Before the invention of Tik Tok, Netflix and even DVDs, people used to have to travel for miles to rent a movie on video home service or VHS. (If you don’t know that that is, ask your parents.) When renting a film, one would often find a sticker placed on the VHS cassette reminding you to “Be kind. Rewind.” It was a subtle reminder from the video store that it was a kind gesture to rewind the videotape for the next borrower. Most people would do this without question. Some would forget to do it and then feel guilty about it. Others wouldn’t do it all because they didn’t like to be told what to do or perhaps they were sending a message to the video store that their rental wasn’t worth the 88 cents they paid. By and large though, most people agreed that rewinding was the right thing to do.
Since VHS tapes are (pretty much) a thing of the past, you don’t hear that phrase anymore, but recently I have been thinking about it in regards to conversations on social media. After a frustrating morning of reading friends’ posts on Facebook, I often find myself wanting to spout off telling them where they are wrong. I don’t do it as much as I used to and often I find myself starting to type a response and then quickly deleting it. I’m learning to “rewind” my thoughts and post something “kind” instead. I’m not very good at it yet, so often I just don’t respond at all.
Since COVID-19 hit and the Black Lives Matter protests began, I’ve seen an uptick in negative commentary in both posts and the comments from others. Whether or not to wear a mask, supporting people of color or who to elect for office are especially hot topics right now. Everyone is so concerned about their rights that they fail to listen to others. Some people will post farily benign thoughts only to be slammed in the comments for having the audacity to say such a thing. Others, like myself, will go on a rant about different injustices in the world without watching my tone. Some find it their mission to “educate” others with their point of view. Even today I read one post where a friend attempted to make an innocent joke and got blasted from another with a really long lecture.
Some people are convinced that their opinions are the only right ones and everyone else is stupid and they have no problem saying so. They will say, “Go ahead. Un-friend me. These are my opinions.” Ironically, they are not very open to hearing others’ opinions.What I find most disturbing are the biting comments that come from fellow people of faith. We would never speak so harshly like that to others in person, but everything is free game when it comes to social media. I’ve read statements from pastors, friends, co-workers and even family members that have stunned me. And I’m sure that they have read a few from me as well.
I’m not against the sharing of ideas or having healthy conversations, but Facebook fails to be a good place for debate. Still, if you choose to do so, can you be kind during your exchange? When it comes to politics, healthcare or what-not, do we Christians get a pass when we speak out against something? Do we have a right to call people names or use derogatory language? Is it okay for one to question the actions of a political figure without others assuming that they abandoning the party altogether?
Grandma was right. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Rewind. Be kind.
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.