Being Vulnerable on the Internet

Disclaimer: This is aimed more at the people who generally experience privilege in the world. It is not the work of people experiencing harm to help the emotional growth of those causing harm.

The internet is not an easy place to be vulnerable. Most efforts to show any complexity or a lack of complete faith in what you believe in is met by dismissal and accusation. People often use the internet to find ways to practice their debate skills, let off steam or find a platform for their belief. It is rare who find people who are genuinely searching for new information and personal growth on facebook walls or chat forums.

However, the internet has created space for more growth in the social justice movement than anything else in recent memory. The ability for people, strangers, to connect directly, rather than through the middle man of global media, creates an inability to turn away. People can no longer deny that police brutality is real when there are new videos posted every week. We can no longer deny the complexity and goodness of individuals when you bond over your favorite netflix show and only late learn that they are trans. Despite the rhetoric of staying within our ‘bubbles’, facebook, reddit, and the comment sections on the NYT have widened our exposure to other people’s ideas in a way that simply didn’t exist twenty years ago.

There are literally millions, if not billions, of voice on the internet, all giving insight into their own experience, problematizing every stereotype ever.

And yet, over and over I see people shut down the idea that people talking about their experience or how to be more supportive of other are told they are just there to make arguments or make people feel bad. There is the immediate jump to assuming the purpose of any sort of ask for more consideration of others is to rip the other person down. There is no assumption of good faith or a desire to make a better world.

But what if we came to every interaction, whether in person or online, with the assumption that everyone means well. What if in every instance of interaction, we checked our intentions, and knew where we were coming from for ourselves. What if we knew that some people will still try to rip your ideas apart as an intellectual exercise, and we can still come to that interaction with the knowledge of our own intentions and the willingness to stand by them honestly.

This is a call for vulnerability. This is a call to be open to the idea that we will make mistakes, and that we are capable of growth. This is a call to recognize that other people will make mistakes, and that we need to believe in their growth as well. That if they backtrack, explain their ideas, try to clarify, that we take them at face value. If we can truly be vulnerable, then we are also open to growth and becoming stronger, more informed, kinder; if we believe in the vulnerability of others, we are giving them the same gift.

There will always be people who are just trying to win, to fight, to find release. But what if they always had models of people around them seeking genuine connection and how to be a better person? What if people stopped being so sure that your ask for understanding or consideration of other people was an attack on them? We can’t know until we try.

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