Normal is a four letter word. Extraordinary is the new black.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It is a strange thing to find yourself stuck in writing. Not blocked, but rather stuck.

While life has had us on the go, it seems to me that being stuck really starts and ends with wanting to say something about words, and not really knowing how to encompass all that is swirling around inside my mind.

To hone in on this topic I find myself inspired by the quote,
"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

In life there are so many opportunities to be responsible with our words. Words can be a gentle comfort or inspiration, they are used to teach and to share. Language holds the power to remedy errors and misleading information, and it also holds the power to spin a web of lies with such intricacy.

Balancing the positive and negative effect of language has always felt tenuous. Once upon a time, a topic was allowed a cooling off period with the disconnect of a physical presence. Now, a conversation, a story embellished upon, is given nutrients to grow and flourish with our ability to tap into the constant collective of discussions circulating on any one topic at any time, anywhere. Whether it be an urban myth about copyright protection of Facebook property, a rumour about a kid at school, a public figure using derogatory language, or a radio prank gone horribly wrong, we are all talking about it, and we are reacting instead of reflecting. We are using words, passionate immediate words, over reflective thoughtful words. We are not educating, we are attacking with our proverbial torches and pitchforks and we are being watched. It is striking how online interactions and the social rules that govern them, seem to be relaxing the understanding, and respect of the language used. That feels like the easy answer though. Perhaps it's not that this problem is increasing, but rather it's just becoming more visible as each hasty keystroke carves it's permanent mark on the online collective.

Words can destroy a life. I thought there was more to add to that, but there isn't. Words can destroy a life. There is a responsibility to communicate with this in mind, and to teach our children this.  There is a responsibility to teach those we communicate with, that using words to spread gossip, to spread lies not only damages those spoken against, it has the potential to damage the messenger as well. There is a responsibility to be aware that when someone speaks poorly, or uses language that is hurtful or offensive to us, returning the same ire, builds walls, ends communication and produces noise. Each careless comment, statement and accusation, divides, stealing the value of the language. Each label incorrectly applied, robs from the label's true definition. While communication is on the rise; listening, and recognizing the weight of the noise, is falling aside.

Is mindfulness in communication being lost? Is it truly easier to spread a story than to take the time to clarify the information? Is it easier to react in outrage, than to respond with kindness and compassion?

While it might seem the simple solution is to cut ties with technology, the reality that this new medium is here to stay. Not only do the adults need to learn to use these communication tools effectively and appropriately, we need to teach our children as well. Going back to basics and remembering that "If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, you shouldn't say it to them online." needs to be applied to verbal communications as well. If you wouldn't say something to someone's face, why are you telling someone else about it.

Perhaps it all comes down to respect and compassion. The erosion of these two ideas started long before technology invaded our communications. For me I am learning every single day. It is a battle to make good choices, to choose my words carefully, and to ensure that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. No one is ever going to get it right all the time, lord know that this momma falls flat on her face on a routine basis, but starting with compassion and respect, putting one foot in front of the other, we can at least head in the right direction.

Many of us communicate online daily. What rules and ideas do you use to govern your online and spoken communication? What lessons have you learned? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.