363/366 – Hope Can Bloom Online
It’s easy to believe, especially with the turbulent year that we’ve had in 2016, that the internet is inherently cynical about most things. Given how natural it is for some people online to say what’s on their mind even when it isn’t particularly pleasant to say or think about, this isn’t a surprise. There’s a lot of motivation for people to just feel like being a negative nancy online, and when there are a few other people who feel the same way and you read how they’re feeling day in and day out, it can be easy to fall into the cynics’ trap as well.
But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be good things that start online or that there can’t be some infusion of hope. It may seem like needless or unrealistic optimism, but for every depressing or unhappy comment that you see online, there are chances that you see hopeful and optimistic messages on the same subject, or things that spread as the result of the internet being, well, the internet. Whether it’s a hashtag or a picture or a thought that people decide is worth reminding others about, I feel like there’s still inspiration to be found in places when it feels like things are dark and without much of a good outcome.
I’ve seen these sorts of viral, hopeful trends take the form of not just text but other types of media as well. An impromptu memorial taken on peoples’ smartphones. Solidarity shown through a shared discussion thread or an impromptu donation drive for people in need. A crowdsourcing for people looking for places to stay when their area is fraught with crisis or a disaster. It may seem like these don’t exist when they exist sandwiched between so much of the despair and awful that we get exposed to reading and writing online every day, but they do show up and they deserve plenty of attention when they do happen.
Perhaps it’s seeing this hope spring in small places and in ways that seem unexpected that actually makes it more powerful. Were we to exist in a place or a world in which it was overhwhelmingly easy to come by, we might not appreciate the value of it when it does show up in our feeds and in our messages. That’s waxing philosophical a little bit, but I think that the way that it looks, it’s like an old saying that’s been passed around in various forms – you find the true strength and measure of people not when they are successful, but when they are knocked down and have to get back up from something that seems to be a crushing weight. Cynics may abound online, but that doesn’t mean that when hope is actually presented that the cynical attitude has to win. Sometimes, it’s best to nurture a little bit of hope for the future among others online who might be feeling the same way and wanting to do better by themselves, or by others, even if the effort might be more futile than first thought. Otherwise, it’d be a very hard life indeed, either online or offline, being mired in some of the bad things that can typify any day that we’re living.