There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

Edward Wallis Hoch, Marion (Kansas) Record (1849 – 1925)

We have witnessed much in recent days about how making assumptions about people and their perceived state of mental health or lack of character can be fraught with hidden minefields. And, many times, we find ourselves guilty of having judged and cast the first stone as though we were superior or above the fray. Words such as selfish, corrupt, suicidal, entitled, etc. have been bandied about with foolish abandon to wound those with whom we do not agree or do not understand.

The anonymity of the digital age has punctuated the degree to which we can strike our ‘enemies’, real or otherwise, and fly away to our moral high ground from whence we are perched. And, thus, our self-made pedestals give us a birds-eye view of those we deem lesser and allow us the elevation to shit on those we perceive as mere mortals.

Meanness is not new. It is part of the human condition. What is new is the speed in which hatred, misunderstanding, distrust, and innuendo can travel and the distance from which we can strike. With drone-like precision we can hit our foe and retreat into obscurity. And, all too often, the recipient finds little or no opportunity for recourse or an arena to defend themselves.

What of the attacker? Unfortunately, they slither back to the dark hole from whence they came; congratulating themselves on a job well-done. Damage complete.

What is the toll? This week we saw how serial trolls, running sockpuppet Twitter accounts, harassed the grieving Zelda Williams to the point of her turning off her account. Closer to home, I have seen friends delete their own personal accounts, some of whom I encouraged to open in the first place, for many of the same reasons. The conversation was over. The trolls had won.

Not surprisingly, I have had little interaction on Twitter (joined 2007) since the spring of 2012 when it became apparent to me it had become an echo chamber for hyper-partisans, and the previously mentioned trolls.

The irony in the promise of social networking is not lost on me. Yesterday, I shouted to my digital world how I was given exceptional service by the fine folks who toil at my local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. Not only could I thank the employees in person, but I could tell my social network how pleased I was when given said amazing service. Win-Win.

I live for debate, discussion, and conversation. It is my passion. Often, I agree to disagree. Move on. Find a new hill in which to battle. Learning from those I do not find myself in agreement with is one of my joys in life. Some who read this post know who they are and know how much I appreciate them. And, hopefully, I have shown them the respect they deserve by engaging with me.

The promise of social media in 2007 made me an instant convert. I still believe in the potential, but I am more cautious today. To paraphrase: social media doesn’t hurt people, people hurt people.

My friends and family have differing political, social, and religious viewpoints and for this I am thankful. They stimulate my brain and reinvigorate my soul. They agree/disagree with my world view and allow for my ignorance. They are real.

Those who anonymously attack, run, hide, and destroy are also real, but irrelevant in my world. The line must be drawn. The pendulum swings. Currently, the trolls are winning, but I am optimistic a day will come when we say enough is enough. Today is my day.