I get it: people are mean on the Internet.
Even here, on elephant journal—an online community dedicated to the mindful life—people are mean.
I’ve read articles that feel mean to me, I’ve read comments and replies and comments and replies and comments and replies. I’ve received comments and stopped myself from replying, or sometimes have responded but have tried to temper my meanness into constructive frustration (yeah right).
I am not here to bitch and I’m not really here to call the meanness to stop (although that would be nice)—I just want to talk about it.
I want to talk about our tendency towards meanness, and I would like to talk about it kindly.
I get it: we all have wildly specific and different perspectives on the entire world, the way it works and our place in it.
I don’t think that any single perspective can possibly be right. I also don’t think any single perspective can possibly be wrong. I think the only difference between perspectives is which one we believe in, and believing in a specific perspective will create very distinct and specific external life circumstances for us.
Here’s the tautology, though—everything that I just said is absolutely just a perspective and I do not claim it to be right.
But this beautiful ego of ours really wants us to believe that our perspective is right, and more than that, our ego also wants other people to know that our perspective is right and agree with it.
I think this is where our tendency is to tell other people what to do, how to think, what to believe in, etc. And I’m not complaining about this, for I too find this conflict inside of me—this frustrating belief that my perspective is better than other peoples’ and the desire to prove it.
Now when I say that the Internet is ripe with meanness, that is absolutely an assumption on my part. For I cannot possibly know what other people are feeling when they engage in Internet behavior that I call mean. Maybe I’m totally reading into things the wrong way. Maybe what I consider mean was actually written with nothing but love.
But I trust my own feelings on the matter, and I trust that gut response I have when I have written something and receive feedback that leaves me feeling like…well, shit, maybe I shouldn’t have written this in the first place if people are reading it and saying, you’re wrong, you’re stupid, you’re the problem, you’re missing the point, etc.
The reason why I am writing about this for elephant journal is because of the community intention of mindfulness. It’s because when I come to this site, I feel connected to a group of people—writers, readers, entrepreneurs—who are working for the betterment of themselves and others.
Let me recognize that this is simply my perspective and it is not correct—elephant journal is just elephant journal—it has no meaning except that which I assign to it.
And I do not want to battle perspectives or tell someone what they are feeling or thinking is wrong. Absolutely not.
Everyone should keep writing the articles they are writing. Everyone should keep writing the comments they are writing. Everyone should keep writing the responses they are writing.
So in the spirit of that, I am not asking mean comments to stop coming, because that’s none of my business.
Even if I think something is mean, what right do I have—one human being to another—to tell someone to change what they are doing so that I am more okay with it?
I am asking of myself the following: diligence to observe myself when I encounter meanness; to sit with myself long enough to watch thoughts follow each other until they reach their natural conclusion (love); to only take my fingers to the grips of my keyboard when I am connected with that love.
This is also what I ask of myself and myself only (I do not ask this of you or of anyone else, because I cannot possibly know your needs for growth as a human being. I can only know my own): I am asking of myself to look at the feelings that underlie my words and take responsibility for them.
I am asking of myself to refrain from speaking (in any capacity, whether it is on the Internet or in a yoga class or on the phone or whatever) until I am connected with a feeling that feels good.
I am not doing this for you—so that you can look at what I’m saying and think, wow, what a good person, she’s so great—I am doing this for me. I am doing this so that I can simply enjoy the time that I spend on this planet in a more effective way, and I can create opportunity to connect with love and peace and reverence and courage and discipline.
This is a yoga nidra meditation I’ve been working with recently: I give the floor my entire weight—and I mean my entire weight—I mean that if someone were to walk into the room and tell me to get up, my response would be I can’t. And as this happens and I feel my support rise up to catch my bones and my organs and my muscles, I give the earth some more, for she can handle anything I could possibly give her.
So let me give. Let me give to her my thoughts. Let me give to her my thoughts that I have about myself. Let me give to her the thoughts that I have about other people. Let me give to her my thoughts about the world, the way it works and my place in it. And may I receive support and let my weight bring me peace.
May I learn to connect with love and peace and thankfulness and courage and Me.
In that connection, may I take full responsibility for myself and release other people from my judgments, even if they are doing something my perspective does not agree with.
May I love even when the Internet homies are being mean.
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Editor: Bryonie Wise