My acquaintance was bullied on social media, and that experience prompted an idea that could encourage others to make a positive difference while challenging the vile cesspool of cruel trolls who infest the Internet. Let's call it the "Good Morning Project."
Last year at a writer's conference, I was introduced to a vivacious, witty, and successful writer. Michele and I shared the stage during a stand-up comedy night, and saw each other briefly during the rest of the event. Later we became friends on Facebook and followed each other's comments. I admired her personality and talents, and we became associates from across the country.
Recently she was verbally attacked through social media by a former acquaintance who called her vile names and wrote derogatory accusations about her. She was devastated, and she wrote about her bewilderment and pain. I felt her anguish and wanted to help but our homes were too far apart to meet and share a conversation. So I greeted her every morning on Facebook.
"Good Morning, Michele," I wrote. "I think you're wonderful."
She replied with gratitude, and that started the daily exchange of messages.
I thought of her every morning as I sat to read my emails. I remembered some previous messages she had published through her Facebook posts, so I included them to personalize the next good morning message. After the third morning, she caught on to what I was doing. Again, she expressed her thanks.
The morning communications occurred for several days and became a habit. I would begin my day thinking about her and about what I could say to be positive. The entire action took less than five minutes but provided affirmative validation for both of us.
My mother's generation of women visited and supported each other through regular conversations over coffee or over the backyard fence. A generation later, women my age moved into the work force and rarely had time for close friendships because we were too busy balancing work, families, and homes. The Internet was new to us, and we were justified in being cautious about online exchanges.
Now all ages use social media to communicate, and an online presence is an important part of our daily professional and personal lives. However, just as the Internet can become the supportive and friendly coffee klatch of yesterday, it also contains a dark side that brings out the worst of society. The anonymity gives nasty, insecure, and pathetic users the access and ability to publicly threaten, criticize, and hurt others without fear of consequence or reprisal. Online comment sections are becoming a sewer attraction for those I call Drive-by Bullies.
You can help alleviate some of the damage caused by trolls by participating in your own "Good Morning Project." Select a random name from your list of social media contacts and send a quick, personalized message to her or him in the morning. Continue for a few days and note how the practice improves your attitude, too. Monitor feedback and stop the messages if you think the other person doesn't need or appreciate them. Select another name and continue the brief exchange.
There are other sites that offer the same service, but the messages are generic and don't offer a personalized greeting. Positive, significant words enhance the connection between two people, and through the proper use of technology, we can retain our humanity and strengthen important friendships. Good Morning, Michele.