I wasn’t going to write a post in reaction to Richard’s involvement with Cybersmile and the things that he’s said in the interview, blog post, and tweets relating to it. I understood what he was saying and can appreciate the points he was trying to make, so although some fans were upset by his words, I wasn’t one of them. now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading the opposing blog posts and comments in regards to this subject and I think they all have merit, the issues they are bringing forth are sound and worth discussing; I just don’t think Richard was necessarily talking to us. we’re not why he’s doing this.
I have a 10 year old daughter–she’ll turn 11 this summer (a Leo, like Richard), so she’s one of the youngest in her upcoming 6th grade class. I think she’s the target audience for these talks, preteens/teenagers/young adults. they’re the ones who have not known a world that didn’t include social media in some form. they don’t write letters, send them in the mail, and wait weeks or months until they get a reply. they don’t depend on a physical Library to get their information from, some of them don’t have the benefit of family members who give them their undivided attention. the majority of them have social media in their hands, literally, from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to sleep at night. they don’t have the life experience to understand that kind of power. every knee-jerk reaction comes pouring out of their fingertips, for better and for worse, and spread over vast virtual areas.
I mentioned my daughter specifically (I have a 15 year old son as well but he already thinks he knows everything) because these issues have become very relevant to her, as of late. she experiences first hand how her peers lash out in anger, jealousy, and fear on a regular basis through text messages, saying horribly nasty and taunting things. then deleting those conversations later, pretending they didn’t happen with excuses of lighten up, I was only kidding, don’t be a cry baby. all of this from friends, not bullies, friends. the way she gets push-and-pulled emotionally, back and forth, is disheartening. she’s not completely innocent herself, she joins in because she knows no other way, that’s how children her age communicate. she knows it’s wrong in her heart because it makes her feel bad, both when it’s directed at her and when she directs it at someone else, but what other way is there? I think this is what Richard was trying to get across– the flip side– how sometimes we’re the bullies without realizing it. don’t react in anger, stop and think why you might be having the particular reaction you are having to someone’s words/actions, use your real picture/name to begin with so that it will automatically cause you to think twice about saying things that you might not be too proud of later, etc.
I try to get my daughter to vent to me first, to give her a chance to think through how she feels before she hits reply, and plead with her to stop engaging– walk away, say what you need to say and then stop because it will be never ending if you don’t. meanwhile my tongue is bleeding from how forcefully I’m biting it, wanting to tell her exactly what I think of these “friends” and what nasty mean girls they are, resisting the urge to grab that handheld reality show and go all Mama Bear with text replies of my own…but I don’t, because I’m the adult and I know what will follow will not help anything. I know because I lived through those kinds of friendships myself in my youth. I’m an adult who has life experience. an adult that knows how to pick my battles, who knows that her circle of friends/school is not the whole world. I know that not “everyone” is against me, that not “everyone” will believe the petty lies that might get told about me in revenge, that not “everyone” is making fun of me or whispering about me behind my back. she’s not an adult, she’s 10 years old.
but when her Mom tells her that “the guy who plays Thorin” is addressing these very issues, she stops to listen. we talk about all of the things we’ve talked about many times before but if “that guy whose picture is on Mom’s keychain” is saying the same things, maybe those things will work. if it’s important to someone like him, a movie star who wears suits to walk down colored carpets and takes selfies in mirrored sunglasses, then maybe it’s happening in other places, to other kids, in other countries. just thinking about that may take away some of the weight she’s been giving it.
If Richard waited until he knew all the ins and outs of social media himself before he spoke out about these issues, waited until he had answers to all the opposition, it would never get done. and my daughter may not have had the courage to stop engaging in one of those detrimental text conversations yesterday. she may not have realized that she has a choice, that the power rests with her. she may have done those things next week or next month because I would have kept talking with her about these things (and I’ll still need to, because learned behaviors don’t change overnight) but she would not have told me just this morning how much lighter she feels. she would not have ignored that particular friend’s nonsense and thus be looking forward to a stress-free (her words) weekend.
Richard gave my daughter that just by attaching his name to something like this, just by giving one small interview and taking the time to write a blog post. other children, teens, young adults can benefit from these things he’s said as well and I sincerely hope they do.
It was never about us.
It’s about them.