Recently, I did something I rarely do. I decided, rather than just circling in the air above the jungle that is Twitter, I would fly straight into a polemic. I commented on a post regarding racism in Ireland, a country close to my heart, where I spent formative years as a child and teenager. The problem with a mud fight is that, even if you win, you still get muddy. This instance proved no different.
I considered the very feature proffered by the platform — that of “commenting”. The ability and allowance to comment on every caprice the internet produces already belittles the wondrous meanderings of our minds. A child might be expected to give their opinion on everything they are experiencing, usually in a rolling stream of consciousness type of sing-song. But surely, one might think that years of living, of practicing being a human, putting personal philosophies or spiritualities to practice, or at the very least, practicing self-restraint, would have taught us not to pass comment on every thing that happens or that we initiate.
Ah, my mind was reduced to just a shadow of itself – I had been doomscrolling through Twitter for at least three minutes — this is what my mind does when I let it be pulled into the abyss of addiction that is Twitter. And, with a pounding heart, I decided to comment on the racist remarks that were being slung around on that Irish profile’s wall.
I wrote something about empathy and acceptance — knowing full well that even compassion is something with which the Internet may find fault. The potential horror of a comment going viral, being misconstrued, quoted out of context, or picked apart felt ominous. A dark cloud of anxiety began forming above my head. To be honest, being evaluative on social media and commenting on content amidst a slew of others’ comments, whether it’s coming from a place of compassion or criticality, feels a bit silly. Perhaps this was a key element condensing within my anxiety cloud. I knew that I was doing something that everyone does – which, by my own standards, is something I should question…
The result? After a fitful night of sleep and grand expectations of waking up to a score of judgements on my comment by trolls and haters, and maybe, just maybe, people who agreed with me, I busied myself, cultivating an inner steeliness to deal with the fallout of protest. I made myself a coffee. I breathed deeply. I brushed my finger across my laptop and went to the relevant Twitter profile and discovered that: I only had one like. My stone in the sea of the Internet had barely caused a ripple. Frankly: the world looked no different after I had voiced my opinion.
What a humbling place social media is. It can teach us to reflect on our notions of grandeur. And perhaps, we can go back to the drawing board and redesign the butterfly effect. We can realise that if we want to instigate change, we need to do more than flap our wings.