Please do not Kick People When They’re Down

We need more gentleness during this pandemic, not more snark

There’s a shocking brutality in a lot of the content doing the rounds online, much of which produced by amateurs with too much time on their hands.

Playing at journalism by cherry-picking tweets and emails then quoting them out of context is a thing. Writing scathing op-eds that disregard actual information is another. So much so that some platforms have taken to adding automatic disclaimers about fact-checking at a time when facts matter more than ever.

This isn’t helping anyone bar, perhaps, those who write such things to let off steam and offload their fears. Since fear is highly communicative and contagious, it’s something we’d be wise to avoid so as not to worsen confinement. Being suddenly forced to reckon with everything that’s not going right in our lives is where many of us are at right now. There’s nothing quite like uncertainty to magnify hardships, be they financial, emotional, or both.

Unless we exercise caution with the language and the tone we use, we run the risk of smothering others with the panic the internet helps us manage. Why remind our fellow humans of their every shortcoming when there’s precious little anyone can do to address them at the moment?

We can all agree there’s never been a worst time to be sick, poor, and alone but that doesn’t mean we have to keep hitting people over the head with their own misery. For those of us with variable mental health, survival depends on keeping our brain functional.

And it can’t do that when it’s under attack, strafed from all sides by content that seeks to profit from human disempowerment. Instead, it sometimes shuts down and that’s dangerous when you’re stuck at home and can’t get help.

None of us is as helpless or as alone as we may feel, certainly not if we’re lucky enough to still have internet access and the ability to think. The latter isn’t a given when your brain is prone to wobbles so keeping it busy is key.

Any routines or processes you can fall back on can also help.

In my household, it’s been business as usual only now I have colleagues again for the first time in years. And yet, we’re not set up for co-working, our home is still missing essentials like a table and chairs, and our professional lives are in total disarray. Plus we’re all from somewhere else, i.e. expats far away from home but we aren’t letting this faze us otherwise we’d sink as one.

So instead of focusing on what we don’t have — like job security— we check in with one another frequently and make the most of what we do have. In this case, human warmth is everything, as is a calm and supportive environment that empowers us to remain productive. Of all the possible scenarios, we’re all aware this is the best one, in large part thanks to our geographical coordinates.

This isn’t to say there haven’t been hard times and there won’t be many more but sticking together is how we keep going in the face of uncertainty. This newfound sense of ‘can do’ amid chaos isn’t specific to my household though: All humans are hard-wired for survival.

We’re all far more capable than we ever give ourselves credit for and you’re no exception.

If you haven’t found your feet yet, don’t panic; give it time and steady yourself with things that matter to you until you feel a little less unsettled.

We lead such harried lives gentleness isn’t something many of us pause to consider, let alone cultivate as a habit. So much in the world is going awry that it’s easy to go on a rant, something entire sections of the media love doing for the same reason bloggers do it: it pays. And it’s easy to point the finger and deride what little solace others might find in pursuits and beliefs we don’t agree with but it’s also unhelpful.

Find what gives you strength and let it carry you, whatever it is.

Being secular is no excuse to be condescending toward those who seek refuge in faith, no matter how incomprehensible it might look to us. A little respect goes a long way, and a little curiosity goes even further because there’s always tips and tricks we can swap. While I worship no deity, I choose to place my faith in mankind and it’s heartening to live in a place where the government does that, too, at least until proven wrong.

We’re all equal in the face of COVID-19 and yet many of us are still resisting the unifying power of the pandemic as if our own kin were a threat.

The coronavirus doesn’t care about skin hue, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. It doesn’t even care about borders so why should we cling to our differences despite nature issuing a global reminder we are but one species?

What if we let our shared vulnerability inform the words we share online and social media for digital diplomacy erasing borders with compassion from human to human?

What if gentleness finally cracked us open?

Would our hearts become visible then?

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

The human condition is not a pathology・👋ASingularStory[at]gmail・ ☕️

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