One year ago a picture of Bono, lead singer of U2, and former President George W. Bush was taken at Bush’s Texas property. The picture was widely shared across the internet. People enjoyed the sight of a rock star and former President hanging out on a western ranch. As so often happens, most were missing the history and bigger picture which make the story even better.
As a history teacher, I live for adding detail and backstory to make the story richer and fuller.
I posted the following of Facebook:
There is a great lesson to be learned from this picture and accompanying story. There are more to be learned from the reaction to it.
1. Most People yearn for more positive stories. The post was shared over 75,000 times. Many people read it, had a smile, and then passed it along in the hopes of making someone else have the same feeling. They would love to have the opportunity to do it more.
2. “Trust” needs to make a comeback. I was amazed at the number of people who commented something to the effect of “I’m not sure if this is true, but I sure hope so.” It is really sad to think that so much of what happens on the internet these days is not based in fact that people don’t know what they can believe or trust.
3. More people need to understand, and use, the option of “scrolling along.” The post never said, or even moderately implied that either Bono or George W. Bush were perfect. They are not, neither am I nor you. My intention was to point out what can happen when people focus on what they have in common and their power to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, lots of commenters took this as an opportunity to criticize Bush and Bono, often getting downright nasty. For many people, this is their modus operandi, and they are difficult to ignore.
So what can you and I do to make help create a world in which stories like the one about the rock star and former President saving 11 million lives become the norm rather than the exception? Gandhi said it best:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Think about what you post, share, and comment. Are you doing it simply to feel good for the next ten minutes, or will it help the world grow into being a better place in ten years? Is it true, factual, fair, and accurate? When people post stories that are not, they are making our country and world worse.
When you read a positive story about someone or something you have a problem with, ask yourself do you really need to throw a negative comment on a story? You have to know that someone else is going to respond, and probably take it a level lower. Before long, what started out as a well intentioned story has turned into an ugly internet comment brawl, which does no one any good.
Think about the people and sites you follow and repost. Are they trying to inform, inspire, and create a positive atmosphere? Or, are they sites like Alex Jones’ ‘Infowars” which say things like “The parents of the Sandy Hook Victims are paid actors.” If you support sites that have the goal of further dividing us, remember that you are helping them achieve that goal. Content providers on the internet will behave in the way they are rewarded for.
The story of Bono, Bush, and Africa is an incredible one. Each of us have talents and gifts that we can use to help make the world a better place. Each of us has imperfections and past mistakes. We can all learn from how these two men focused on their abilities and power, rather than their shortcomings.
We can also learn from the reaction to my post. So many people cling to words like Patriotism and Christianity. Sharing lies, being mean, uncivilized, and nasty align with the values of neither. If you say you are a patriot and a Christian, be them on the internet too.
The internet has always been, and will continue to be what we make it.
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