that things are not always what they seem to be. We must believe that a mere creative outlet does not indicate or illustrate someone’s entire life. So, we should not allow our compassion and empathy for other people to remain hindered by the limitations of a simple Instagram filter, a 140-character count, or a mere status update. Instead of settling to accept the what appears to be on the surface, we must learn to dig deeper, to go beyond our conceptions of what others’ social media may lead us to believe.
Another way we can learn to challenge our communication patterns through the Internet is to allow our grace to transcend technological boundaries. In order to examine our speech in this context, we may need to delve deeper into how our patterns of communication initially form. We learn the art of communication best in the context of those relationships that are closest to us. With our best friends, we learn the time and effort that it takes to get to know them, to foster deep relationships with them, and to sustain those relationships. We learn to ask the questions that will pierce through the layers of a person’s self-defenses. We learn to be there for them, to foster a sense of loyalty and trust. We learn to love them, to encourage all that they are, to empower and uplift them in all they wish to achieve, to love them through every mistake they have made and will continue to make, and to challenge them to see the things they may miss otherwise. We learn to understand every part of them. And as we continue to walk through life with them, we find ourselves loving them compassionately, unconditionally, and freely without even realizing it. In experiencing these true relationships, we do not have to convince ourselves to love our friends, rather, we instinctively love them. We love them selflessly without expecting anything in return. We love them fiercely, defending their integrity, their personhood, and their spirits. We love them compassionately, understanding all the experiences, events, tragedies, and triumphs that have shaped the person they have become. We love them empathetically, knowing the depths of their hearts, remembering their deepest secrets, and understanding their unspoken vulnerabilities.
But, what if we started to extended this same compassion that we harbor for our closest friends to even strangers in our lives? What if we thought of that person that lies on the other end of the keyboard as someone’s best friend- a friend someone would defend till the end of time, a friend someone loves with all their heart, a friend someone compassionately and empathetically understands? What if our unbiased, color-blind, and compassionate love transcended the keyboard? How would that affect the way that we view one another on a human level? I believe that it starts when we begin to see that the compassion that we freely give to those we know best is the same compassion we should extend even to those we do not know, simply because their humanity deserves it. It continues when we use discernment in the power of our words, compassion in the tone of our voices, and empathy in the perception of those we may never know through the medium of the Internet. It grows when we see grace and compassion become our immediate responses. It expands further the more appalled we become by our own selfish, judgmental, unkind, and unforgiving thoughts and responses towards other people. You see, as we begin to change the way we communicate with one another through the Internet, we are ushering in a new wave of communication in which we account for the feelings of another person, a person we have never met nor may ever meet, above our own. So, let us bring forth this new wave of communication. Let our compassion be greater, let our empathy reach further, and let our kindness ring truer throughout the course of our comments and our messages towards one another. Let us become known as a generation that uses the vastly extensive Internet to bring messages of truth, hope, and courage to each other from all around the world.