by Stephanie Root
A friend recently shared an article on Facebook in which Idaho was named as the worst state in the country when it comes to cyber-bullying.
My first thought was, seriously, Idaho is the worst? However, I have a teenage daughter. I have teenage cousins, nieces and nephews and I have heard from each of them and their friends about some of the things that go on at school, through phones and on social media.
We live in what most people would consider a nice and friendly little community, most of the time. In our real daily lives the people of this town aren't likely to call random people they run into on the street rude names, talk about people in front of them as if they weren't even there or very openly treat people like we are better than them. And then there is our viral lives, the same people who I see around town and consider nice people are mean. They are vindictive, nasty and many are just down right bullies.
Don't see it? Spend a couple of hours this week looking through the comment threads on our local groups on Facebook. Read through the comments on one of the regional news media's stories. It doesn't just happen on the politically polarizing feeds either. It can literally be something as simple as someone asking if anyone knows what is going into an empty business or a worried mom asking about road conditions because their inexperienced child is driving home from Boise in a snow storm. Is there a reason to be rude or sarcastic, because someone asked their neighbors for an answer to a question they had?
Do we have to jump down a person's throat when they ask what caused the loud boom they heard or their house to shake? Yes, a lot of us automatically just say "sound/ price of freedom" when our homes shake. I personally am still like a small child and stop whatever I am doing when I hear the base's jets in the air and watch them until they are gone. I am proud to live in such a patriotic community. But you know what, there has seemed to be a lot of shaking from the Orchard Training Facility lately. My co-workers and I have spoke about it, I've had conversations about it with friends, and readers have brought it up to me. The ground shaking has literally woke me up a time or two recently and I personally don't remember that happening to me before. Maybe the people asking about the noise and booms are new to the community or maybe it just seems more frequent and more noticeable to them lately. Yet, whenever someone posts that type of question it immediately turns into "that's the price of freedom, if you don't like it leave" who said they don't appreciate the military in our community? Or "what are you stupid, we live between a training facility, air base and have bombing ranges." Yes that is true, we are a military area, military exercises are almost always underway in our backyard, but is it necessary to be a jerk about it? How about actually answering the question while being polite to the person you are addressing.
There is a lot of good in this community and there is a ton of good in the youth of our community. I am lucky in my job, because I get to hear about what these kids are doing and then share it with you. Just over the past few weeks we have told you about a boy scout building bunk beds for the new safe house, a boy scout troop spending their Saturday picking up trash dumped illegally on our public land and this week we share d the story of a high school community service project, that became something much bigger. Our children are amazing and most of the adults around here do some pretty cool things too. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, but this is a pretty awesome place to live as a whole. That is partially because in real life, we acknowledge those strengths and we use our own strengths to help fill in the gap of each other's weaknesses.
We need to start doing the same when interacting with our neighbors on social media. Answer that "stupid question," compliment someone's accomplishment or just scroll on by if you can't answer without being mean. Those cardinal rules we learned in Kindergarten might matter now more then ever: treat others the way you want to be treated and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
I know it isn't always easy, I personally have said lots of things I regret and I know I haven't always been the nicest person in all circumstances. The important thing is in acknowledging that and striving to be a nicer person, in trying to leave work at work and spending time exploring the good in our lives, our families and in our communities.
These days I try to live a more positive life. Around my children I try to talk about the good things that I have learned about that day. I try to leave the negative areas of my day out of our dinner conversations. All of us young and old are inundated with all of the bad and I choose to spend the little time we all get to be together on a weeknight talking about the good.
I'm not naive and I am not going to say that it is possible for our children to be completely sheltered from the bad things in life, in fact, I don't think that it's good for them. I know they need to talk to me, their dad or another trusted adult to help them make sense of the bad things. However, for my whole family's sanity I know we need that little bit of time together during the day to laugh, to feel safe and to enjoy being surrounded by love and positivity. Wouldn't it be nice if our local community pages could be the same way? Overall social media can kind of be a scary place that drains ones energy and ruins a good mood. Wouldn't it be nice if our community pages could be like one big dinner table, the place where our neighbors and friends get together to talk about the good and momentarily block out the bad? A place where if people do have different points of view, it is talked about in a respectful manner and no one is told they are stupid or to leave if they don't like it.
In real life we are a small community with a big heart where people come out of the woodwork to help when someone is in need. Let's start being that community online as well.