Social media use is increasing, providing the way for additional voices to be heard across the globe. It gives more people a platform to stand on and send their messages out to much larger audiences. With this many people in the mix, it stands to reason that there would be conflicting opinions. Here’s my observation: it appears to me that Christmas has become an excuse for an all-out brawl. A war of words is taking place on my “live-feed” at any given moment. I don’t like war. Of any kind. And if it’s taking place on my page, well, I am the powers-that-be on my page. I can stop it. Or not. What is this all about?
Surely not holiday consumerism and mass commercialism, which I mention briefly, to be able to include this year’s Shopping Hall of Shame. On Black Friday, a woman doused fellow shoppers with pepper spray for going after the item she wanted. That just about sums up what I see as the pervading spirit of the 2011 season. It’s looking bleak out there.
We’re not all Cindy-Lou-Who. It takes some momentum to adjust my attitude to be able to enjoy Christmas, too, since my daughters are all grown and my house is often empty. We all have our reasons for the season. Some celebrate like we live in Who-ville and some, well, this year, especially, seem to be giving the Grinch a run for his money.
We all have choices. We can celebrate in a big way, a small way, or not at all. That’s fine. I don’t want to be a cookie-cutter version of you and I’m sure you don’t want to be a cookie-cutter version of me.
Another choice is how much we use social networking and the internet. If I don’t like what’s being said, just sign off, you say. I don’t have to be using social networking as much as I do. Being a full-time student and professional writer, I spend chunks of each day at the computer. My logic is: I’m here anyway. I can feel like I have a bit of a social life and keep up with what my family and friends are doing. I can come and go as I please on the social sites. You can, too.
So, why is it “bugging” me this year? At first, I wondered if it was just me. Was I extra sensitive to all of the arguing? There sure seemed to be more of it going on than usual. Maybe it was the financial climate. Maybe it was the President. Maybe it was the previous guy he succeeded. Maybe it was the barometric pressure. Maybe it was just that more people than usual were in really rotten moods. Whatever the reason, I feel like I’m seeing much more arguing, bad attitudes and general Scrooge-ness. Literally – I’m saying mean people. There. I said it. People can be mean. It’s a choice, like all of the others.
There are those who do not want to celebrate at all. And they are offended by the ones that do celebrate and vice-versa. There are those that pit Baby Jesus against Santa. (One post even went so far as to equate Santa with Satan, because they are spelled with the same letters.)
Don’t get me started. Oh, wait. I already have.
First of all, do a little exploring. Educate yourself a bit. The Santa Claus story did not originate to give Baby Jesus a bad name. (Just to help you get going – think about it: Santa = Saint = Saint Nicholas = St. Nick.) Santa. Okay? Not Satan. The Santa Claus story started the same way many seasonal traditions did. To bring a bit of hope to the world. Same with stockings and gift-giving and carols and eggnog and sleighs and candy canes. It’s to bring hope to a world whose tank is running on empty.
Now I don’t know about you, but I sure could use some hope this year. It’s been a long one and the flames need to be fanned. Just a spark. I just need a spark of hope. Even if you don’t believe in Baby Jesus or grown-up Jesus or any Jesus in between, don’t you have one thing you have hope for? If you don’t have hope, what do you do? I don’t know. I need hope.
The way I see it, it’s all about hope. The lights shining in the darkness. That’s hope. The visions of sugarplums. That’s hoping for something sweeter. The decorated trees – most of them are fashioned after evergreens. That’s hope – something green, signifying “life” in a field of dead, brown branches. Hope.
Frankly, when I see someone post on their social media page that they are sick of “Christ” being taken out of Christmas and so everybody else can go jump in the lake with their “Happy Holidays….” Well, that just kind of puts a damper on the whole charity thing. They just blew out their own candle. Lights shining in the darkness. Remember. Lights. Shining. “This Little Light of Mine” and all that jazz.
Maybe these people never heard that if you want to get someone’s attention, you don’t shout. You whisper.
I’m pretty sure that if Baby Jesus had his own social media page today, he would be friends with all kinds. Yep. All kinds. All colors. All sizes. All shapes. All predispositions to all types of lifestyles. When I read the story, it said he walked among men (and women.) He didn’t stay in his manger, surrounded by angels in shiny white. He sat with women of ill repute and fished with quite the motley crew and went in houses and boats and trees with an assortment of questionable characters.
I have a social media page. I hang around with all kinds of people there. Yep. All kinds. All colors. All sizes. All shapes. All predispositions to all kinds of lifestyles. You may be one of the people I call my “friend.” That’s why I added each one to my friend list. I wanted to be friends. That doesn’t mean that I have to embrace every single thing about you. Nor does it mean that I want to blast the things you like and allow you to blast the things that I like. So pin a rose on my nose. We’re friends! Friends. What does that mean to you?
If I’m friends with someone, I’m kind of hoping that they’ll accept me just the way I am. Height, weight, stray gray hairs, shortcomings, opinions, failures, successes – all of it. Maybe, just maybe, I can share something that will better your life. Hey, I can hope. And, if I don’t cloud my judgment with offense, you might have something to teach me, too.
I’m thinking that Jesus and Santa and Rudolph and the Grinch and Charlie Brown and Frosty the Snowman are all carrying the same message. Uh-oh. Here’s where I’ll lose a sleigh-full of Christian friends. “But you can’t lump them all together!” Yes, I can. What’s their bottom line?
Hope. All of them.
Hope. So, “follow” whomever you please. I don’t have to bash you over the head with a Bible or a stick or a club or a social networking page to get you to follow me. On my page, I think I have 288 of the most opinionated “friends” on the face of the earth. So, we’re alike. See? Not different. We’re alike. We all have a horn to toot.
Mine is hope.
Hope is good. Get some. Then, spread it around. One of the seasonal songs calls it spreading Christmas Cheer. You can call it what you want. Holiday Hope. Grinch-y Goodness. The Good News. You may celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing. But whatever you celebrate, adopt a touch of kindness and carry a gift of hope. But if you must argue or post your anger or narrow-minded bigotry (Whew! I said it!) — I think you’re not only taking the chance of extinguishing someone else’s light, you’re diminishing your own.
Every time I see an ugly message or another argument on a social networking site, I keep going back to the title of a song that is not a holiday song. It’s called, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
Why can’t we?
Well, I think we can. I’m going to climb down off my soapbox now and shine my little candle. There’s a great deal of darkness. And my candle is pretty small. It’s flickering and it’s not burning like a bonfire right now. But it is a light. And it is saying something, too.