Connecting via the virtual reality of the internet has many, many advantages; for example feeling closer to your loved ones if you live away, re-connecting with long lost friends, speeding up communications, having access to someone else’s life in a way that the pre-internet era did not permit.
However, it also has a dark side. Or better, it unleashes the dark side in some human beings. The screen, or better the lack of face-to-face interaction is my guess, seems to give a ‘rightful’ space to knee-jerk reactions and non-constructive feedback all the way to spiteful comments, trolling, threats, etc.
I recently had few online conversations with un-known people on Facebook who were incensed by a post by a famous Italian writer who was advocating for compassion towards those refugees who crossed the Mediterranean this summer. I was shocked by the level of hate, the wishes for the death towards these desperate migrants and the total lack of empathy and capacity to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. I was also deeply shocked by the aggression that some showed towards me as I was kindly and respectfully (!) offering a different point of view. As minimum I was told to “SHUT UP!”.
Why do some people feel that it is ok to insult and wish horrors to others they don’t even know? Does the screen provides a barrier that prevents them to realise that the person on the other side - reading and responding - is indeed a person and does have feelings? Would they say the same things, in the same tone, if they were facing their interlucutor? I'm not sure, but I doubt it.
If you are a yogi/ni, you’ll surely have come across beautiful photos of amazing bodies, in incredible poses in breathtaking locations. I tend not to take or publish such pictures because I wonder: is it really that important if I can get myself into whatsitsface-asana? I do not believe that good teaching is based on my ability to put my feet behind my head, but rather to respect, inspire and meet the students where they are to let them reach their potential, amongst other things.
Recently, a friend and colleague posted a photo of herself on Instagram in a pose which wasn’t Circus-Du-Soleil style, and received the following comment:
"Oh dear, not the greatest image advertisement for the art of yoga! Couldn't [brand name] found a far better, more suitable model (and certainly a more flexi one for this particular pose at least!) for the main event pic? It doesn't really induce or inspire me to want to try... And the jazz hands is just...meh :-/ Hopefully the yogi in charge is more proficient ;-)"
This response truly upset my friend. The choice of words really shocked me. A "model"? Is this what people wishes or believe yoga teachers are?
I do wonder if this commentator would have said the same things to my friend's face. Did she think she could give voice to her unnecessary mean comments without considering that these could hurt someone else?
I advocate for questioning the behaviour of the mass, and the fact that the 'other-people-do-it' attitude is no justification for behaving without thinking or considering consequences of someone's actions. Words are extremely powerful, they can be a weapon as well as a soothing tool. We must use them wisely.
Opinions and feedback can always be shared, but with respect and with the intention to offer a constructive point of view, not simply to moan or, worse, to attack. I feel that these attacks are simply an outlet for the frustration brewing in someone's life, intentionally directed at the wrong target. Someone who is far away and you don't know - easy, no?
Yogi/nis often talk about ahimsā, non-violence. I'd wish we all tried to navigate through life leaving behind the temptation of wanting to hurt people. And if an aggressive feelings comes up - which it can, of course - can we take a breath and check where that originates from, instead of launching ourselves at someone's throat?