Whoa! Did you mean what you said?

After the breaking news on our televisions and phones informing us of the snap lockdown to Level 3 in Auckland and subsequent levels for the rest of Aotearoa, I popped onto Twitter to take a peep at how we were handling the news.

Unsurprisingly responses ranged from lynch-mob and anti-government, through to pragmatic, empathetic, and affirmation for a nation who’d already unified and dug in together to do the hard mahi, and thus had enjoyed gatherings and movement across the summer to-date.

It was evident that individuals were finding their echo-chambers with likeminded others in Twitter threads, as they waded into baited questions regarding consequences for those who ‘don’t follow the rules’ and who’ve ‘put the nation at risk’. In instances people were outright inflammatory and offensive, going well beyond just sharing an opinion as they reactively struck out in response to others’ comments, or, joined in the general Twitter korero.

While there’s a truth that behaviour is communication, communication is also behaviour. Bullying, shaming, and offending are prevalent behaviours that are reflected not only in younger people’s online engagement, but that of adults also. We know that Twitter and similar social media tools are a conduit not only for connecting, participating in the world about us, sharing good news, or breaking news, but also for woeful and harmful behaviour.

It was somewhat wild and bitter on Twitter regarding our current predicament, and is still evident at the moment. Yes, the impacts of what has happened are extremely important and for some, dire. However, we need to check in with ourselves and consider what we’re trying to achieve when our communication attacks others, belittles, showers shame, or offends intentionally.

We might defend our comments as the right to ‘freedom of speech’ and right to express whatever we want; however, our communications are expressions of behaviour, and are a reflection not only of context, but importantly, our deeper character, dispositions and values.

I believe it’s important to pause and touch base with what it is we value most and how this, or these are reflected in how we go about our lives, and our interactions online and offline, for every day we’re demonstrating to our younger generations how to respond, and how to treat others, including online.  As we demonstrate our values to our young through our communications, they’re watching and they’re processing.

Let’s participate in, and encourage an online culture where communication is more thoughtful, passionate but respectful, tolerant, inclusive, informed. Let’s be more aware of our own behaviours and what’s motivating us, and perhaps more open to the perspectives of others. If we’re not in agreement with others online, let’s be thoughtful about how we might disagree with dignity and respect at the centre. 

We are Aotearoa. We’ve dug in before, we’ve neighboured up, we’ve shown great unity. Let’s do this now, online and offline – for ourselves and our next generation.