November 22, 2020

“Don’t Read the Comments”: How to Take the Anger out of Social Media.

The comments on social media are simply not worth our time.

From trolls to mouthy friends and family to the cesspool of public backlash, social media commenting is out of hand. Have we forgotten our own humanity in lieu of free speech at the detriment of all?

Where is the “Red String Theory” of social media?

The “Red String Theory,” a beautiful Japanese legend, reminds us that as humans, we are not merely individuals. We are connected from society to society, human to human, heart to heart. What one of these moving parts do can inspire movement in others, and so on.

While the theory rings true for many deep thinkers and spiritual people, I find myself wondering if the theory is in practice in a negative way with regards to social media. Think of the ripple effect of words, amplified by a platform that can reach any set of reading eyes from any part of the world.

The impact of our words and actions online intensifies the connection we have with others, but many are taking this power and influence for granted.

Somehow, we have lost touch with true measures of impact. We have forgotten the true meaning of our words and how they land on the hearts of others.

How did this happen?

We have been lured into a false sense of our own importance by social media hearts, likes, follows, and thumbs up. We measure our value, our worth, and our influence on this world by the peer responses we receive. We respond with a smile when we have pleased others, even if the behavior in question is not a true reflection of our values or who we are.

In the world of social media, we are unfairly judged, falsely uplifted, and we forget that our words have power. Our words are our red strings going out into the world. What true harvest do we want our words to yield?

As a poet, I am careful with my words. I use them to build complex emotional responses, not from other people, but for other people. Make no mistake: one single word can change everything. Such is true of our social media commenting habits. We can build another up, offer support of comfort in a few easy words, or make a mockery of their feelings and self-worth.

Sure, the laughing face emojis are fun, but at what expense? What heart becomes bound in the weight of our comment, plays it over and over in their head, feeling the impact to their mental health?

If we open any public video or shared thread on social media, we get a quick snapshot of everything that is wrong with humanity in one scrolling of the comments section. We see the naysayers, the “Negative Nancys,” the trolls, the imbeciles, the racists, bigots, the political zealots, and the truly hopeful-yet-clueless all smashed together in a warfare of words.

Who are the real winners here? What has happened to humanity? Is there any hope for us all?

Equally, we may be on the receiving end of a comment section backlash. Things can go south quickly, and before we know it, our entire evening is a mental health meltdown of all sorts with our heart racing, our anger flaring, and our self-doubt rising, like bile in the back of our throat.

How much time is wasted on this madness of social media comments? Perhaps we should all take the advice of this Elephant Journal writer and skip social media altogether. There are other ways we can engage with fellow humans and generate real smiles instead.

It is time to stop reading the comments and planning our next comments to get back at each other. Instead, we could think about the true impact of our own words. We can choose to engage, or we can choose to distance ourselves from online bad behavior; to rise above.

Ask any social media influencer for advice on how to be successful online. They are likely to tell you the same few pieces of advice: Work hard. Build your branding. Don’t read the comments.

When it comes to social media and responding to comments, it takes a lot of energy to redirect the conversation into something more positive. It is a matter of our own personal energy and the unshakable spine of our own mental health. For many, it simply isn’t worth the effort.

One of my favorite teachers is a Sufi mystic and poet named Rumi, whose quotes are as useful today as they were in the 1200s, in which they were written.

“Your acts of kindness are iridescent wings of divine love, which linger and continue to uplift others long after your sharing.” ~ Rumi

These words uplift my spirit and remind me to keep kindness at the core of my online behavior, and I have such hope that we, as humans, can err on the side of greatness. To keep believing in this, I have to skip reading the comments left by unilluminated folks on social media. I can wish them all well, interact with them peacefully and engage in a way that does not escalate their behavior. It doesn’t always work, but we can only do our best and hope that it makes a real impact on those around us.

Whatever social media platforms or social media apps we use, let’s be mindful that the tools at our fingertips send out our red strings into the world, one careful and thoughtful word at a time. The tools are not to blame for bad behavior—we are. Likewise, we can choose to do better online and in our personal lives as well.

So, for a better social media experience, follow this simple tip: do not read the comments—for our own mental health, to spare us from unwanted negative social engagements, and to free up the time we’d normally waste going down a wormhole of terrible human behavior.

Let’s just skip the comments or, at least, try to do better with our own.





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