let's all be kind for a week: a modest social media proposal

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last night, 11 o'clock-ish, my hair flat, my eyes slightly swollen, my red and white striped socks in grotesque visual combat with my too-tight but also floppy-collared top, I read this story by Pamela Paul in the New York Times. You'll get the gist from the title, perhaps: "She Sounds Smart, but Look at Her Hair!" If you need more, I share this paragraph below—an email Paul received following her seemingly successful (televised) moderation of a book-fair panel in Miami.
“Had the unfortunate experience of seeing you on Miami Dade College video tossing your head around and continuously pushing the hair out of your face. What the hell is the matter with you? Why wear hair that covers your eye? You are an insult to women.”
Paul's piece goes on to feature a handful of other women (Lori Gottlieb, Rebecca Skloot, Bridget Todd) who spend time in the glare of the media sun talking real issues. Women who, after adding something to the intellectual exchange, are barraged later on by inane commentary. Hair. Baggy eyes. A twice-worn purple sweater. The works.

My first thought (and I have been having this thought a lot lately): Glad I am not famous or TV-worthy. Indeed, except for those few days after a stylist has blown some sense into my tresses, I am not even hair-fit for the gym. I've lost friends over the wilderness of the stuff that sprouts from my head. I've endured the exasperation of a colleague who, while perfectly balanced on a stool in a swanky bar, implored me to find a way to fix it.

I have tried. I cannot. Imagine what the anonymous, peering-in-from-their-living-room crowds would say about me were I equipped to endure the media glare in an attempt to say something that mattered.

My second thought (and this should have been my first): Why does it give so many people so much pleasure to be unkind, inconsiderate, ruthlessly shaming? What sports zone are we living in? Why have so many grown so vigorously immune to seeing the bigger picture, and of exercising compassion?

My third thought (and this follows on the heels of my compassion post) is this: What would happen if we all agreed to use our social media channels—our blogs, our Facebook walls, our Twitter, our LinkedIn—for unadulterated good? I know it's a tall order. Heck. There are times when I want to shout, and sometimes do. But what if, for this week ahead, starting now, we set aside our inner mean and only wrote kindly of others (or, as our mothers taught us, held our tongues)?

I'm going to give it a shot. Perhaps you'll join me.

And if you want to join me, pass it on.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

This should include ourselves.

I definitely see the criticism of others (especially women). The unsolicited advice about appearance. But I also see people running themselves down, talking about their terrible hair or noses or hips or whatever. So I would add: Speak kindly of others and oneself.

Cleo from Jersey said...

First, I must tell you that I wish I had hair like yours. Next, when I read about and hear other women being unkind to other women, I tend to think there must be some unhappiness in their lives, some envy, or lack of confidence that can only be relieved by being unkind. The reality is that every confident, and, therefore, elegant woman I know is always supportive of others.

Debbie Levy said...

Yes, Beth. What you said.

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