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Civility amongst the stampeding hordes

Civility: formal politeness or courtesy in manner or speech.

If you know me, youíll know my penchant for good grammar, concise words and the clear conveyance of thought. Growing up, I would repeatedly tell my kids these very words: ďIf you want to tell me something, say it clearly. Never stand there fidgeting.Ē

I wasnít a dictator, although they might disagree with you (Boggle was war in our house), but I demanded a certain level of manner to their speech as well as written word. I would tell them over and over that no one would hear them if the words they spoke were unintelligible, no matter what the situation.

My husband gave them no fear to speak their mind, and I gave them the proper words to relay it. Letís be clear. They were kids, so they didnít always listen, but the equipping was what was important.

With the advent of social media and its baffling mix of words and people, a new way of communicating was born. It was maddening and heady: bad grammar laced with misspellings of words and an utter lack of getting a point across. The etiquette of it all was elusive, and so I relied on how I related to people in real life: with civility and decorum, making sure my words were used properly. Iím a nonconfrontational person, and that showed on my feeds as I carefully selected news and statuses to share.

I canít say that every interaction was perfect. I learned much.

That was some eight or nine years ago, and I live by that today. I have my causes and beliefs, but with such an influx of news sites and available articles and memes, itís a landscape that ó without given proper thought ó can be a wasteland that looks like the National Enquirer.

Remember those headlines at the grocery checkout that caught your eye as you perused the candy bars? ďFamous movie star adopts an extraterrestrialĒ or ďShocker! Twisted secret so crazy you wonít believe it!Ē

They were titillating and undeniably juicy, but today theyíve been cleaned up, put on an official-looking website and hooked up to the masses online like an intravenous drip of daily coffee. I see the same headlines ó stream-lined and internet savvy ó that people devour and share, passing that National Enquirer around until itís tattered and torn, read thoroughly.

Vigilance in such a time of unrest and political divide is mandatory. I cull, curate and sift through my social media feeds daily. My goal is to post from my own experiences ó ones that pertain to me ó or news from reputable journalism sources.

Do I fall for the impassioned quotes that apply to me? Do I get social media right? Not always, but what I do get right is standing by what I post. There are times when words pour onto the screen, when poetry is penned or when I blog, that my fingers get twitchy when itís time to share. Will someone push back against what Iíve said? Will I have to respond with shaky words and explain why Iíve shared or written something I feel strongly about? Yes, because Iím responsible for it.

If Iíve taken the time to post something, I should expect commentary. I will answer with my shaky words the best way I know how. My motto is to never attack the person commenting, but to challenge the idea as I see it; itís conversation. Pushback is essential for civil discourse, and I donít want to live in a world where my words are deemed rude simply for disagreeing, especially if Iíve taken the time to answer in a clear way.

Iíve had discussions where Iíve been hit over the head with scripture to supposedly ďwake me upĒ as well as discussions where words mingled and mixed into cordial disagreements. Be assured that Iím awake. This is the ebb and flow of civility: the ability to discuss and share differences. Itís a lesson Iíve long-learned and try to live daily.

My kids have carried their voices into their adult lives. Theyíre passionate about causes and beliefs and arenít afraid to push back, to voice a dissenting thread into the many posts that fill our social media feeds daily. They expect that when they post something controversial, theyíll receive pushback as well and are ready to answer, standing by their thoughts.

Do they get it wrong? We all do. But I would rather have someone challenge me on a view and talk freely, typing rapid-fire discussion, knowing that it is good to discuss and press. Respect is earned by grinding out differences syllable by syllable. If we let ourselves descend into words that slice and demean, weíve lost the battle as well as the war.

Published: February 3, 2017
New Article ID: 2017702039974