If you don’t have anything nice to say…
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Like so many others’ mothers, mine instilled this value in her children. We were taught to help others who weren’t as fortunate, that kindness costs nothing, and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
When folks were sick, they could count on mom to show up with some hot, homemade soup and TLC. When loved ones passed, she was at the family’s door with a casserole and comfort, volunteering to assist however needed.
By day, my father was a safety engineer for a large corporation, and by night, he often would repair broken air conditioners or heaters for the indigent, for which the only payment he would accept was a simple, heartfelt “thank you.”
My parents believed that compassion was more important than compensation and that living a life built upon and led by integrity provided the ultimate rewards of spiritual wealth and happiness.
Things seemed so much simpler then—perhaps, to me, because my world was viewed through the eyes of a child. It was a time when conversations took place face to face, not via keyboards and cell phones. When folks disagreed, they sat down and discussed it, one on one, until each saw the matter from the other’s side, or, at minimum, they agreed to disagree.
Oh, my, how times have changed.
We now live in a world in which ordinary people can become almost instant, so-called Reality TV “celebrities,” many for less-than-stellar, ratings-inducing behavior. The internet provides an outlet for Hollywood superstars to engage in ridiculous “Twitter wars.” Someday their children and grandchildren will see the exchanges and ask, “What the heck were you thinking?”
Technology has provided tools for cyberbullies to very publicly and mercilessly flog their chosen victims, which sometimes leads to tragic and heartbreaking outcomes. And with a simple press of a button, today’s youth can send extremely inappropriate photos via their cell phones, often times resulting in unexpected and embarrassing sharing to the masses.
It’s a world in which companies and individuals can spend a lifetime building a positive reputation, only to have unscrupulous people attempt to destroy such with negative, often unwarranted, online comments or reviews.
Such remarks are often shared by people whose feathers got a little ruffled because they didn’t get served their cup of coffee quite fast enough, or their asses weren’t kissed often enough, or someone failed to recognize them as the sun around which everyone else’s world should revolve.
And in the world of the internet, such comments remain part of a permanent archive–even if removed by the individuals who posted them. So the damage continues long after the “delete” button has been hit.
But now, the tides are turning. The victims of the bullying and negativity are saying, “enough!” Laws are being modified to address inappropriate internet behavior, and those who have been subjected to such can stand up and say, “No more! No more!”
The online bullying now is addressed as criminal behavior with severe penalties. And inappropriate online reputation-bashing is being recognized as slander, resulting in potentially very steep financial liability.
To this, I join many in exclaiming, “It’s about time.”
Because in addition to learning, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” we were taught another invaluable lesson: “You are free to choose your actions, but in doing so, you also are responsible the consequences that follow.”
To mom’s and dad’s lessons passed on to me, I’ve added another bit of parental wisdom that I have shared with my children: “Don’t post anything online unless you’d be comfortable with your Granny seeing it.”
So heads up to the bullies and mean girls, to the narcissists and grandstanders: the pixels you pound out today may affect you tomorrow.
Before you post, ask yourself, “What would Granny say?”
Make her proud.