January 2, 2022 archive

"Is It true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?" would be a good filter for posting to social media

multiple images containing the questions

When my wife and I were raising our daughters, there came a point when we tried to impress upon them that just because something was true didn’t mean you needed to SAY that right then. Yes, Dad might have dark circles under his eyes and look terrible because he was up all night sick, but does he really need to hear “you look terrible” right at this exact moment in time? That may be true, but did he need to hear it?

At some point we started suggesting running comments though a filter of three questions:

  • Is it TRUE?
  • Is it NECESSARY?
  • Is it KIND?

If the answer was “Yes” to all three, then go ahead and say it. If not, perhaps hold back.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that * I * don’t always hold to that. Sometimes I’ve fired off a snarky message on social media that, while true, was probably neither necessary or kind. 🙁

Which was what got me thinking about these questions again. Right now there is so much vitriol, anger, and even hatred spewed out by people online. It’s been this way for years now… just look at the comments section for almost any YouTube video. And some of us of a certain age can remember back to some of the meanness in some Usenet newsgroups.

But I think it’s gotten worse lately. In part because of some of the extreme polarization that has happened politically in many countries around the world. There’s a winner-take-all, “you’re with us or you are the enemy” kind of mindset that is increasingly prevalent. And two years of a global pandemic have affected us all. We’re fatigued, exhausted, frustrated, angry … we aren’t at our best.

Just last week a young woman enthusiastically announced on Twitter that she was so excited about a new job at a company working with cryptocurrencies. She was excited and delighted to start, and was eager to work with other people.

And then people piled on her saying truly terrible things because they didn’t like the company she was joining or the overall industry into which she was going. Very mean, personal things.

You could watch in her subsequent tweets as what had started as a joyous celebration announcement turned into something extremely negative.

Why did people need to do that?

Sure, some of what might have been said might have been true about the company. And yes, the cryptocurrency “industry” is currently full of scams and fraud.

But was any of that truly necessary to share with this particular person? And was it kind to her?

We so often seem to forget when we fire off quick messages on social media, in particular, that there are human beings just like us on the other end of the exchange who will be receiving our snark and vitriol.

And right now with all the pandemic fatigue, in particular, critical statements we might brush off at another time can instead be taken quite hard.

If we all could use these questions as a filter BEFORE posting, might we wind up making the world a bit kinder?

Something to think about.

The origins of those questions

As an aside, I couldn’t remember where my wife and I had first heard those questions. (Perhaps on social media!) So I did some digging and found that, as the image with this post shows, there are many different versions of the questions in different orders. Some attribute the phrase to Buddha, but this article explains how that is false. The author noted that there are similarities in Buddhist texts, and dug deeper to find a Victorian-era (1872) poem by Mary Ann Pietzker, and references even before that to a “Reverend Mr. Stewart”.  Other articles point out similarities to a Quaker “three sieve” story, and even to some statements from Socrates. We may never know the exact origins, but regardless the questions are good ones.