One Simple Thing You Can Do To Help Create A Kinder World In The New Year

12/30/2016 01:28 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2016
Steinar La Engeland

Worried about the state of the world?

Yeah. Me, too.

I have an idea. I guarantee that if enough of us do this one thing, our schools/neighborhoods/places of worship will be happier places.

Ready for it?

Stop posting on social media about parties you host and attend that aren’t open to all.

Just … STOP.

I know, right?! I have been guilty of it, too. I’m writing this in part as a public notice to myself.

So why stop? Simple: It hurts feelings.

You already know this on some level, of course. We all do. But we do it anyway, because, well, Instagram has these amazing filters! And we had so much fun last night! And it’s so fun to show how fun we all are!

But if you are friends with the people in that picture, and you weren’t invited, you may feel bad. Period.

This one act of restraint will keep at least one of your friends from feeling a little sad at some point this year. I promise. And here’s the thing: I think those little moments of sadness are adding up in our culture.

I know. We’re adults. We should just deal, right? And some of you may not think twice when you see such posts. You might think, “Hooray! Good for so-and-so! I’m glad so-and-so is living such a fun life!”

But generally I think it is human nature to want to be included. I know therapists and pastors who have decided not to have social media presences at all for just this reason: Not only do they not want to leave someone out through party posts, they don’t want to “like” one person’s posts more than another person’s posts, and inadvertently generate feelings of sadness. They are in the business of tending to the most fragile emotions, and social media doesn’t handle fragile well.

Of course social media isn’t the only reason people feel sad or anxious. And social media can be a powerful way to mobilize, share information, and express beauty and love, which is why I’m on several sites.

But when social media is used the way I’m describing … as a way to chronicle our social lives … it can be destructive.

We teach our children to be inclusive, don’t we? In my kids’ school, a child isn’t allowed to circulate birthday invitations during the school day unless every child in the class is invited. I tell my kids every time we have scheduled play dates not to talk about them in front of children who aren’t included. But somehow we give the internet a great big pass when it comes to courtesies of this kind.

I have a divorced friend who routinely endures photos of his ex-wife at dinner parties with her new boyfriend. I have a sick friend who feels she’s not included in social events anymore because of her failing health, and whether it’s true or not, she has plenty of online evidence to support her case.

I don’t have adolescents yet, but I can only imagine how painful it is for them to experience what surely feel like routine rejections online.

When we as adults post pictures of our fabulous invitation-only wine parties, cookie exchanges, and golf outings, we are modeling for our kids that this kind of public exclusion is okay.

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about posts involving your reunions with your college bestie, your anniversary dinners, or your office’s holiday gatherings. Reasonable people understand that these kinds of events involve unique groups.

I’m talking about the neighborhood Fourth of July party that doesn’t really include all the neighbors. It’s the birthday party that doesn’t really include all the friends. It’s the girls’ night out that doesn’t include all the girls.

Maybe I’m really just arguing that we should think twice before we post. I feel like many of us have skipped that step in our internet lives. A quick, “Is this kind?” before hitting “share” would go a long way toward protecting feelings.

We’re all in this together. Let’s do what we can to be kind to one another.

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