Red seaweed on the stony coast in outflow

Cleaning up my stretch of beach

The president of my alma mater, Wheaton College, once described the attitudes we see online, and in person, as America’s new culture of “free floating rage.” It is a phrase that, as I’ve watched people, including the President-elect, assault others on Twitter and through other social media channels, has stuck with me.

The hate and vitriol that has been swirling around feels a bit like a red tide at the beach – random, choking and beyond my control to clean up. So I’ve watched, but have largely stayed silent except for the occasional observation:

Reflecting on the President-elect's tweets I'm reminded of a tip from our trainer: "Confident people don't yell. Confident dogs don't bark."

But yesterday, as I looked through Twitter, I discovered someone close to me was adding to the rage and the hate. In a series of comments this person, who shall remain nameless and genderless, had lobbed several hate-filled, threatening (“something bad will happen to you”) grenades at a female reporter who dared to speak out against our President-elect.

Contemplating what was said, I wanted to reach out to apologize to the recipient. To tell her that she was not alone and that what this person had said was not okay. And that it was not a reflection on those who are connected with this person.

I also wanted to dope smack the sender.

It made me realize that there are times when I can make a difference. That I, and the others connected to this person, have a responsibility to watch our personal internet troll and tell them when they step out of line. To remind them that, despite all of our differences, we are stuck together on this green and blue marble and need to treat each other with respect and kindness.

It’s not much. It may not be enough. And it certainly may not work. But it can’t hurt. It might help. And just think what we could do if each of us would clean up our little stretch of beach.


4 thoughts on “Cleaning up my stretch of beach

  1. Interesting, you didn’t end up where I thought you were heading. My initial read of “cleaning up my stretch” was one of taking not so much the high road as the “be nice, perhaps to a fault” road.

    I totally agree that we each need to do our part to look out for others and (firmly, but politely) call out bad behavior.

    It’s always bothered me that bullies get away with so much. Think about it–they’re always outnumbered at least 10 to 1, often 20 to 1 or more. Unfortunately, all too often, the bullied haven’t been able to band together.

    Several things have changed. One, as adults, I think we’re better positioned to individually stand up to bullies. Two, with social tools, we’re better positioned both to know that we’re not alone but also to band together.

    I’m on board with helping to keep my stretch of the beach clean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad I could surprise you! “Kill then with kindness” is still one of my main strategies, particularly in the face of the “free floating rage,” but I am trying to embrace my power to act locally.

      I’m with you about how often, and why, the bullies too often win. But as you said, we can (and should) stand together to do more than be nice.


  2. One of the many problems I have with the incoming administration is that they inspire such bad behavior in their followers, without taking any responsibility for doing that. Leadership matters. I’m so proud of you for taking a stand against this.


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