December 21, 2008

A Little Karma Goes A Long Way

I am relatively new to the blogosphere, having just recently started writing Dance With Sunflowers. I have begun following some personal blogs and am showing a new interest in reading the blogs and comments on large sites such as the NYTimes and Treehugger. I have been struck by the amount of negativity and vitriol that is being spewed on these sites. Many people seem more interested in insults and arguments then participating in any kind of discussion. Even when some people are trying to be constructive or share thoughtful opinions, their voices are often drowned out under a deluge of epithets and unwarranted attacks.

Perhaps the most inexplicable situation I have come across was how on one environmental forum--I am unable to recollect which one--the discussion was dominated by one individual. He posted to every thread, almost always negatively, and was constantly denigrating people, shooting down any idea he disagreed with, and spouting off a list of scientific 'research' to back up his claims. It made it impossible to have any kind of reasoned discussion on a topic, because people were always getting into an argument with him and responding to his personal attacks. And this was from an ardent environmental supporter. I am sure you have all come across the spittle and venom coming from the sports and politics blogs. But it really seems there is no place on the internet you can find respite from such antipathy. I have even received a couple of anonymous insults on my blog, which hardly receives any visitors at all.

I just do not understand where all this hate is coming from.

Allow me to share a story with you. Back when I was in grad school in Washington, DC, I was walking onto campus when I saw someone struggling to push his stalled car off the main road into a parking lot. I was walking past, thinking to myself "Sucks to be him" when I had a sudden impulse that I should stop and help him. So I ran over, and helped him push the car around the corner to a spot where it would be out of the way. He offered me his thanks, I said "No problem," and headed off to class. It certainly was not a big deal, yet that moment stuck in my mind, and really got me thinking.

My stopping for two minutes to help this guy meant a hell of a lot more to him than it cost me. It probably helped, at least a little bit, to put him in a better mood. If he ever encounters someone who needs help, he will be more likely to help out himself. And from that experience, I have realized that all our actions are connected. When you are nice to someone, you create a good feeling. You help put that person into a better mood, meaning they are more likely to be nice to others, who will in turn be kinder as well. One good action thus will live forever. In the same way, the negative energy you create will reverberate and endure forever as well. Before this experience, I had never thought too much about the concept of Karma, but now I understand it. It is not about every good action being revisited upon you in an equivalent manner, but it is about the infinite life span of our actions. The more positive energy you create, the more likely it is to return to you in some form at some time.

I am not sharing this story to be mystical, and I am certainly not trying to applaud myself. I try myself to be a good person and to spread good will, but I am often thwarted by my own personality. I can be quick to respond with anger or resentment to someone who lashes out at me. It is not difficult to rope me into an argument. I often fail to be the kind of person I would like to be.

But this brings me back to the blogosphere. I always try to communicate constructively and politely in my comments. Especially to strangers and especially when I am being critical of someone's point of view. I find it much easier to restrain myself and behave civilly, because I have the time to consider my responses and can temper my remarks with a judicial waiting period before clicking post. And yet what I am finding is people are using the anonymity of online communication to vent their anger and resentment in a naked and unbridled way they would never consider acceptable in their personal interactions.

So I urge any of you reading this, think about what you say and how you say it before sharing your opinions. Insults, rants, and personal attacks will not sway anyone to your side. And life does not always need to be about winning an argument or proving you know more than someone else. When you attack someone, it will only serve to sour their mood, and make them more likely to behave negatively towards others. So every time you behave with hostility, you are making our world a little more negative, a little more unfriendly.

Think before you post! Let's all work together to make the blogosphere a little more congenial and inviting for everyone.

Lyric of the Day:
Instant karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin' to do
It's up to you, yeah you

"Instant Karma"
-John Lennon


Jen said...

Hi - I saw your post on Nick Kristof's blog. Do you know for sure why the nytimes is blocked or do you have a theory? I would love to hear either considering that I'm in Beijing and read the nytimes daily. I posted my own theory on my blog. If you wouldn't mind leaving a comment on my blog or sending me at email - jhaskell [at] - I would really appreciate it!


Michaelann Bewsee said...

I completely agree with you. I don't at all mind posting comments that really disagree with my perspective, but they need to be thoughtful.

i very occasionally post on a local forum that has pretty much been ruined in the last six months by negative and meanspirited posters. It's a shame.

Better moderation might be a key-- the weaker the moderation, the more idiots the site attracts.

Generally, though, I find folks in the blogosphere NOT on the big sites like NYTimes to be a pretty well-behaved bunch.

Clark said...

What is this pay it forward bullshit? Fags.