Toccoa-Stephens County: Making A Difference

By: Julie Paysen

I recently came across an article written by Mr. Eric Heller entitled Dear Internet, Please Send Miss Manners. In this he accurately addresses etiquette or the lack thereof, when it comes to social media. We have become quite the society… Heller writes, “in the real world, we’re reasonably well behaved. We don’t need laws to make you hold the door for the person behind you. We don’t have fines for pushing your way to the front of a checkout line. There are no cops looking to arrest people who don’t say “excuse me” when they bang your buggy at the store.” He continues, “Outside of the occasional exception – which goes viral because it’s so unusual – no one really violates these basic social rules.”

“Until we go online… There we attack each other like children. We snap at “the other side” with names and flames like they are sub-humans. We cut down strangers with vicious insults just to make ourselves feel superior. We get off on clickbait where someone’s being “destroyed” or “slammed,” then dive into the outrage battle that follows. Our friends and co-workers and neighbors become raging haters on social media. Towards people they don’t even know.” And I might add, without nearly enough facts to even weigh in. “It’s embarrassing, if you think about it.” Heller says, “And it’s driving us apart.”

Heller continues, “Confident people don’t enjoy making others feel bad. So, this probably has a lot to do with fear. We seem to be suffering an epidemic of low self-esteem. Maybe it’s scary to live in an unequal, materialistic society, where our self-worth is defined by Photoshopped images and impossible perfection. Maybe the constant feed of terrible events from all over the world creates the optical illusion that bad things happening once-in-a-while, are happening everywhere and all the time. So we seek validation from others, insist on our ideological certainties, and attack anyone who dares to challenge our comfortable preconceptions.”

In conclusion Heller writes, “Here’s the thing. We live in a democracy. Facebook and social media have become our public square. We need to figure out how to talk to each other in a way that connects, not divides. We’ve developed etiquette for our face-to-face connections. As more of our interactions take place online, we need rules there too.”

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So how does this affect us in Toccoa-Stephens County? What will help us to be set apart? We are a community, a family. Our community, as every community, is made up of imperfect people. We should be certain to practice the art of thinking through the issues we face as a community, so we understand all sides and perspectives instead of simply reacting with an emotionally charged response. Listening with respect for others’ opinions will help those around us to do the same. Let’s take the approach to show grace toward one another, as we would like it shown toward us. We are all familiar with the golden rule. It’s a truth we must not forget: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I believe we would all prefer that someone come to us directly to try and resolve an issue rather than take to social media. We should be intentional to set the best example in how we handle discrepancies or disagreements with others, for those around us to see because they are watching.

Let’s remember as our children learn in school: Before you speak, THINK; - is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, and is it Kind? Great questions for all of us to ask before we speak, or post.

We should always be kind and encouraging even when we don’t agree. As my mama used to say, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Share concerns, offer suggestions with the big picture in mind, and always surround the negative with positive. There is a lot of positive in Toccoa-Stephens County, and the people here is what makes this place so special!

We won’t always agree but if we are going to move forward in life as a prosperous community and leave a positive, lasting impression on those we love, we must choose to be part of the solution.  Join the team and make a difference.