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The Internet is hard on Greta Thunberg

Tanya Ryan 2
Tanya Ryan, Light Side Up

The Internet is always a gloriously entertaining place.

I mean, it’s not just the vast variety of memes that appeal to so many various demographics, but also it’s basically the digital version of people-watching.

You can grab your popcorn and hunker in for a nice long look at the minds of the brave people behind their keyboards. I’ve been especially enthralled with the controversy around Greta Thunberg’s visit to Alberta. As much as I’d love to get into the political side of this conversation (she said with embellished sarcasm) - today, I’d rather address the conversations and language that I’ve observed. Okay so let’s all make sure we’ve got the info here. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old, young woman that is passionate about making changes to our major industries and daily-living so that we can create a better environment and a healthier planet for generations moving forward. Cool. So let’s just pretend we don’t have an opinion on how she’s going about it - if she’s doing it right, or wrong - and whatever conspiracy theories you have - let’s just put those aside for a moment.

I can’t begin to count how many grown-ass men and women have posted derogatory, patronizing, insulting, heinous things about Greta. Less frequently have I seen: “I completely disagree.” Or “She’s misinformed - or is lacking education about certain environmental protocol that’s currently implemented by our oil industry.” Because the latter are constructive comments with the intention of creating a discussion.

High fives all around on those statements.

Alas, the most prevalent comments I see are personal attacks, insults; they’re comments that tear down her character, her intelligence, her age, and her ambition. It’s actually downright embarrassing to me that we have a generation of people with this much life-experience - and they’re using their social media platforms to bully a 16-year-old.

We have this privilege of being able to voice our inner-thoughts on a wide-reaching, digital soapbox; and we’ve become so incredibly ‘brave’ because we don’t have to look into the eyes of the human being that is receiving our criticism. We are the pilgrims of internet etiquette. Is this how we want our future generations to speak to one another? Is this the type of language and communication that’s effective?

My hope for our future in online communication is that people are taught to visualize their words reaching their recipient before they press ‘send’. To look within the depths of someone’s soul and watch their heart break or harden in response to these words. My hope is that this visualization makes the writer reconsider, and rewrite their opinions and thoughts in a manner that is much more conducive to creating a healthy dialogue and an environment for positive change.

If your 16 year-old daughter/niece/cousin/sister/friend was doing their best to make a positive change in the world - heck, if anyone was doing their best to make a difference - how would you speak to them? Especially if you felt they needed more information or guidance. How would you convey that to them?

Please take an extra moment before you hit that post button to consider the effect you might not know that you are truly creating.

Tanya Ryan is a local singer/songwriter with an appetite for life and learning. #LightSideUp is for the candid exploration of everyday life, events, emotions, and stories with the intention of finding the lessons and teachings buried in the normalcy of daily living.