As we approach the end of January, it’s worth asking: how are your resolutions holding up? Still sticking to them? I hope you’ve been able to make them a part of your life and routine, which I always think is the key to remaining committed over the long term.
This time of the year sees the birth of a lot of new intentions. There is also plenty of advice out there about how to improve our lives, and how to create better, fitter, more successful versions of ourselves.
In the era of universal social media, everyone is an expert. We all have views and opinions about what’s best not just for ourselves but for everyone, for society, even for the planet.
And it has become second nature – compulsory, even – to use our personal social media platforms to share these views freely and regularly. Expressing ourselves in this way has become an important part of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world – a world that is potentially much wider and more accessible to us than it was for any previous generations.
Who we really are
It’s just so easy to have an online personality, and it seems that the more opinionated and colourful we are, the more of a following we attract. The temptation is to shoot from the hip, to present the unfiltered versions of ourselves in all our raw glory, and those we attract are those who accept and celebrate us for who we really are.
The reverse is also true. We love to follow people or movements we agree with. Again, it’s an opportunity to show who we are through the causes, ideas and brands we align with. It’s also deeply ingrained in human nature to seek out and fall in with a tribe. We’ve done this for as long as we’ve been on the earth. It provides a sense of belonging and plays a fundamental part in defining our identity.
No ‘off’ switch
So, those are some of the positives of social media’s influence. However, what we’re also learning is that it has some downsides. By its very nature and design, social media is incessant and inescapable. There’s no ‘off’ switch, which means that many of us are learning that sometimes the only way to manage the social noise is to mute out the voices we don’t agree with.
This is an understandable consequence of what can sometimes be an overwhelming onslaught. And again it’s only human. It’s like choosing friends – we gravitate towards those with similar views to our own, so we find ourselves increasingly following those on social media we do see eye-to-eye with.
The result of this, however, is that as a society we are becoming increasingly polarised and singular in our views. We are forgetting how to disagree but still stay friends. Hold opposing views but remain respectful. We are becoming intolerant of views we don’t agree with.
Whether its Brexit or Megxit in the UK, climate change or Trump in America, we are being asked to pick a side. We are pressured to pin our colours to the mast, align with the protagonists which will either win or lose with no room for a middle ground. It’s this winner-takes-all attitude which is so damaging – passion and belief is good but not if its comes at the expense of tolerance and humanity.
So I made just one resolution for 2020: to practise more tolerance, to do what I can myself to help us all as a society to live alongside each other better. Whether it’s at work, at home, in business or in parliament, we could all be a bit more tolerant of those we don’t see eye to eye with. We need to be reminded to be more respectful of the differences between us, to all learn to listen a little more.
The beauty is that this is something which is totally within our own control. Each moment, every day, we decide how we are going to behave. We don’t need anyone’s permission – it’s down to us. When greeted with an opposing view to our own, we decide if we are rude or respectful. It’s a personal choice whether we respond with anger or tolerance the next time we see a tweet which annoys us, or witness behaviour we don’t like or speak to someone who simply sees the world differently from ourselves.
We can all chose to pause, breathe and temper our language; to try to see the other person’s point of view and, if possible, open our own minds and appreciate the world from a fresh perspective.
It’s a small step, but an important and powerful one if we all commit to it. We can all be our own role models. It’s a step towards a kinder, more tolerant family or workplace – and maybe even a more civilised parliament.
It’s human to seek and support a tribe, but it’s also human to listen, show compassion, empathy and understanding. Whether it’s a new year, a new decade, or a whole new beginning, it’s the only way to make resolutions that last the distance.