#Rule 2021 : Cure for 2020

#Rule 2021 : Cure for 2020

As horrible as 2020 has been we have started 2021 almost in a worse position. The divide between people has grown beyond politics to fostering hate and distrust of even friends and family. I’ve seen families divided by the anger and distrust, it feels like we are finding new ways to dislike each other.  The ability to have a beer or two and agree to disagree has been lost, now every issue is a defining one. How you feel about the soon to be former president, the new president, masks, vaccinations and lockdowns have begun to divide us into camps. Information flow has become more bias to one’s own views that other view points are not just shouted down before they are even heard.

Why? I don’ t think this as simple as one man, a disease or a political party. I think the root cause is the way we live our lives and how we communicate with one another.

When I was in high school during the prehistoric era, hanging around with Fred and Barney we had disagreements amongst our friends. It may have been arguments about ideas or opinions but they took time to develop and resolve. If you had an argument with your girlfriend the fastest you could continue it after taking her home was in a couple hours on the phone. Even then it was limited to time allowed on the phone, the length of the phone cord and the girls ability to have a private conversation no more than 6 feet from the avocado green phone in the kitchen.

These disagreements took time to develop, sometimes you waited for the next day, sometimes it took a couple weeks to talk to one another. In the interim you talked to friends and family and got advice and prospective on what happened, usually around 24hrs it would dawn on me that I was being an asshole. Sometimes it took longer, but that was the usual outcome.

When I went to college I communicated with my girlfriend via mail or once a week phone calls – because from State College to Lansdale was long distance and cost too much.  I was forced to write thoughts down and think about what I wanted to say before putting a 15c stamp on it and walking it to the post office. I tore up dozens of letters already stamped on that walk to the post office. The whole process encouraged self reflection and patience, the consequences of communication were too high- saying an insult in writing was permanent, and would require many calls and letters to undue.

I think that is the essence of the problem  is that communication is too easy and too fast. Every thought you have can be expressed not only to the person you are arguing with but dozens of friends within seconds of having it. We are taught every thought or feeling you have has value, and that you deserve to be listened to.  It sounds like a great idea, but just because you get 100 likes on your latest post doesn’t make you Aristotle, hell it doesn’t even make you Lindsay Lohan. Thoughts are not good because they get the most votes, they are good because the reflective, emphatic and real.

As I write this it is being done over 3 days, with me coming back to this rule a number of times- editing and changing my thoughts. I know my spelling and grammar doesn’t reflect this effort, but this blog allows me to develop ideas thoughtfully. I have in fact deleted rules and changed rules as my thinking developed, because believe it or not changing your mind or developing an opinion overtime is healthy. We should allow ourselves the opportunity to make mistakes and change as we learn.

I really can’t imagine the asshole I would have grown up to be ( ok bigger asshole) if I had the availability of facebook, twitter or instagram when I was 19. The stupidity I would have spewed with mind boggling certainty is frightening. The fact that every idea I had would have received dozen of supportive comments and likes would have just encouraged my to develop more extreme and egocentric thoughts. I would have stopped growing and just built bigger walls of followers to tell me I was right.

Today I think the world has become dominated by 19 yr old Bobs validating their thoughts through a contest of social media. As I watched the protests and riots outside our capital last week I saw thousands of people texting from the glow of their phones while in the crowd. There were hundreds of people podcasting and facetiming every thought and action from the crowd- no filtering, no reflection or balance. And as this is happening our media (both left and right) broadcasted every thought they had on what they were seeing. No longer reporting, but developing every broadcast into an opinion piece that was supported by about 35 seconds of reflective thought. Its no longer about getting it right, or being reflective, its about being popular and validated through likes, comments and ratings.

I think of us all as monkeys with guns, shooting opinions at each other without regard to either aim or consequence. It scares me that what seems to win is the court of public opinion is no longer as Dr. King eloquently said the “content of their character” but the number of followers you gather.

I have begun to reflect on a “cure” for this problem, a way to bring people back from civil war and insanity. It seems we have to slow down communication and go back to that 6 ft phone cord in the kitchen.

I am personally starting by stopping all posting during the work week, and giving myself “social media” free days. I am hoping to evolve this to no cell phone Sundays and other gaps in cycle of social media disease. We need to build in breaks into our communication.

I also am following a 2 hour rule before I respond to any post or thought on social media, during that 2 hours I intend to think about what I was going to say, and decide if the comment is necessary at all. If I think it must be posted I’m giving it another 2 hrs.

It may seem hypocritical to be expressing this plan via a blog, but this blog is not immediate communication, and is agonized over for days before posting. The most important thing I think about on 2catrule.com is how the rule I am posting helps my kids. I have over 5 dozen  started posts that have been left in the editing in box. Trust me not all, in fact most of my thoughts are not valuable to share- I think this site uses that aggressive editing before posting.

We need a way out of this madness. I have stopped using CNN and FOX as my news sources and have online subscriptions to the NYT, Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post. I find reading is more reflective, even if the reporting is at times very bias. We need to be able to think about what is happen and respond with thought rather than reflex.

I hope you reflect on this rule and find ways to but into practice a more thoughtful process. I know I need to get better at mine, and that this monkey is unloading his weapon.



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