Four rules for fixing America in 2019

I’m a huge believer in technology’s ability to positively transform society. On the whole, society advances in proportion to its technological glide path. Where would we be without the wheel, the lever, fire, the printing press, the electron, the internet, etc?
That said, it’s obviously not all to the good: as I write this, 1.6 million square kilometers of plastic (3 times the size of France) is wending it’s through the north Pacific ocean). Clearly, indiscriminate waste disposal is one of the downsides of the online economy.
Another downside, equally pervasive and far more corrosive: social media. In particular, its ability to elevate the trivial, diminish the important, provoke mob thinking, mob behavior and rend the fabric of civil society. History is replete with examples of mob thought and behavior, none of them pretty:

Salem Witch trials

Emmet Till

The Dreyfus Affair

The Scottsboro Boys
The latest example: The Washington Mall hulaboo. I refuse to call it by what it’s been called because that only reinforces what I dislike about the medium: it reinforces inaccurate storylines. In the Mall hulabaloo, there is another actor in the drama that has largely escaped scrutiny, in which case I ask, why is that so? I have no intention of reliving that incident, because the purpose of this post is to set forth four precepts that will help us all to counteract the corrosive aspects of social media, so here I go:

Precept 1 – Don’t judge. I can’t count the number of times that holding my tongue and “judging not” has saved my bacon. What you see initially isn’t necessarily all there is to be seen.

Precept 2 – Don’t assume. A corollary to precept 1, just because it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it might be a rabbit.

Precept 3 – Don’t react. Corollary to precepts 1 and 2. Take a moment to think BEFORE you tweet, retweet, dox or otherwise act maliciously. For that matter, ask yourself: Would I want to be on the receiving end of what I’m about to do to someone else? We’re talking about human beings and the potential ruination of their lives. Reacting is #notcool.

Precept 4 – Don’t personalize. Personalizing assumes that you’re the most important actor in every scene on the stage of life. In fact, most of the time, you are not. Most people are concerned with their own lives, problems and challenges, not yours. So don’t take it personally, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a less than gracious gesture or action. If not you, someone else would have been its recipient.

This concludes my mini-sermon, hastily written and in great need of further explanation. I’ll get to it in due course but wanted to put the foundation out there. Judging, assuming, reacting and personalizing are the deadly sins of modern America; they are tearing the country apart, coarsening our discourse, and polluting the public square. If we want to reclaim civility, each individual should commit to living a “sin-free” life and practicing The Golden Rule.

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About the Author: Stephanie

Data Analytics Practitioner researching pollinator health at the Urban Bee Laboratory in Boston.

Your comments are welcome!