Self-Improvement Hack: Don’t Say It!

I think I’ve finally discovered something positive about social media, Modern Philosophers!

Now I will admit that comment was somewhat provocative and controversial.  Did it make you want to say something mean or snarky in reply?  Have you already gone to the Comments Section and told me off for being so close-minded?

If you answered in the affirmative to any of those questions, this might be the blog post for you!  And I apologize for trying to bait you with that opening sentence.

But I did mean what I said.  I do believe I’ve found a positive use for social media.

I’ve long known that one of my faults (and I have SO MANY) is my tendency to say whatever comes to mind, without giving any thought to the consequences of the words that escape from my mouth.

This flaw was one of the contributing factors (again, there were SO MANY) to my divorce.  J and I were both very stubborn, well-spoken, and always had to have the last word.  I never backed down from a verbal confrontation over the course of our relationship.

And why would I?  I’m a writer.  My command of words is my superpower.  Witty comebacks form instantly in my mind, and refuse to be kept inside my mouth.

Unfortunately, J was the same way.  Our relationship philosophy wasn’t “Don’t go to sleep mad“, but rather, “Don’t go to sleep until you’ve shot every hurtful arrow in your quiver.”

And that, Modern Philosophers, is something I’ve been working to correct.

You know, in the miraculous event that someone wants to be in a relationship with me again.

advice, humor, Modern PhilosopherI took the above photo on my morning walk.  I had already decided to blog about this topic, and seeing this at the start of my running path seemed like a sign that I had chosen wisely.

This exchange is a perfect illustration of what I found to be positive about social media.  When I’m online, I see so many comments to which my brain immediately forms a witty comment.  And those comments are rarely positive or supportive of the original statement.

What social media has taught me is that it’s okay to think my thoughts, but keep them to myself.  There is no reason for them to ever leave the vault of my mind.  Like the original poster, I am entitled to my opinion, but I’m not obligated to share it.

Since there’s no one actually across from me engaging me in a conversation, no one ever has to know that I started to say something, but held back.  I won’t be accused of backing down or chickening out.

I can simply scroll on to the next comment, and no one will ever be the wiser.

After all, do I really want to get into some social media flame war with someone I will never meet?  Is it worth the momentary satisfaction I might feel after posting a total zinger?  Why would I want to make an enemy and add any more stress to my life?

I wouldn’t be surprised if, when I go for my run tomorrow, there is a rude/hateful comment or two scribbled in chalk under that unsolicited reply.

Who wants to see that?  Not me.  I’m there to run, not to get drawn into the controversy of strangers.

advice, humor, Modern PhilosopherThis is why I urge you, Modern Philosophers, to use social media as your test lab for ingesting controversial takes, but not spewing out venomous replies.

Trust me, there are plenty of takes on social media that you can use to hone this skill and improve your self-control.  People are not afraid to speak their minds when they can hide behind the anonymity of a screen name and do not have to say it to your face.

The question is: Can you swallow that reply that would probably get you a ton of likes, but also make you a target for all sorts of strangers who would love nothing more than to make your life a living hell for disagreeing with them?

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not saying to always bury your feelings and never express your opinion.  I’m simply suggesting to learn to control your response time.  Think about whether it’s worth it.  Very often, the first thing that comes to mind is fuel added to the fire, rather than an informed reply that adds something other than ill will and discontent to the discussion.

Being able to control your response to controversial topics will come in handy in real life situations.  It might save your relationship.  It could prevent you from offending a coworker and then having explain yourself to HR.  Maybe it keeps you from losing a longtime friend, or ensures that Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t became a war of words.

Social media is there, looking to entice you into saying the wrong thing.  Why not turn the tables, and remember that some words, once spoken, can’t be taken back?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the Comments Section.  And, yes, that is a test…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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9 Responses to Self-Improvement Hack: Don’t Say It!

  1. The test I always apply, Austin, is this: Am I responding to this post/tweet because I have something meaningful to contribute to the conversation, or am I merely interjecting my hot take in order to impulsively scratch an itch? If it’s the latter — which it almost always is — I resist the impulse to opine and simply move on.

    But on social media as well as in life, I find it’s always better to consider my response — and why I’m inclined to respond a particular way — before I open my mouth! That approach certainly helped keep my marriage emotionally healthy throughout the trials of pandemia!

  2. kristianw84 says:

    I agree with you. It’s easier to keep scrolling than inflict my opinions on the world. It goes back to grade school when teachers would say “If you don’t have something kind to say, don’t say anything.” Of course, there are always exceptions and I will stand up to bullies when they are causing harm.

    I’ll go a step further and say I have also learned to not offer educated responses to certain individuals. Not too long ago a woman made a racist comment and asked how her comment was seen as offensive.

    Me, being the naive person I can be at times, honestly thought the question wasn’t rhetorical. So I explained how her comment was offensive, and how even if she didn’t see it that way, it was not up to her to say the offended party wasn’t offended. The conversation went into a political debate which was what I was trying to avoid since she is constantly posting about how much she adores Trump.

    Anyway, I backed up my information with sources so she could do her own research, but when I asked her to do the same she couldn’t, of course. Instead, she resorted to calling me ugly because of the silver streak in my hair. It’s sad that this woman never left the playground and felt the need to insult me, but it’s happened so many times that I’ve learned that close-minded people don’t want to be educated. Perhaps, I should send her this post! 😂

    Your advice is sound: Don’t say it!

    And to quote Linus Van Pelt: “There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: Politics, religion, and the Great Pumpkin.”

  3. markbialczak says:

    Good thought, Austin. I’m behaving way better comment-wise these days. Knock on wood.

  4. Pingback: Self-Improvement Hack: Don’t Say It! – TylerLatvala

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