January 19th, 2022

Christmas peace is needed on social media


By Lethbridge Herald on December 18, 2021.

LEAVE IT TO BEEBER

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

With the fourth wave of COVID-19 upon us and the omicron variant prompting Ottawa to warn against non-essential international travel, a doctor shortage in Alberta and inflation rising, finding cheer at Christmas may not be easy this year.

With so many issues facing us, it’s hard to get into the spirit of celebrating Christmas. And for people who are alone with no friends and family nearby, merry is hardly a word that describes Christmas.

 As I’ve written before, due to family issues Christmas was never my favourite holiday growing up and I was glad to escape it by working  it when I was in high school. 

I treasured the brief solitude of Christmas Day during my years in northern Ontario where thanks to the many friends I quickly made, being alone at Christmas usually just meant from about 3 a.m. Christmas morning until early Christmas night when inevitably someone would come over or invite me out. 

Thanks to COVID, Christmas gatherings aren’t what they used to be when friends and families could fill kitchens and living rooms to capacity and enjoy each other’s company. The recently loosened restrictions this year may help bring a bit of joy to people, though.

We who have friends and family, our health and stability in our lives have much to be thankful for and we can’t take it for granted. 

Our lives can forever change in a blink of an eye as we all know so we need to appreciate what we have in life. We need to cherish every second. 

But tell that to people who are constantly using social media to attack, belittle, complain about and humiliate others.

What won’t be missing this Christmas unfortunately – I’m guessing – is this mean-spirited sniping.

The anger, the bitterness, the malice on social media, especially Twitter, is out of control. And while everybody certainly gets mad and loses their temper once in awhile, the kind of tweets that some people make are despicable.

If I were to write what some people do, I would have been fired long ago. But some feel they can slander, defame and insult others with complete impunity. 

Years ago, when I wrote a controversial column, I was warned that fake accounts were being created to attack me. 

When I scan Twitter daily, it’s clear that I’m not the only person who has been targeted by social media cowards who hide behind the cloak of anonymity to vent on others.

I realize it’s never going to happen – especially not in Alberta where the political left and right are so filled with contempt for each other – but perhaps if people tried to find even the smallest piece of common ground and worked together on solutions to the problems we face, then maybe progress would be made in fixing our world.

But instead of looking for solutions that benefit everyone, the polar opposites in our political world just attack. 

They don’t try to find compromises, they just seek to destroy the credibility of their opponents and in doing so, can smear their own credibility by the choice of words they use on social media.

Even people who have been wronged – and many have been in our world – need to take a deep breath and consider how they are going about addressing those wrongs. 

Bullying and abuse won’t solve any problem; instead both will only create more antagonism and create the perception that social media users are aggressors and agitators. 

Some will justify abuse and non-stop attacks but what are those truly going to solve? Nothing. Everyone has their own limits to tolerance and there comes a point where a person’s actions on social media will change the perception of that person.

On any topic from vaccinations to masks to social distancing, to any political subject in Canada, people who take personal offence to political policy or beliefs or the behaviour of others too often respond in ways that are inflammatory  and undignified. 

Even sports fans can act like children over discussions online – trust me, I’ve endured my share of attacks simply because I support teams that others don’t.

With Christmas on the horizon, I truly hope that even for a day or two,  social media warriors will walk away from their keyboards and take a break from their public crusades. 

We all need the break from fighting  and we all deserve some true peace on Earth. And I hope all of you manage to find it somehow in your lives this year despite the difficulties of COVID and whatever your personal circumstances may be.

It’s not  easy but we all need to make the effort in some small way to make this world a better place to live. A kind word, a kind gesture can all make the world of difference to a person. 

A way to start making a difference is by filtering what we write on social media. We can take an extra few seconds before pressing “send” to consider an alternative way of expressing our thoughts, no matter how strongly we feel and how valid the points we are making. 

We can try being positive and uplifting and maybe humorous. We can turn social media into a place of understanding and respect one post at a time.

To all readers, I hope you and your families have a fantastic Christmas season. 

This has been one of my favourite years on the job ever and I’ve been blessed to have gotten the chance to write on so many different subjects, show my limited photography skills and meet so many people I otherwise wouldn’t have.

 I’m honoured that Herald management has given me the chance to do what I do best which is to put my words to work. And it’s because of the inspirational English teachers I had growing up – Mrs. Meeks, Mr. Spackman and Mrs. Smith – that I pursued this career.

I’m indebted to them and all of you for your support and kindness. I know I’ve made enemies in this community – all journalists will – but it comes with the territory. If you can’t take the heat, then a person shouldn’t be in the kitchen. It’s a philosophy, that in my opinion, applies to every profession.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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