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‘The pen is mightier than the sword’; ‘Time is a great healer.’
They are two of the oldest sayings in the book and in many ways they complement and support each other. The result of using the sword is instant and at its most effective it generally doesn’t allow the outcome to be modified.
On the other hand, intelligent use of the pen, i.e. writing something with a clear head and thought, is physically less damaging than the barbaric sword and can be revised; or at least it’s not usually terminal.
In addition, it’s more time consuming and can get you much better results in the long run. In this way it’s tied in with time and, depending on the circumstances, healing – conversely, of course, it can be used to more devastating effect, depending on the author’s wishes.
The problem these days is that the pen has been replaced by the keyboard and keypad, linked to the World Wide Web, with the latter’s multitude ways of disseminating your message. Thus the old time advantage, insofar as allowing for review and reflection, is wiped out.
For sure, in many aspects instant communication can not only be advantageous, but a lifesaver. It can also be extremely efficient, especially in work environments. However, in other instances it is damaging and dangerous.
We’ve seen numerous examples where the careers of influential people have been tarnished or ended by publishing things on social media that on ‘mature reflection’ they should never have uttered, or at least made public knowledge.
Nonetheless our 21st century communication tools are just that – tools. And like all such things, how they are used and/or abused depends largely on the human being operating them.
Just because you have the means to immediately respond to or comment on something, doesn’t mean you must – this is obviously more pertinent when the context is a negative or attacking one. Some people (and this writer has been guilty in this regard), though, just can’t resist. A virtual swipe of the sword, carried out with little forethought.
Such actions are normally much worse if done ‘under the influence’. Indeed, in the same way that you shouldn’t drive when drunk, it would be a good idea for many to avoid means to communication – real as well as virtual in some cases – when inebriated.
Now, in mitigation, you do have the old nursery rhyme of ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’ Should we really let a few ill-advised comments, in whatever form they come, offend us? Judge people by their actions rather than their words.
This, however, brings us back to the old pen trumping the sword. As mentioned above, the written (and spoken) word can and does cause harm, as much as it may seem, in a physical way in any case, silly to let it.
So just before you engage in your blitzkrieg-esque virtual written warfare, pause for a moment, take a long walk if needs be. And remember, some things are better left unsent.
For a related piece, see Unsocial media.
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