The Benefit Of Shutting Up: A Letter To The Social Media Generation

Woman using smart phone outside.
Woman using smart phone outside.

It's loud here. I wake up every morning and before I've even had a chance to pour my cup of tea, voices and news and opinions and living in this world immediately bombard me. In response, I bombard them right back.

We were raised to speak up, taught that our voices matter, encouraged to speak out.

I do it. I open my mouth. I state my opinions. I speak.

It seems fitting. If this is how things are, if this is what life is like here, then I don't want to just hear the voices of everyone around me -- I want to hear my own voice, too.

So I combat noise with more noise. I respond to a loud world with a loud life.

And some days, I'm exhausted.

It's too noisy. I can't take it anymore.

This world is loud, so I become loud, too. And then when I get tired from trying to keep up, I realize that all of this blaring speaking our minds about everything under the sun, doesn't seem to be accomplishing a whole lot.

We're always encouraged to raise our voice, but rarely encouraged to listen to another.

You would think with our tireless forward hustle and the constant movement of our mouths, we'd be progressing full speed ahead into solutions to problems, expanded intelligence, something.

Yet, the noise has lied to us. We may not actually be moving as fast as we think we are. The changes we hope to see come about from the voicing of our thoughts, aren't really being made manifest.

Our constant speaking out and making sure everything we have to say is getting said, might be moving us a lot slower than we think.

I pause and think about the last time something I said or some opinion I felt I had to share actually moved someone to respond, or actually made a difference in the world.

The instances are few and far between.

But if our voice is important (which it is), and our perspective should be shared (which it should), then why is there such little impact, so little change in society? Why is our voice not making as big a difference as we were taught it should, and would?

Here's why:

Everyone else is doing the same thing.

It's as if the whole world is a high school cafeteria. The four walls encase the chatter and shouts and high-volume voices of a significant handful of students all at once. Deciphering of words can't be done upon first step through the door, but sentences become audible and clear when sitting down at a singular table. Narrowing in on the banter of just one table drowns out the gibberish of a hundred different conversations.

Yet right now, in the cafeteria of our world, it appears as though no one is sitting together. Everyone is on their own, standing or sitting by themselves, all loudly speaking out into the air, all listening to their own voices.

What's happening is no one is getting heard.

Because there has to be someone listening if you want to get heard, and no one is listening.

Listening is a lost art.

What would happen if, in a world of constant opportunity to share our thoughts, opinions, and perspectives at the drop of a hat through social media, blogs, and other avenues of technology, someone refrained from jumping immediately out there when they felt that had something to say, and listened first?

What would happen if the urgency to share with the world every single opinion we hold about every issue, even the really important ones, were lessened, and didn't feel so urgent anymore? Like our sharing wasn't immediately needed upon first thinking?

What would happen if we realized that our voice doesn't need to always be out there for it to still matter? That choosing to not speak out on every situation, does not make us less heard or less important? That maybe our listening could possibly have a bigger impact than our words in some cases?

Listening is just as important as using your voice.

What if we had an opinion, but chose to listen to someone else's before sharing ours? Our voice does count, and we should speak out, but other voices count, too. There are hundreds of voices worthy of a listen.

We'd likely learn things. Our minds -- and hearts, for that matter -- would start to expand to hold more than just our small viewpoint. I wonder if the quality and richness of our opinions would then increase. If they'd start to truly affect people. If they'd begin to show promising signs of making a real difference.

It's not so urgent that what we have to say gets heard right now. If we start listening to others, others will start listening to us.

Every voice deserves to be heard. If we all take turns, everyone gets that chance. But that requires listening as much as we speak. We all have mouths, but we also have ears.

I truly believe we could go places together -- we could change things -- if we'd only recover the lost art of listening.