What if we made a point of creating an Internet climate that is mostly positive, supportive and caring?What if it became a forum for calling out homophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and all other forms of discrimination as the petty, childish and ignorant rants that they are? What if we challenged our children to post an affirming message to someone or some group every day—maybe a person or group that they have observed to be I need of extra encouragement? What if they did it every day for a week and then reported back to the family?
Since I posted last weeks I have received some very encouraging replies about how people are using the Internet, in spite of its limitations, to make connections of kindness and encouragement that they would otherwise not be able to make. The following came from L. Mitton:
After your last post about the Internet, I already had a response I wanted to make. In this one you show the need for exactly what I wanted to say! While the challenges of the Internet are valid, the opposite is also true! The Internet is an excellent means of connecting with others! In addition to social media, which is such a blessing to me as a recently divorced, nearly empty-nester. There are so many relationships which have been renewed because it’s so much easier now!
She then went on to describe a website where we can offer actual service that is specific to the needs of our own communities. She describes it as follows:
Identified by ZIP Code, http://www.justserve.org is bringing together the community needs with people who want to help! It’s use here in GA &SC is drastically improving our cities as well as the lives of those who step out to volunteer! Notably vulnerable populations such as the homeless, the disabled, the elderly, become recipients of the efforts of people like me with time to help. In today’s political climate, it’s so obvious that it won’t be our government who improves our cities & towns, it will be through the efforts of groups who congregate to serve. If it’s not up and running in your area, look at the website & use the Augusta-area zip code 30909, for an example. Created by the LDS church, not for proselytizing in any way, it has great potential to do just what your article expresses; help people be of help to others! This breaks down barriers & encourages meaningful giving!
My good friend Brady Emmett also listed a number of sites where people can volunteer. He names the following:
– Equality Florida Pulse Victims Fund (https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund)
– Affirmation (https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/affirmationdonations)
– Equality Michigan (https://act.myngp.com/Forms/9174096992633161728)
– OxFam (https://www.oxfamamerica.org/donate/)
– Growing Hope (http://growinghope.net/)
The point of all of these ideas is that we can not only perform real acts of charity and service but, by changing the atmosphere of the Internet, we can also change the climate of our society. The Internet is a powerful tool with worldwide access. It has the potential to build a universal community of inclusiveness, justice and love. We can use it to break down barriers of divisiveness and fear and focus on the elements that we share—need for adequate food, shelter and health care, love of family, room for laughter, opportunities for growth and the freedom to pursue our dreams. We cannot allow hatred and divisiveness to win. We cannot continue in the “us versus them” mentality. The time is far spent for us to move toward a world that treasures harmony and peace. The Internet is uniquely capable of moving us in that direction.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.