1000 voices for Compassion

This Post was also published on Huffington Post India here: A Call for Compassion on Social Media

Recently, this story was avidly shared on twitter showing us how some of us can run away with the freedom that social media platforms now provide us.

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life

While, social media can lead to revolutions and facilitate massive community outreach programs, it can also cause people to go into depression, feel hounded and passed judgment upon, lose their jobs and lose their lives as well. Scary, isn’t it?

As someone who has been blogging for close to 7 years now and has been an active participant on Facebook less so on twitter, I am beginning to recognize some of the pitfalls of social media myself. While I have found people and groups that I can really connect with who are kind and generous. Sometimes it is these same people who can jolt me with their pettiness or lack of compassion. I wonder what brings out this inner narcissist in us that will do just about anything for a few likes, comments and shares.

Whether it is family or friends, parents or singles, heads of state or celebrities, no one is safe from the ire of the social media aficionados. Haranguing, name calling, harassing and humiliating all goes under the guise of freedom of speech. While our blogs give us the power to lay out one-sided versions of our stories to the world, we often forget that the targets of our ire are living breathing human beings just like us who have families and friends. Do their misdemeanors (perceived) really demand such big punishments that we hound them mercilessly? Is it time for all of us to pause for a second and be a little more courteous and compassionate in our interactions.

Personally, I find family a sobering influence. The fact that my son reads my blogs or that my husband is on Facebook always makes me think twice before posting or sharing something.

While the urge to hit out at every issue is strong and God knows we all have done that, I think the willpower to take that step back is even more important. Every time when I want to strike out, I recall that for every person that gets on my nerves, there are many others who have jumped to my defense or offered me a shoulder to cry upon no matter how small my misery.

Today, I find myself standing at the crossroads wondering if I really need to be that connected, that bombarded by a community that rarely displays compassion for other fellow beings. Emails, tweets, status updates, blogs are all filled with anger, rants, and venting out. Some of them use offensive language and really are out there to provoke.

Social media has given all of us a voice, a method by which we can also make a difference. The compassion that we need to embrace is to not misuse that power. Use your reach, your followers for sharing tales of distress, of hope, of happiness instead of having your two seconds of fame by slinging mud or laughing at someone else’s expense.

Today, on 20th February, 2015, 1000 Voices around the world are speaking out to practice compassion in every sphere of life.

Every time you write something really harsh or vitriolic, think for once if you would be able to say the same to the person to their face.

If not, why put it up in black and white. Remember written word cannot be erased and neither can be erased the wounds that it leaves behind in the hearts of those afflicted by their injuries.

Let us all try to practice compassion towards ourselves and towards the fellow human beings. Let us use social media wisely and responsibly.

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83 Thoughts on “Compassion on social media

  1. Though I have heard a lot about pulling people down all the time on the Social media, really glad that I have not been a victim of it. I think people who do not have the guts to say things straight, use social media as their weapon. You broached a very pertinent topic and this is a gentle reminder and warning to all of us.

    • I have been a victim but not in a way that has destroyed me but made me bitter for a while. I am sure, some of my words have hurt others. I hope I am more mindful of that. At least, I am glad that I haven’t used my blog to settle scores or hit out even in the worst of moments. Thanks for reading, Latha.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  2. True Rachna…Sometimes I tend to go overboard too… And often I avoid saying something against people on social media who resort to mud slinging… I guess we need to speak up to stop thir not to go overboard with it
    nabanita recently posted…Why No One Talks About Compassion Anymore?My Profile

    • It happens with all of us. When we are angry or hurting, we are less careful. But these days, I do pause and reflect. If required I share it with close family and relatives but avoid hitting out in public. That helps and is definitely a better way of doing things.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  3. Hi Rachana,

    Very well articulated. This is a much needed reminder for all of us. Though I would never attack a person on twitter or participate in a witch hunt, there have been so many times that I have wanted to go off on a rant on my facebook about things that I feel strongly about . It is at such times that will power and restraint play a huge role. I just switch off social media and talk to my husband if I have to get it out of my system. There is so much negativity around, we clearly don’t need to be adding to it. I guess it is a conscious decision that we need to take.
    Shantala recently posted…The Fault in our Stars by John Green | Book ReviewMy Profile

    • I completely agree, Shantala. When we are stressed we want to hit out to ease our pain. But it does not really help because there may be others who will hit you in return. I actually deactivate my FB profile when I can’t make sense of the negativity or noise on it. Then I come back a few days later, more composed. I do enjoy interaction with some wonderful folks and about the ones that bother, I try to find my own method to cut out their negative talk. Thanks for reading and sharing your views, Shantala.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  4. I agree due to the clinical aloofness that pushing a button on PC/Phone offers people do tend to forget that they may not have a full picture in front of them to which they are reacting…

    I don’t think this online bullying without complete facts is very different than the bullying in schools highlighted by you some time back in another post….
    Prasad Np recently posted…Kochi Muziris BiennaleMy Profile

  5. Very very well said Rachna,
    I have often wondered if people would be as mean in real life as they are on Social media. Our sense of decency, ethics, propriety all seems to vanish once we are on twitter or Facebook. Its appalling,
    Ruch recently posted…The Japanese and The Art of Using ChopsticksMy Profile

  6. Very true Rachna. I have never given that much importance to this humiliation and shaming as I am myself not that much active on social media specially on twitter… I agree with you word to word .. yes that our kids read our blog and our family members are out there makes us responsible users. I also nod in full agreement when you say “I find family a sobering influence” In fact there is hardly a word here to which I don’t agree.
    But the rude shock to me was the articles about Sacoo linked by you ! It s cruel mindless shaming..just because we have this device with a button we can wag out tongue, click pics …. go to extremes… very disturbing ..

    I 100% agree on compassion on levels especially here, where the victim can not even defend himself/herself .
    Kokila Gupta recently posted…The White Moustache : Bedtime RitualsMy Profile

    • I am so glad that my words resonated with you, Kokila. I was shocked to read that article as well. You are right. The victims find it hard to rise above the deluge of abuse.

  7. I would say social media is not just scary, it is creepy a lot more times. If you dive into the privacy policies of a lot of social media platforms and read them carefully, you’ll see why I say so. I quit FB when this got to my nerves and since then only blog and twitter are all I do online and I think twice everytime I post something.

    However, I have seen some people blogging away in oblivion. They think they are writing honestly but then again, that honesty can cost them quite a deal. Excellent post, made me think how we get into mob mentality on virtual world even easier than in real life.
    Keirthana recently posted…How to check out women?My Profile

    • I do tend to agree with you, Keirthana. I ofyen deactivate my FB profile when I can’t just put up with the mundane. Twitter is impersonal and I am not too regular. Yes, the privacy policies are scary too. Yep, sometimes we get carried away with all the ‘sharing’. I am being more careful as well. Thanks for connecting with the post.

  8. a very valid point. when I was more anonymous, I did feel the freedom to write what was in my mind. But now, I realise that there comes a certain responsibility with that and so many a time, I find myself holding back even though i have a strong view on controversial topics.
    It is true – we need to look to create a more pleasant atmosphere in the social media arena… touchwood , this #1000Speak is a start
    roshan r recently posted…The World is Not a Bad Place #1000SpeakMy Profile

  9. Every time you write something really harsh or vitriolic, think for once if you would be able to say the same to the person to their face. – This just sums it all !
    A brilliant post. I wrote some thing similar but hesitant to post. Hopefully will do it by tomorrow

  10. Your words, my thoughts. Thank you for articulating it so well.

  11. Hi,
    great article and really informative, as an doctor i really enjoy reading this, i almost read more than 15 post of this blog and really liked reading.

    Regards,
    Dr. Debasish Mukherjee Best ENT Specialist in Kolkata

  12. That accounts for why I am not too engaged on Social media. For me, in every engagement with another person, I prefer to add to the sum of his happiness and not detract from it. AND, by the same token, I prefer people who do that to me as well.

    I get the feeling that it is, nowadays, ‘cool’ to be rude, offensive or patronizing towards people. Me – I am ‘uncool’ that way, maybe because I never did understand what this ‘having attitude’ is all about. I have always been seeking to have character, have integrity, have compassion and, roughly speaking, ‘having attitude’ seems to involve NOT having any of these. AND, without ‘attitude’ I am probably a misfit in Social media 🙂
    C. Suresh recently posted…Words of Importance – ScenarioMy Profile

    • I completely agree, Suresh. It is cool to cuss, use objectionable language and make fun of everyone. That the teens do it is understandable. But older folks with families are expected to be more mature. You are not a misfit. You are a refereshing change. I am also cooling off towards the rabid elements on social media.

  13. I recall that tweet and our discussion about it and you recall the way we talked about the vitriolic nature of social media. I am so glad you wrote this post. Too often, people assume that with the facade of social media protecting them, they can get away with venting, ranting and having their say without any fear of repercussion. Little do they realise the toxin they are injecting into themselves as they indulge in naming, shaming and making people look small. In the end, what does it all prove? That one is superior than the other? How tragic and petty. I would much rather align myself with the thoughts and happiness that company like yours can bring to my life. Any day.
    Shailaja recently posted…Mental Health Awareness- Questions answered #1000SpeakMy Profile

    • Thanks, Shailaja, for your warm and comforting presence. Yes, your share of the article and our conversation made me pen this posg. I have been struggling with social media for a while now. When I can’t take it, I disable my profile on FB. Twitter I like because it is impersonal and I am not out there to provoke. I completely agree. All that negativity you spew is bound to rebound on you. Why don’t we understand that? I would also prefer not to align with such folks. I am just so glad that I met you in this journey. It is refreshing and motivating to have you in my life. <3

  14. Absolutely! It’s unnerving how the promise of anonymity brings out the worst in people! It’s definitely enough to make one pause as to how connected one really needs to be.
    Roshni recently posted…The day of compassion #1000SpeakMy Profile

  15. A much needed post, Rachna. Thank you for articulating it so well. Words have such an immense power and force, and it is really important that we learn how to use words when writing and interacting via written words. As Suresh said in his comment, it has sort of become cool to use filthy language and share ill-informed opinions just because we can, thanks to the ease of social media and the geographical distance between digital IDs. Maybe it is better to be uncool and stay more sane and compassionate.
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…Family Project: Being the Second FiddleMy Profile

    • I found Suresh’s comment very pertinent. Perhaps that is what explains why folks in their 30s and 40s behave so immaturely and outrageously on social media. It is just so sad, Beloo. Sometimes, we destroy people’s sanity and peace of mind for petty nothings. Thanks for reading and for your insightful comment as always.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  16. I agree with your views, Rachna.
    I had written a post about the Twitter attacks & hate-tweets I have received.
    unfair when people jump to conclusions!
    Nice when people on Social media are “social” & don’t behave like animals…rather, animals even have rules…some people forget civilities when they are at their hounding best!
    Anita recently posted…The PaintingMy Profile

  17. It is shocking to see so much of intolerance and aggression on social media. Using social media for hate speech is not freedom of speech. Is it the online anonymity that gives the freedom to spew out venom? I always wonder if the same people would be so abusive and aggressive in real life too?
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Compassion in Everyday Life #1000SpeakMy Profile

  18. It is easier to write than speak, that is why we end up doing things on social media that we won’t do otherwise. I hope the world finds maturity/compassion in deciding what we should write and what we shouldn’t.

    • Yes, it is easier to write. Indeed, it is so simple that it is child’s play. And who cares what others think is generally what people believe. But even if it comes from strangers, it hurts. We all hurt. In that we are human. So, why not avoid that? We aren’t bad people otherwise.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  19. It is one of the reasons i don’t hang around social media, Rachna, except for the post-sharing. At the end of the day, it is worthwhile asking ourselves who is really there for us when we need them – and of course we can count that number with the fingers of one hand. With the freedom that these platforms provide, people find it easy to rant. Sad, but true.
    Vidya Sury recently posted…Practising Compassion #1000SpeakMy Profile

    • I can understand, Vidya. While I enjoy the community and the camaraderie which is sporadic I must admit, I certainly completely dislike the pomposity and the negativity. That is a wonderful question to ask. It helps you sort out who is important to you. Thanks for reading, Vidya.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  20. There is always the need to be gentle in all communications,be they direct or through social media.The rule for communication is explained very well in this well known sloka
    Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat na bruyat satyam apriyam
    priyam cha nanrutam bruyat esha dharmah sanatanah
    Speak truth Speak the pleasant.. Never speak truth, which is unpleasant. Never speak untruth, which might be pleasant. If the truth is unpleasant then some times it is better not to speak. This is the path of eternal morality, sanatana dharma.
    Thanks for the nicely written post.
    KP recently posted…Bringing sunshineMy Profile

  21. Well said! As a blogger you hold responsibility for every word you pur out there! Very sensible post!
    Aditi recently posted…Asha #1000speakMy Profile

  22. These are beautiful thoughts.
    Yes, for every time we think we need to speak and pass expert comments, we should also think what effect it has on others.
    It’s kind of a multiplier effect… The outreach can be insane!!
    Lancelot Quadras recently posted…Compassion Is In Our NatureMy Profile

  23. This is such a well-thought out and well-articulated piece, Rachna. The internet and the anonymity give such a pervert sense of courage to some people and this must stop!
    Uma recently posted…Being sensitive towards others #1000speakMy Profile

  24. Beautifully expressed Rachna. That is the reason I am not such a twitter person. Social media sites are not devoid of this but Twitter seems to be the Mecca. People consider it to be a matter of honor with the popularity they gain in terms of the number of fan flowing they have…which gives them a false sense of being a ‘celebrity’ and the right to speak out and judge.
    I have been swayed too…taking sides and choosing. And I have learned my lesson.

    • Thanks, Janu. Actually, I find twitter more impersonal but it can be merciless because all tweets are public. Especially if you dabble in controversy. Yes, twitter does seem to promote people going overboard with their witticisms/crassness. Exactly, the number of like, followers and comments give them a false sense of being a celebrity. I shudder to think if their families even follow what they do. FB is quite bad too, as you see people going on long rant ego trips and persecution. I knew of a woman who would immediately put up a status update if she did not agree with your views. And then she would ridicule it. This is the maturity we show towards accepting differences of opinions.

      I have ranted too. I have had my weak moments and done my taking sides bit. But now I realize that the best way to handle the attention hungry folks is by ignoring them. Their rants die a slow death. At least, I never used my blog to hit out at any individual. That feels quite good.
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  25. Loved your take on it Rachna ! And every time I see the kind of comments that flood the internet, on facebook, against news articles, on blogs, I cringe at the insensitivity with which people hurl abuses. Very relevant thought in today’s internet age.
    Asha recently posted…Compassion – Where art thou ?My Profile

  26. Humiliating others publicly has become the norm for many while some attempt at doing so under the covers. Both can lead to a catastrophic impact on the victim’s life leaving them in a complete state of havoc. I wish this powerful medium was used for noble initiatives like these (1000Speak) instead of naming and shaming.
    Rekha recently posted…#1000Speak for CompassionMy Profile

    • Naming and shaming is important for perpetrators of crimes and biases. In real life or on social media, people play petty games perhaps for the benefit of their followers, to hide their own insecurities or to further their hidden agendas. Perhaps they have something lacking in their real lives — a clamor for appreciation, acceptance, validation or love, who knows? Like I said, some use the medium to plant their one-sided tales of self-pity. I prefer to block out the negativity instead of ranting and damaging my own peace. When such negative people don’t matter, why not stay away from them and safeguard our own sanity? Thanks for reading and sharing, Rekha.

  27. Sulekha on February 21, 2015 at 8:35 pm said:

    Rachna, I agree with you completely. There are a lot of angry people out there and they don’t think twice before writing down something which might hurt other people’s feelings. The computer screen doesn’t judge and they feel secure sitting in front of it, angrily typing away. Sometimes its tempting to jump into the fray and give a fitting reply to these shadows but remembering the childhood lesson about deep breathing and counting to ten before reacting is a good thing.Your post needs to be shared on Social Media platforms for all to read and reflect on.

  28. very true… “I wonder what brings out this inner narcissist in us that will do just about anything for a few likes, comments and shares”
    I too wonder the same.. I really feel that the way teenagers and youths of today are using the facebook …would not actually connect with friends but bring them apart..

    and yes, i agree people humiliate others to get fun out of their unease and embarrassment.. it’s sad..
    Pratikshya recently posted…Always In My Heart by Mary EllisMy Profile

  29. People don’t know where to draw the line. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility. I know people love to laugh but going mannerless is not acceptable. Compassion is rare and so is sensitivity on social media.
    Saru Singhal recently posted…Bridge, Trees and A Hug So TightMy Profile

  30. I tried posting comment on your earlier post but it’s not going through. Please check your spam folder.
    Saru Singhal recently posted…Bridge, Trees and A Hug So TightMy Profile

  31. This is a must read post for all social media fans, so much abuse goes on in the name of sharing. I too find myself being impersonal and only share my blogging on my fb and very few personal updates.
    Today I feel it is so difficult to have a fb profile, rather we all should just have fb pages. More impersonal.
    Congratulations on being published on Huffington post.
    Inderpreet recently posted…#SnapYourWeek 8My Profile

  32. Nice post, Rachna. I too had read that article you have linked – I was reminded of an incident 2 – 3 years back when a blogger was hounded so much for plagiarism that she got into depression and then totally quit blogging.

    This compassion initiative, I learnt of it very late – so could not participate.
    The Fool recently posted…Intriguing Points of ViewMy Profile

    • I can completely understand that, TF. I remember being hounded by a blogger who had some grouse with me. Sometimes, they use underhand tricks by using their followers/friends to do their dirty bidding of harassing and troubling the person. It is some of the dirtiest games playing out on social media where friendships are fickle and foes are for real.

      I think the initiative is planning on doing some regular features. Why don’t you join their FB page?
      Rachna recently posted…Compassion on social mediaMy Profile

  33. What to say on her condition? My sympathy would be of no use for her. Wo kehte hain na zara si asawdhani aur bada nuksan. Always think about long term effects also while going for short term gratifications.
    Ravish Mani recently posted…PhotoMy Profile

  34. Nice ideas expressed by author.
    International Journal of Research recently posted…Call for Papers for March IssueMy Profile

  35. I have seen Twitter at its nastiest and at its most compassionate where it has come together to help someone in trouble.

    But the mob mentality which doesn’t think twice before lynching someone’s reputation is scary.

    All I can say is distance always gives you perspective.
    purbaray recently posted…The Obsessive FoodieMy Profile

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  37. Hmm… That’s probably the insecurities and frustration talking. Social media has become everybody’s ‘dear diary’ now. Let’s hope people who’ve come this way read this and commented here will so some ‘thinking’ before posting anything on social media. 😉
    dNambiar recently posted…VistaPoint Chamundi | See Mysore and BeyondMy Profile

  38. I have been on Twitter and other platforms for so long.
    I haven’t experienced any incident where anyone has been abusive towards me nor have I ever used unparliamentary language
    B k chowla recently posted…SMOKINGMy Profile

  39. Social media bullying is the worst kind! You cannot see your attacker and the hurtful words remain.

    You have said everything that needs to be said Rachna.. and very sensibly.

  40. I thought I had posted a comment on this.

    Anyway, I love this quote on ‘Give a man a mask, and he’ll show this true worth’

    Thats exactly what is happening these days. People are secure beneath the layers of anonymity and take it upon themselves to troll others just for the fun of it. If they asked themselves if they had the courage to say those words to the other person on their face, then I guess things would be a lot different.
    Ashwini CN recently posted…The ‘Life-Work’ Balance!My Profile

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