I am only 25-years-old and have already witnessed a lot of hatred and intolerance in my life. As a byproduct of living in a technology-driven society, this hatred has consumed social media websites and even surpasses the hatred I’ve observed during my military service in Israel. Unlike witnessing hatred directly with acts of aggression or vituperation, the social media form of hostility is worse because it’s masked behind a computer. People secure themselves behind a computer screen and express their negative thoughts about racial, ethnic, or religious groups with a keyboard; never having to approach and express their beliefs to that other group directly. This compares to being cut off by a driver on the road and then swearing or flicking them off for their offense, knowing that the likelihood of ever meeting that driver is minimal and therefore feeling entitled (and safe) to insult them.
In this circumstance, a car, similar to a computer or cellphone, protects people from society. The monitor protects them from rejection, embarrassment, and fear. These devices create a sense of entitlement, rather than simply asserting ones Freedom of speech. Freedom of speech permits self-expression to anyone willing to receive it, whereas, entitled people think they have the right to do/say what they want, regardless of the consequences. This sense of entitlement ultimately presents itself as hate and intolerance, and society has learned to profess those feelings through technology and social media websites. Although this is a downside of social media, hatred does not ultimately derive from technology; it stems and evolves from childhood upbringing and societal influences.
Children don’t possess the knowledge or choice to hate other racial, ethnic, or religious groups; they inherit this enmity from their parents and family members. Parents, either aware or not cognizant of their behavior, impact their children’s perspective on cultures, ethnicities, and races. Therefore, when a parent is intolerant of a person/group, a child acquires this intolerance and when older, even has the option to act upon this inherited hatred.
Take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently re-escalating in the Middle East. As an American-Israeli citizen and former IDF soldier, many people may automatically assume that I dislike Palestinians due to my experience and current situation, but the feeling I have is far from hate or love, its anguish. I feel anguish for the people who choose to hate either side due to their ignorance, influences, or for the mere purpose to hate. I feel anguish for these people because they choose to exhibit this negative behavior via social media websites, rather than deviating from the norm and thinking differently. I don’t oppose peace advocates; rather I condemn those who choose to hide behind a computer screen or cellphone to bully or display their hatred for a stranger. I condemn those who display this voluntary hatred without ever having personally experienced war or met anyone from the opposing side, and simply inherited their animosity from news resources, colleagues, or family members.
Rather than investing time online promoting hate toward a certain person/group, people should spend that time improving their own lifestyles. A person could exercise or read healthy food recipes in the time they spent attempting to write an intelligent response to a biased Facebook comment. Along with lifestyle improvement, people should take a different stance towards violence and war. Such as, the global response during the ‘Bring our Girls Home’ campaign, where supporters would include #BringbackourGirls in their Twitter or Facebook statuses to bring attention to the girls kidnapped by a radical Jihadist group in Nigeria. This is the kind of support people need display not only during times of war or conflict, but in times where people simply need to be reminded to be kinder and tolerant of other human beings. People need to be reminded that every stranger is a son or daughter, and is capable of making a positive influence in the world.
Perhaps this is my overly-optimistic view which some may perceive as naïve, but perhaps if more people thought differently and voiced this positive difference to their family members, friends, or on websites, there would be less hatred in the world and people would learn to express Freedom of speech rather than freedom to hate.