Jumping on the Bandwagon

Social media is changing so much about the human condition. Because it allows us to interact with people all over the world almost instantaneously, it almost seems as if space and time really don’t exist! It allows us to share our success and our “blunders”, our joy and our sorrow, our passions and our peeves, our humor and our outrage. It allows for the amazing occurrence of a child’s wish to be a superhero to come true and warm hearts all over the world. It helps lost pets and lost people come home safely. It provides words of encouragement to those who are injured or ill from places we may never get a chance to visit. As with all new technologies, however,  that same lack of space and time can also be abused.

I’m going to highlight tw0 recent incidents. One was recently addressed in this column by Therese Wilson. It involved a graphic that went viral around Facebook concerning stores that were going to be open on Thanksgiving.  Those displaying the graphic pledged not to shop on Thanksgiving. The not-so-subtle message of the graphic was that these stores were “anti-American” and “anti-family” and were holiday grinches for forcing people to be away from their families on Thanksgiving Day. Some of the comments suggested that these stores be boycotted throughout the holiday season to “teach them a lesson”.

As Therese pointed out, many people need to work on holidays because of the need for money. She also noted that many families don’t want to be together on Thanksgiving for many different reasons. I personally question the appropriateness of celebrating an event that was the start of the biggest genocide in the history of humanity: the slaughter of the Native American tribes that were living here when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. I also work in EMS and, for us (as well as many other essential services providers), there are no holidays or weekends. I worked on Thanksgiving and I’ll probably be working on Christmas and New Year’s Eve as well. But in reading the comments that many posted to this graphic, I was taken aback by the intense anger and sometimes hatred that was oozing out of the words on my computer screen.

As soon as the graphic appeared, people began jumping on the bandwagon and sharing it, reposting it and leaving comments about it. Hardly anyone stopped to think about the other side of the story: the people who wanted/needed to work, the people who had no family to spend the holiday with, the people for whom the holiday had a less than pleasant association (which in addition to those who feel as I do about the holiday included those who had lost a loved one near Thanksgiving or who had experienced some other traumatic or life-altering news around the holiday). I, for one, was thankful that there was a gas station open that day because we needed fuel for the ambulance and food for the crew.

Believe me, I am under no illusion that the corporate bigwigs did this for the benefit of the workers. Big business, for the most part, doesn’t seem to care about the workers. But their motivation for staying open on Thanksgiving is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that there are already many businesses that are open 24/7/365, either out of necessity or policy. There have always been people who have had to work on Thanksgiving (or any other holiday) and many people enjoy or want the extra pay. It is not for us to judge another’s actions! Quite frankly, if my only choices were to go shopping on Thanksgiving or sit around and watch football, I’d go shopping. (Thankfully, those were not my only choices!)

The next incident involved a gay waitress, a former Marine,  who posted a photo of the receipt allegedly given to her by a family that had a note written on it expressing their inability to tip her due to her “lifestyle”. Within 24 hours, the picture had been reposted thousands of times and people from all over the world began sending money to this waitress to make up for the tip she was allegedly denied. Comments slamming the family and Christianity for their views on homosexuality were rampant and many of them were very ugly. The waitress promised to give a portion of the money she received to the Wounded Warrior Project and she was hailed by many as a real heroine.

Apparently, however, the whole thing is a hoax. Reports now say that the charity has no record of receiving any donation from the waitress. The military says the woman was dishonorably discharged for not showing up for drills. Former co-workers are saying the woman has a history of lying. To the best of my knowledge, the woman hasn’t made any comment about the allegations of a hoax.

Once again, people jumped on the bandwagon and began saying some very ugly and hateful things about a family they didn’t know. A family who was able to prove that they had, in fact, tipped the woman by providing a copy of their credit card bill and a photo of the check without the written note on it.  But there were still people who suggested that the family had forged the credit card bill and photo. Yet the family was never named in the story! So no one knew who they were. Why would they risk exposing themselves to the hatred that was being aimed at them to provide a forged copy of a credit card statement or photo? They chose to remain anonymous but they said they came forward to set the record straight. The woman has been suspended from her job pending an investigation and may even face criminal charges if it was, in fact, a hoax.

These are just a few examples in a rising phenomenon. Sometimes the stories are warnings to motorists not to stop if you get eggs thrown on your windshield because it’s the latest way robbers are getting people to stop their cars. Almost every one of these is a hoax but they get reposted over and over. (I’d say every one but I’m sure I haven’t seen every one, but of all the ones I’ve seen, they have all been hoaxes.) Sometimes it’s a story about a parent whose child is found wondering in the streets and the parent is lambasted online as being a horrible human being for not noticing their child was not in the house. (Having fallen asleep while nursing my youngest son and wakening to find my oldest son (who was still only 3 1/2 apparently missing from the house (he was actually under a pile of blankets in the middle of the bed, but I didn’t know it at the time I went running around outside looking for him), I know that it’s possible even among caring and conscientious parents!) Sometimes it’s a story about an apparent crime and the alleged perpetrator is tried, convicted and sentenced by the jury of social media users. So much for innocent until proven guilty!

The anonymity of the internet aids in this phenomenon of jumping on the bandwagon. We’re usually not held responsible for our words that are printed on a computer screen because many times, the “person” is just someone that’s been made up to give voice to those things we’re unwilling to allow others to know we feel or think or believe. We allow our “alter-ego” to post all the hateful and angry things that our family and friends would be shocked to hear coming out of our mouths. It’s also much easier to post a comment that gets lost among the thousands of comments on a page of someone you  don’t know, have never met and probably will never meet.  It can almost seem therapeutic to allow yourself to vent in this apparently harmless manner.

But is it really harmless? The incidences of cyber-bullying are on the rise. There have already been high profile cases of mostly teens who have committed suicide after being bullied online.

Our thoughts, expressed as words on the screen, are still energy that is being put out into the universe. And what we put out comes back to us. We are still judging the actions of others. Still judging their beliefs. Still judging their thoughts. And as you treat another, so shall you be treated because we are all One! When you berate another, you berate yourself. When you condemn another, you condemn yourself. When you belittle another, you belittle yourself.

Oneness is more than just a new thought concept: it is an ultimate reality. And when we experience our words coming home to roost in our own lives, we will finally understand.

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