Today I learned a lesson in something I had heard about before, but hadn't experienced myself: meanness on social media.
To make it clear: I have been on the receiving end of meanness before and have developed ways of coping with it, and that's not the side I am referring to here.
I'm referring to the other side: being a part of a "pack".
For weeks now I have watched the US gun debate rage on Twitter. I've tried to sort of "filter", mentally, what I am reading because it's really hard to read people's arguments without also seeing the multitude of attacks that are taking place - it's not a nice place there at the moment. But on the other hand, it's also really hard to get an understanding of what's happening without going to the sources because relying on media alone tends to give a one-sided picture of it and I don't really want a one-sided picture.
Today I made my first tweet on the topic. I got frustrated with a person who was writing, deleting, writing, deleting, and I wrote down my thoughts on it. Two hours later I returned home and saw the screen-full of replies telling me to f*ck off, basically, and I sat back and started reflecting on it.
Was what I had said mean?
Well, actually - yes. Yes it was.
And I hadn't recognised it.
I returned to the screen and wrote a reply saying that what I'd said wasn't cool, and so I needed to step back and think about things; and then I went and deactivated my account altogether.
I think I need to have time off. I need to re-balance what I see on the screen with how I treat people in real life, because behind screens are people still. I need to re-seed this knowledge because, somehow, watching the thing had desensitised me to a point where I, too, became part of the problem and that's not an experience I want to be part of again.
I'm both horrified that it had happened, and glad that it had happened because if I was so lost in the "cultural" side of messaging that I forgot there was a person on the other side of the screen, then I need to step back, think, reflect and to listen.
Of course, spending long days at school and on homework I haven't got a lot of socialising happening at the moment. If I am to finish this bloody school, I need to knuckle-down and just do it, but it comes at an expense - which I understand.
I need to make a point of getting outside enough, and walking. I need to spend time building things with my family. Spending time with real people, and less on the computer screen, because as important something is on the computer screen - the real people are more important than that.