Are you an Upstander or a Bystander?

Are You A Social Media Upstander or a Bystander?

I was scrolling through Facebook one day not long ago and I came across a graphic that made me take pause. The graphic said:

Original source was rottenecards.com

I want you to take a moment and think about the worst thing that you’ve done in your life. I am certain that you feel a degree of shame and anxiety around the decision you made that lead to that event. Imagine if, suddenly and without warning, that thing that you did was everywhere. On CNN, Huffington Post, Facebook, Twitter… and, in an instant, your privacy as you knew it no longer existed.

Imagine Googling your name and the story that you are so incredibly ashamed of is now everywhere and for all the wrong reasons. How would that make you feel?

Not very good, I am guessing.

The Internet – specifically social media – has the power to amplify everyday situations so that millions of people know about them.

A child from Peterborough, Ontario had his birthday celebrated by thousands of strangers after his mom reached out to social media, looking for support when the invitations to her son’s birthday party went unanswered. Citizens everywhere chose to be upstanders in that moment and offer compassion and empathy for a child that felt isolated. It made headlines everywhere and Odin had one of the best days of his life.

Contrast that with a familiar name we all know: Monica Lewinsky. Monica made a very poor decision in judgment when, at the age of 22, she had a relationship with the President of the United States. The community at large chose not to be upstanders in this moment but rather moved into bystander roles as Monica was vilified everywhere for her actions.

When I watched her TED Talk, I realized that we all have a choice in how we support other humans and sometimes we don’t even realize the impact of our decisions.

Monica’s TED Talk, it made me think of my own nieces and nephews. How would I want them to be treated if they made an error in judgment? How would they feel if their actions caused them to become scrutinized by the entire world?

Maybe it doesn’t have to be the entire world. Maybe it only needs to be enough people to let the weight of judgment crush down on their young, tender spirits.

Social media can be used for good and it can be used for evil. It can serve as a tool to demonstrate compassion and to uplift others. It can also serve as a tool to desensitize us from feeling.

Social media is a tool and, like any tool, you get to choose how you use it. Click To Tweet

I ask you to consider how you are showing up in the social space. Are you an upstander or a bystander? Do you jump on the bandwagon of making others feel poorly or do you use social media for good?

Consider this:

1. Do you share bad news regularly and do you vilify others even though you only know what the media has reported?

2. Do you step in and support someone when others are giving them a hard time online or do you look away and pretend you don’t see it?

3. Do you watch in horror, or do you reach out and ask people if they are okay when you see something go sideways?

Maybe after you watch this video you will think differently about the impact that this digital world we live in has on us as humans. Perhaps you may scrutinize your own actions or in-actions a little more closely and look at how they may or may not contribute to stripping the dignity away from another human. I don’t expect this one blog post to change the world but if every person who reads it does one nice thing to support another person because of it, together we have made a difference.

Leave a comment below, and tell me, how do you think we can inspire more people to become upstanders in a digitally connected world?

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12 Comments

  1. Firstly, I watched Monica’s talk and found her to be very brave in coming forward and as many people have asked, who has not done something stupid that they regret?? Secondly, out of the questions above, question #2 really resonated to me. Recently, when Angelina Jolie came forward with what she did with regards to her health issues, many people really were nasty as to her decision. As a person who has been personally affected by cancer, decisions are made between a doctor and the patient and/or patients’ family – no one else. If a person has not been affected, they should not comment. If there is an issue that can or will affect me or will affect someone I know, I will definitely jump in and comment. Great post Lisa!

    • I agree completely Heather and I also feel the same about Angelina Jolie and her health decision. I think it is interesting how easy it to tear others down instead of support them for making their own decisions. If she didn’t do what she did, and she lost her life, people would criticize her for not taking more action sooner.

  2. People might be more careful about their rush to judgment if, prior to posting, they agreed to a full public review of their own lives and actions. As you say, we all have skeletons in our closet and a little more understanding would go a long way. Great post.

  3. This is a pet peeve of mine, Lisa. I will remove someone from my list when I see that they prefer to share more damaging or negative posts than positive ones. There is enough bad reporting in the main stream press already, we don’t need to add to it through social media.
    As you have said in your article, there are two sides to every story.
    And as my mother used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all…”

    Kathi

    • Yes, agree, and sometimes someone out there needs you to jump in and say something nice for them too. The human spirit is fragile, especially those of young people. Today’s online environment can shame and damage who they are for many years to come. I don’t want that to be the case

  4. I love the level of even-ness you brought to this article, Lisa. Thank you for that.

    I remember when the world was having a feeding frenzy on Monica Lewinsky – and I was thinking to myself, “OMG. How many of us have ever been THAT unaware of our own actions? And how many stupid things have I done that could reap such a response?” And wow – she got thrown to the wolves and ol’ bill came out shiny and cool. (I have to gear up to watch her talk though! I can’t wait. But i am prepared to be moved for sure!)

    My big learn with social media (and a recent event that occurred for me on FB) is that – as many of us are Brene Brown fans and purport to be against shame… at a subconscious level, we want to make sure that those who have done something we consider “unjust” (no matter what infraction it was or to whom it was done)… we are HUNGRY to shame them. It’s just a natural instinct.

    My policy is always to hold the space of kindness and remember that the media has trained us all to hate and vilify and point fingers. We never know what’s going on on the other side.

    I’m with Doris up there. Take a deep breath and consider what you are about to post publicly. Knee-jerk responses are not conscious or healing to anyone.

    (I still love Facebook though. After all, t’s where I got my doggie. :) )

    • It’s harder to be the voice of reason and to support the underdog than it is to shame and blame someone. I wrote this before your recent FB experience, and I felt like that situation validated even more the need for us to all be aware. We all makes mistakes – it’s time to give people a bit of grace and communicate with each other instead of through public billboards like Facebook. Adults are guilty of bullying too and just because you are not “afraid” to speak up, does not mean you are setting a good example in how you do it for others to follow.

  5. We all make mistakes! We’re human and imperfect. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and try to see things from their point of view instead of judging. I strive to have a positive impact in someone’s life rather than tear them down. There’s enough negative things in the world and in people’s lives making them feel bad, stupid, and worthless. If anything, I’d rather be the encouragement they may desperately need.

  6. Lisa, thanks for posting this great article!

    I truly love your questions … very powerful and great food for thought! Social Media is a fantastic medium however, as always, there are people that now use it to push others down (i.e. bullying) instead of lifting them up! Sad but true! As a society, we should not condone or support such behaviour!

  7. Hey Lisa, great post!
    I have watched Monica’s speech last weekend as well and was very impressed with her. I find it disgusting that even after all these years she still has to fight for her dignity while he got out of it with little bruises. And the whole world knows he was and is lying and still she was and still is the one that suffers.
    In my eyes this has to do with gender inequality. If the president were a woman and the intern were a young guy in the same story, again the woman would get the brunt of the shit storm and cyberbullying. I bet she would not have been able to stay president.

  8. Lisa – great article and food for thought. I totally agree with you. We are too quick to judge and condemn others for their actions, beliefs, etc. I strive to always come from a place of love and compassion. There is no good purpose served in bringing others down.

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