Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to read this column.
Whew, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
For some reason, typing that first paragraph has been difficult for me over the last several years. I’ll occasionally get an email, sharing some anecdotes that one of my past columns made someone recollect. I’ll read it, smile a little and then proceed to forget about it.
I’ve never been good at saying thank you to heartfelt gestures. I’m great about thanking a waitress for filling up my cup or a stranger holding the door open for me. The more personalized the interaction, though, the more I’ll kick into an introverted shell of mumbling and get out of the situation as soon as possible.
I’m especially bad when it comes to online interactions. I seldom respond to positive feedback sent my way electronically. Oh, sure, I mean to do it. It’s in the back of my head. There’s even an item on my weekly task list at work to do it. But online, it’s so easy to treat people like, well, not people.
So, as has been my tradition since I started writing these columns back in 2006, I’m publicly admitting my New Year’s resolution for 2020, and I want people to hold me accountable. I vow to try to treat people electronically the same way I’d treat them in person.
If you’d say something to me in person, you’d probably expect some kind of a reaction and answer back, right? There’s no reason not to expect that out of a person online too. I shouldn’t ghost you and make you wonder if the message ever got to me.
If someone clearly misunderstands my point of view “IRL,” as the cool kids were calling in real life about two decades ago, I’d certainly address it quickly. I aim to do the same via the Internet too.
Sometimes people just need a little common courtesy to remind them that we’re all people, trying to do the best we can in a complicated world. It’s so easy to label people and vilify them, as in “Republicans,” “Democrats,” “fake news” and so on.
No one fits any label perfectly. My own politics are best defined as compassionate self-reliance, with the belief we’d all be better off if we tried to take care of ourselves, yet leaving some room to help a neighbor through acts of charity. To label me a conservative or a liberal can be difficult, given what I truly believe. To turn any label into an insult accomplishes nothing except to agitate people.
I would never do that to a person in reality. If you meet someone new, you try to figure out what you have in common. You ask probing questions to find your common ground. Then you can better debate the things on which you disagree. We should hold ourselves to that same standard online.
In 2020, I aim to do that. I aim to represent the real me better online, starting with a little courtesy. Again, thank you for taking the time to read this column. Thank you for reading this newspaper, too, as we spend much of each day preparing it for you daily. I hope you enjoy our work more often than you don’t, and best wishes for 2020!