I was about to leave the house for a One Direction concert (don’t judge me). My husband was scheduled to come home from work a couple hours early because I needed to catch an afternoon train into the city. As luck would have it, he got held up in a meeting and I started to panic. I was going to miss Harry, Liam and the boys (in what became one of their last concerts together)!
My hubby texted me: “Hey! Don’t worry about it. I’ve got a sitter lined up.”
He told me her name, told me that he got her number from someone at work, and then he typed, “She’s all set to come. You won’t miss your train.”
Well, we’d never used this babysitter before. I didn’t know a thing about her. I know my husband was trying to be helpful, and I know she was probably a wonderful sitter. But I was frustrated about being late and annoyed that he’d hired a stranger to watch our kids. So, I responded a little more quickly (and harshly) than necessary: “ABSOLUTELY NOT! WE ARE NOT HAVING THIS PERSON BABYSIT. SHE IS A STRANGER. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IF SHE IS A RESPONSIBLE PERSON. I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE YOU’D DO THIS. FOR ALL WE KNOW SHE’S CRAZY!” (Yes, it was in all caps.)
For some reason, Kevin began a new text thread (which confused me at first), but I finally understood when I read the following words: “Aubrey. Stop. Texting. Right. Now. That is a group text. The sitter is on the thread.”
I was mortified.
The would-be sitter never responded.
I was late to my concert.
Lesson forever etched in my embarrassed heart.
Andrew Stanton, one of Pixar Animation’s genius screenwriters and directors, is known for saying things like, “Fail early and fail fast,” or “Be wrong as fast as you can.”
He’s right. I learned pretty quickly from that major texting faux pas to always know who I am texting – and mostly importantly, to text like I want to be texted.
The same is true for social media and other public forums of communication. In a day and age when interactions are hurried and harried, when hate is rampant, when our leaders continue to make misstep after misstep, when national disasters are striking regularly, and when anger exists on all sides of all debates, it can be easy to add to the clamor. With one click of a button, we can use our words to tear down.
But I wonder what would happen if we began to hurry up and fail. What if we learned from our negativity and turned it on its head? What if we began proactively using our words to build each other up?
In honor of my personal text fail, here are some other “f-words” to filter through when texting, posting, tweeting, gramming, snapping or whatever form of communication you’re into. Before you hit send or post, filter yourself: Is this thing I am about to put out into the world … ?
Forward Facing: With so much hatred going around, let’s use our voices to empower others. Social media, despite its negativity, is a powerful tool for information sharing and activism. Use your space to share about ministries or organizations that are rescuing trafficked women, bringing relief to victims of natural disasters, or advocating for those in need. Use your words to honor survivors, share hero stories, inspire and help others. Instead of holding others back, face forward and take others with you.
Forthright: If you want to add to an online conversation on a polarizing topic, by all means use your authentic voice – share it with the world! Your thoughts and opinions matter, especially if you are passionate and well-versed about an issue. There is a place for public debate. But be frank. Pretend like you’re having dinner with the person you are about to comment to (maybe even invite them over for dinner IRL). Stick to arguing issues, not fighting people. Cling to your integrity. Avoid getting sucked in. Rise above. Be forthright.
Fan-Girly: OK, I might have stretched that “f-word” a bit. But the point is to be a fan, not a critic. You know that old saying, “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all”? The same is true for social media. If you’re not a fan of someone, that’s OK. Just choose not to follow, share or like their stuff, but don’t publically disparage them. On the other hand, if you like someone’s art, music, words or work, then by all means like and share their stuff. As an author, it means the world to me when someone comments positively or shares my words. Remember, even though we are all on screens, there are actual human beings – real souls – behind those screens. Fangirl someone you admire or value. Step away from the temptation to troll.
Family-Friendly: Be honest and sincere. No one likes a fake person on social media. But consider this (because it will come faster than you think): one day soon, those little babes in your arms will be big enough to go on social media themselves. Be mindful that you are setting an example for the next generation of technology users. Is what you’re posting something you’d let your kids post or read?
Forgiving: We all mess up. Forgive yourself and others who go overboard on social media. Don’t take any bullying, obviously. But if you find yourself getting heated, back away from the screen. Take a walk in nature. Go back to real life. Ask God to help you forgive and move on.
And if you fail, fail fast and learn the lesson.
As for me, I apologized to my husband for freaking out, and I sent an apology card to the sitter. We still haven’t heard from her, but I sincerely hope she is making a ton of money babysitting for a loving, appreciative, “f-word” filtering family.