It’s time for some 2020 Vision. To provide that I need to look back. One year ago, on the evening of the eleventh of December two thousand and eighteen, at around eight pm, my wife and I stepped around a corner of a Strasbourg street to find people on the ground and armed police rushing past us shouting, ‘which way did he go?’
Selfishly, I will always be thankful for the twist of fate that made the person the police were chasing turn left and not right, to turn away from us rather than toward us. A year on and I find myself in reflective mode.
My heart goes out to the families and friends of the five people who lost their lives that evening, to the people who were injured and to everyone affected by those events. So many lives touched and damaged.
What does that event have to do with 2020 Vision and with social media? Not a lot and perhaps, in some ways, everything .
I am constantly amazed by the anger and frustration that people vent through social media, often people I know quite well. Those sharing their anger seem to see it as harmless, as helpful; individually, to them, it may serve a purpose but combined it becomes part of a seething maelstrom of emotion that is not only unpleasant but pervasive and insidious. That outpouring of turgid emotion colours all our lives and adds to the stress we all experience, it has a huge negative impact and adds enormously to raised stress levels in society.
Social media is a part of our lives, we are wired into it and drawn to it like moths to a flame and, like moths, people can be badly burnt by it, yet it has a drug like quality. I don’t for a minute believe it had an impact on or was a cause of events that night in Strasbourg, but I do believe it adds to a problem we all live with.
Do you shout at your partner? Your kids? Family? Friends? Colleagues? When you do, how does it make them feel? How do you feel about it? Is it acceptable?
If there is a wish I could make for 2020, it would be that people remember and follow that old pre-digital guidance, ‘sleep on it before you send it’.
I ignore vitriol, I ignore pontification, I steer away from soap box bravado; and here I am writing this!
However emotional you are, however strongly you feel on a topic, a subject, a crusade, let me assure you of this, if you speak softly, gently but with purpose, speak to convince with reason rather than cow me with force, I am more likely to listen.
However good your mission, if you shout, if you use sarcasm, if you mock other human beings, deride them, if your tone is derogatory, dismissive or just plain rude, I switch off at best and, at worst, I rebel gently against your purpose, however good it may be.
There are countless issues we have to face in this world, enormous challenges for the future. Focus on a bright future and we are more likely to create it, bury yourself in the misery of today or yesterday and the likelihood is, that is where you may remain.
Let me remind you of this, the voices that have passed down through the centuries, through the millennia, the ones that have shaped our world for better, the ones we listen to and revere, the ones we turn to for guidance and hope in dark times, those are the voices that spoke softly, with reason and they got inside us for the better of all.
There are no new causes! You are not starting something new.
Generations before us have begged for ‘Man’ to act with more reason, to stem the tide of destruction, to care for one another and stop war, to be kinder to each other, more accepting.
We are Human Beings, we are fallible, flawed and yet full of hope and wonder. Underneath I believe people around the world are the same, there is bad to be found but an incredible amount of good, so much of it and many a traveler will wax lyrical about the kindness of people to a complete stranger in their land. we all share similar hopes, dreams desires and fears, we are human.
If you want your generation to have made a difference, make it one of calm passion, of common sense, speak softly with a rhythm that will echo down the following millennia, with a voice that will carry people with it rather than brush them aside.
If you want some guidance on how to act, let me ask you this; when David Attenborough speaks, do you listen? Do you listen when the Pope or the Dalai Lama speaks…? What tone do they take and others like them? What is their 2020 vision?
Speak of peace, of common sense, speak of good deeds and compassion, stop the shouting and preaching on social media and elsewhere.
There is fire and brimstone out there, some say a need for it exists to motivate change. For me it takes up too much energy, causes tidal waves that can harm and ultimately real core lasting change needs to be believed in, desired, embraced. Sadly shock may be the only way occasionally, or the only way to make a quick change in desperate moments, but like everything, overused it weakens, people switch off.
If you want an example of how subtlety can change the world, think of this. How many of you have heard of Sun Tzu and The Art of War?
‘The greatest victory is that which requires no battle’.
Sun Tzu, if he existed, died over two and a half thousand years ago. The western business world embraced his book and eastern teachings with open arms, he, it and they have had a large part to play in changing our lives, how did that come about? ‘The greatest victory is that which requires no battle’.
In a busy world I won’t see everything posted by people I know and I never mind if people miss my posts, it may be as simple as timing being off, but when I have a policy of: ‘Always be positive’, there is plenty I will not get involved in, I won’t fan the flames.
I doubt we will ever take all the pain from the world but if, by speaking more softly, more reasonably, with more care, if then we can cool down emotions, reduce stress and improve lives, isn’t every small step worth taking. Think about your voice, how it sounds, what it says, how it may be perceived, the impression it may give of you: ‘sleep on it before you send it’. If one million people spoke more softly on social media, paused before replying, how much better would things be? What if two million softened their ways? What if…?
Social media can be a force for good. On that night in two thousand and eighteen I steered us through streets that were empty of all but rushing armed police and away from possible danger, I did it with the help of news and commentary appearing on my phone. I don’t know what made someone choose to take lives, to injure people, I don’t have answers to solve our world problems, but I do believe that if we lessen the general level of anger and frustration we wade through every day on the news and via social media, it will have a positive impact.
We all absorb emotion and are influenced by it, affected by it, whether it is bad or, preferably, it is good. How do you feel when you walk into a room and someone smiles at you? Those are the moments I like, the positive feelings I want us to create more of.
We have a part to play for the benefit of the world: The world is not here for the benefit of us!
My admiration, my respect and thanks go to the service people who rush toward danger every day, I hope we can lessen the need.
This is my 2020 Vision and I look forward to engaging with people more often on social media. I hope I can be a voice for the positive through the year. If I don’t join in a conversation, if I don’t seem to react when you expect me to or hope I might, by all means ask yourself why? It may just be by accident of timing, forgive me, or it may not.
Please have a wonderful two thousand and twenty, there is so much to look forward to and, amongst it all, I hope we will all find a little more calm and acceptance, please choose to be a part of making that happen, of making ours a better world for us and the generations to come.
Go softly into 2020, go with good positive purpose and make sure you smile at people when they enter the room.