Be Beautiful

I really have to get over my habit of reading the comment sections of internet news stories.  It’s sort of like driving by the scene of a car accident:  I know I’m going to be upset by what I see, but I look anyway.  Maybe I’m hoping that for once I will see mostly reasonable comments by people who are expressing their opinion in a civil way, or maybe I’m just morbidly interested in how quickly people turn on anyone who expresses a different point of view.  (I like to think it’s the former.)

Usually, there are three distinct groups of people on any comment feed.  The first, and smallest, group consists of a few twisted souls who seem to be posting the most offensive comments they can think of, just to pick a fight.  They’re easy to ignore, because it’s so obvious that their only goal is to upset other people, and the less attention they get, the better.  The other group is only slightly larger, and those are the people who are the voice of reason, always expressing their views in a civil and respectful way, often trying to find common ground to reconcile the opposing sides.  Their comments are few and far between, but always a welcome reprieve from the vitriol surrounding them.

Sadly, the largest group of comments are from the angry, self-righteous people who are absolutely incensed that anyone, anywhere, does not see the world exactly the same way they do.  They know, without a doubt, that they are absolutely right, on any subject that is being discussed.  This group includes both liberals and conservatives, religious people and atheists, etc.  They aren’t trying to be mean, but in their zeal to prove their point, they are still rather brutal.  Many tend to use a lot of CAPS when typing their comments, just to be sure to drive their point home.

It bothers me to see so many comments from people who truly seem to have lost the ability to listen to, or even tolerate, people who disagree with them.  Every day, it seems to be more socially acceptable to choose to interact only with those who think and act just like us.  The internet may have given us access to people all over the world, but most of us seem to prefer to stay in our tight little circles, populated by our “own kind.”  We  are careful to watch only the news shows that reflect our opinions back at us, join groups consisting only of people who think just like us, and in general make sure we don’t ever have to be challenged to acknowledge the basic worth and dignity of anyone whose views we find offensive.

I get that for most of us, our natural reaction to someone who challenges our basic values is to lash out in self-defense.  I’m guilty of that more than I’d care to admit.  But the reality is that the world is getting smaller, the internet does bring us into regular contact with people who are very different from us, and if we are not all going to drown in a sea of anger, hate and fear, we have got to get our act together.

We need to remember that when we are lashing out or putting someone down, we are only making ourselves ugly.  If you don’t believe that, say something mean and hurtful while looking in a mirror.  No matter how good-looking you usually are, all you will see looking back at you is ugliness.  Then, still looking in that mirror, say something kind and compassionate, and I guarantee you will see nothing but beauty.  I know none of us are, or will ever be, perfect or even nearly as good as we want to be.   But I also know that the time has come when we all need to try our best to be more beautiful, as often as humanly possible.IMG_0716

48 thoughts on “Be Beautiful

  1. Here, here! I often look at the news site comments and always come away sad. More often it is just a place for self-satisfied people to dish out their lack of understanding and compassion for others and set the tone for more of the same.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a great idea about looking at yourself in the mirror when you say something ugly and then something kind. An incredibly good idea. I’m going to try it at work (where I at least THINK of both of the above but hopefully only express the latter). I’ll let you know what I find. Assuming that I can be honest with myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I got the idea when I was at a wedding a few months ago, and looked at a normally pretty young woman sitting at the next table. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I knew it was something mean or cruel. I could tell by the expression on her face: the curled lip, the narrowed eyes, etc. In that moment, the pretty woman had turned ugly. That’s when I realized that saying something mean actually makes us ugly!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. That is a insightful and inspiring post. Lately, I avoided reading the comment section on popular news post. I’ve even gone as completely staying away from reading or watching the news. I may give it a quick glance every once in awhile but I don’t take it to heart anymore. The comments people post can be very ugly and terrifying… I’ve come to realize it’s not worth my time or energy trying to understand why people go out of their way to be so ruthless.

    Stay well Ann

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know exactly what you mean…somedays even the news is too much, never mind the comments! And I think we have the right to decide how much negativity we allow into out lives. I just wish I’d remember that more often. Stay well, too, Deanne!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Ann! Very insightful. It also applies to parenting websites. I admit that I find the comment sections more entertaining to read that the articles sometimes. People get worked up way too easily online. I’ve never heard of anyone changing their strong opinion on a subject based on a comment from an online stranger, so what’s the point of getting so worked up about it? Again, great post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • When my kids were young, there weren’t a lot of parenting websites, as the internet wasn’t in such wide use. But you’re right, when I look at those, I see the same kind of “pick a side and come out fighting” mentality. I can’t imagine how that helps parents, who really need support and encouragement, not tearing down. And as you say, no one changes their mind over a comment from a stranger, particularly if it’s snarky! Thanks, Taara!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m trying to stop reading the comments, too. Because we can now filter the news and information we want to see, people are simply hearing more and more of what they already believe; these echo chambers (like Fox News and MSNBC) further divide us. And now that we can be anonymous (who would ever speak to their neighbor or cousin that way?), our civility is no longer important. There is no price to pay. So why are we surprised when politicians whose engines run on prejudice and snarky talk make the front page over and over?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree completely! We are more isolated from “others” and their views than ever before, and we also have no immediate consequences from being rude and nasty. We don’t see what the isolation and loss of civility is costing us as a society. Thanks for reminding me why I always liked you so much!!

      Like

  6. What a well written post Ann. And so true. I often tell my kids, “if you have nothing kind or nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. As for news comments, i don’t take them too much to heart or even give them much time of day. Some people are just plain thoughtless and see no opinion other than their own. Thanks again for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I more or less gave up using Twitter because of this. I have liberal views, but I didn’t like the fact that being constantly surrounded by likeminded people was making me increasingly shrill and unsympathetic. I barely touch politics in my blog either, apart from the odd pop at Donald Trump, who is so awful, he deserves it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean! When we communicate only with people who agree with us, they tend to egg us on toward being more and more extreme. I shy away from politics in my posts as well, just because it seems to be a topic (right up there with religion) that people just don’t know how to discuss anymore, only argue. And I want my blog to be a positive place. As for Donald Trump, I try very hard not to judge, because I don’t follow his campaign. But from what very little I know, he seems to be in the first group I wrote about of people who leave comments: saying mean things deliberately designed to upset people just to get attention. Whether that’s true or not, I honestly don’t know, and that’s just my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s exactly it. There is no room for nuance in 148 characters. Although I’m left-ish, I have friends and colleagues who are a good deal more conservative. Not only do they not agree with me on everything, they don’t even agree with each other on everything.

        I hated that Twitter reduced everything down to a simplistic goodies versus baddies struggle. With my Twitter goggles on, my friends are suddenly supposed to be this great homogenous mass of pure evil. It’s a very unpleasant way of looking at the world.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh, I so agree! Real life and real people are much too complicated for simple labels, and I personally don’t know anyone who is all good or all bad. I’m glad I never attempted twitter, and that I have found so many people who truly are reasonable and open-minded. It gives me hope.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I think Twitter is best avoided, at least for political issues. I guess it might be fine for promotion or something like that.

            I much prefer WordPress. I’ve always found the crowd of people here very thoughtful and considerate. There is no word limit for one thing, so bloggers can explain what they actually think rather than just screaming slogans at each other.

            .

            Liked by 2 people

    • That’s interesting concerning twitter. I don’t have a great many followers , but I do have left right and center. What I find is the right is more often to un-follow is I 140 too blue, but the left and libertarians will stick if I show some old time conservatism. And yea, the Donald is dastardly.

      Regards,
      Doug

      Liked by 2 people

      • I admire that you’ve got a range of followers from across the political spectrum. I know that’s not always easy to do these days.

        I hope everyone is on their best behavior. If people can be civil to one another and engage on the level of ideas, I can see such meeting places being very lively and interesting. What I didn’t like about Twitter, at least the parts of it I saw, was the “circle the wagons” nature of so much of it.

        For political solutions to have any chance of long-term success, they eventually have to command widespread consent. Ultimately, that means winning people over rather than shouting them down.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I hope my response didn’t mislead. I have 650, give or take a dozen, who follow, and that number has held for years. I’m sure that ante is bot sketchy, hooker heavy, and variable, and it seems an auto un-subscribed has always been a Tweet pimp, but I wouldn’t testify.

          I use Twitter as a rip and read, and a current cultural catch all, and mostly at the ungodly hour of pre-six a.m. when I’m checking news feeds, watching the Manhattan madcap of MSNBC’S Morning Joe, where my sixty + year old ass can old school that Texas School Book system of Birch/ Goldwater/ Regan revanchist revisionism.

          I tweet far less than I used too, and have fallen behind, during this POTUS cycle, following the new reporting meat of the meet and greet, but the retail of politics isn’t as important to me as it as it use to be….My autodidactic ass now sees a bigger picture.

          But in my own defense …. I don’t punch down. And I’ve only had to parry but a of a couple of semi-serious shots.

          With all that, it’s sad you shy from the posting the political. But I do understand.

          Been to your off- wordpress.com site. Like your template.

          Thanks for the exchange .

          And you’re not the guy who bet all four NFL home teams would lose, this weekend, are ya?

          Regards,
          Doug

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the clarification. I liked your description of your Twitter site. It sounds pretty colorful. When I was Tweeting regularly, it seemed like every second word I typed would gain me a bunch of bot followers with some sort of vague connection to it. I was a bit of a bot magnet. I had so many, I could have rounded them up and sold the parts for scrap.

            Incidentally, I’m glad you liked template for my site. Yours looked amazingly cool and stylish, with lots of great artwork and with a really well laid-out design. It was very easy to navigate around.
            Regards to you,
            Bun

            Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve changed my mind on important issues more than once, but it’s happened only when someone was kind enough to explain exactly why they believed what they believe, and were willing to patiently answer my questions. It’s never happened when they were “shouting me down” or making me feel attacked.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Terrific post, as always, Ann. Insightful, intelligent, sensitive and honest. Your mirror suggestion is right on and effective. Like you, I have seen beautiful people turn unattractive when they open their mouths and average looking people turn beautiful when they speak.
    I never read the comments section of the news. Those stories are usually depressing enough for me.
    Great job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much George! And I am going to stop reading those comments, no matter what. Thanks for being one of those who always posts wise, encouraging and yet honest comments on my blog and other blogs. That’s the kind of beauty that is needed!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Come on Coleman. You expect comity in the comment area regarding whatever happens to be the controversy of the moment. The tribe that practices even a base courtesy thins with each thread of manufactured crisis. No one just “zips it” in this bit and byte zeitgeist. And a resurgent desire for ideological purity, left, or right, and yes, even the center, doesn’t allow one to bite one’s tongue.

    Much of our collective on-line oeuvre consists of an organized onanism of outrage. ( along with bad run-on alliterations) And while there is no doubt that many a public missive is misshapen I’ll dare to offer a bit of mitigation. Many, in this newly minted wired world, are feeling, with some justification, aggrieved.

    The world is changing at a broadband speed that makes the space age feel snail like. And hyper-change cuts, and culls, and can warp what just yesterday felt certain. And there is no personal pause button to allow even simply reflection regarding what constitutes true “progress.” So the individual feels the collective institutional infrastructure of society is failing to keep pace with all this silicon shamanism, and their dreams of family, faith, and financial security are, bit by bit, being ground to dust. And bare with me, because here’s the real rub.

    The hardest voice to find is the voice that best articulates grievance. A language that bares suitable witness to personal fears that lack a current shared vocabulary. A nomenclature that makes known this new now. Panic pushes many of us into a shared epistemic closure. And while the term “epistemic closure” is often used politically, I suggest that it’s a defensive tactic allowing an escape in having to find those “just right words,” while suggesting the “other” is incapable of any understanding of what those wrongs are. Because the other is always wrong. Right?

    Nice post, Coleman. Sure as hell made me ponder.

    Regards,
    Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think part of the problem is the increasing isolation of individuals who feel unheard as they struggle to keep up with the changes that surround them and often seem to leave them behind. And polarization is certainly encourage, which makes it all the easier to take our anger and frustration out on the “other side,” who as you correctly point out, we tend to think of as always “wrong.” Adding to that is our inability to accurately articulate our feelings of despair and isolation. It’s a big problem, and my hopes for peace and understanding are probably a bit pollyannaish, if that’s a word.

      But, a girl, even a middle-aged one, can still dream! Thanks, as always, for comments…sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are serious, but they always make me think!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve had a lot of good comments on this blog, but yours was, hands down, THE BEST! (Did you notice how I emphasized that with the caps?) Funny and true at the same time. Thanks for making me laugh out loud on this cold winter morning….

      Like

  10. Awesome post! I so agree. It reminded me of one I posted on FB a while back. It concerned Facebook posts but I was trying to convey the same basic sentiments. It went something like this:

    So what’s your opinion?

    Just kidding, I really don’t want to know.

    Opinions are important. It is important that we have the right to express our opinion in America. But Facebook is so full of our pointed, snarky, cynical opinions that they no longer have any meaning.

    We post some comment, meme, or article concerning whatever social or political hot point is burning up the internet, we get a few “high five” likes from like-minded friends, we get a few angered responses from people of opposing viewpoints, but what do we really accomplish?

    It may sound like I’m saying that we should all keep our heads down and be quiet, but I’m not. I just feel like we’ve gotten to the place where we feel obligated to express our opinions on everything . . . EVERYTHING. And we seem to have forgotten how to do it.

    If your expressing your opinion involves insulting and disrespecting people with different ideas, then the only people who will actually consider what you are saying are people who already agree with you. And if the reason for posting your opinion isn’t to persuade other people to see your side, then what is the point in posting it?

    Many posts I see that are supposed to show evidence of a certain opinion are made up of completely false facts. It only takes a minute of google searching to find out which are real and which are false. To me, it’s sad when otherwise honest people will share something without making an attempt to find out if it’s true or not.

    I’ve ended up blocking people, even people who I agree with because their opinion expressing is so relentless, and leave no room any understanding of how any human on the planet earth could possibly think differently.

    I like people, even the ones I disagree with. I take time to try and understand the reasons why someone would have a different opinion.

    I’m not thinking of any individual Facebook friends in particular. We all seem to want our voices heard. Some of you are actually quite good at expressing an opinion. You post thought provoking and truthful viewpoints that are not simply designed to anger or insult.

    Freedom of speech is a precious right, but if everyone is speaking, and no one is listening, then it’s a wasted right.

    Anyhow, that’s my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, did you nail it! If I knew how to cut and paste a comment from my blog to my Facebook page, I would steal this (giving credit, of course). But that is exactly what I was trying to say. There is absolutely no point in just spouting off our opinions in a way that gets us praise from those who agree and attacks from those who don’t…it accomplishes nothing. Like you, I have friends and family with whom I regularly disagree, but we don’t attack each other, and I don’t like reading posts or comments that attack them either.
      I think this topic touched a nerve with a lot of people, judging from how many great comments it has generated. It’s certainly given me a lot to think about, and made me realize that lots of people know we have to do better. And maybe someday, we will!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very well said! Sometimes I think one of the biggest parts of the problem is that so much of our technology can be targeted nowadays–I can find a radio station that only plays what I like to hear, a news show that caters to my point of view, etc. I think about when there were far fewer radio stations, or when cassette tapes were the form, and you had to buy the whole album to get the songs you liked. You learned to either bear with the songs you weren’t crazy about, or you at least had to work a bit, channel surfing, or fast-forwarding, to move past them. It was a good lesson in tolerance, in the smallest of ways. I love your mirror idea. I try to hold myself to the rule that if I would not say something in person, looking someone in the eye, I either need to find a nicer way to say it or just keep my comment to myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! In even the smallest ways, we are now able to avoid anything that does not precisely mirror our own opinions and preferences. And I think that’s why we are, as a society, growing less tolerant with each passing day. But personally, reading the comments on my post, I have found hope in realizing that I am not the only one who has noticed this, or been disturbed by this. And I am not the only one who sees that we need to learn to be more tolerant of those who think, look, and act differently than we do. It has given me hope, and made me feel less alone. Thanks to you and to all who have taken the time to comment! It helps, more than you’ll ever know.

      Liked by 1 person

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