We live in an age dominated by Social Media. This has allowed anyone and everyone the ability to comment on anything at any time whether or not they have good reason. It has opened up national conversations on things that otherwise would not even be known beyond a small group of people. All of this has given too many people the idea that their opinion should not only be heard, but adhered to.
We see it every day; people commenting and attacking on Social Media or other digital outlets. We use the term “trolls” to call out some of these people. However, it has now reached the level of normal for people to shout from the sidelines their opinion and feelings and expect to be validated.
I live in an area where college football is more than a big deal. Some could go so far as to call it a religion. Every Saturday from the end of August through the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of people spend their time screaming at a TV or a field an opinion and feelings about what a coach and players are or are not doing. Then the following week, call-in talk shows and online forums are filled with people who think their opinion should be heard and followed.
Here’s the thing, the majority of the talking is coming from people who are not doing. For example, the average college football team has about 65 players on its roster. Of those 65, only 11 can be on the field at a time. On any given play, two or three coaches are conferring to call the play, at most. Yet, during the game, tens of thousands of people all have an opinion about what should be done and then get mad when what they wanted does not happen. For the following week, those thousands of people will spend time breaking it all down and complaining about what they did not like. A result we have seen is the overall tenure of coaches has gone down as schools and organizations feel the pressure to keep the screaming commenters happy.
I have played sports, coached sports, and enjoy watching sports. I can tell you unequivocally, playing is better than watching. Even more so, playing is better than commenting. I would venture to say that most former players turned commentator would rather still be playing if their bodies could handle it.
Throughout my life, whether on the field of competition or in leadership, I have had to face critics and commenters. I faced a firestorm over a blog post one time because some people felt I didn’t spend enough time talking about something they felt was important. Another time, I was the subject of a social media blitz that turned into some contacting the my fellowship demanding my removal. In both cases, there were wrong conclusions made without all the facts and just a difference of perspective that caused friction.
We all have a different perspective and that is actually OK. No, it is good. Somewhere along the way, the lie that we all have to agree all the time or the other is wrong became the pervasive norm. We live in a society where it seems differing opinions and perspectives are treated as evil. It’s a weird kind of reactionary, mob-rule censorship. The thing is, it changes; frequently. We have seen some famous people who have found themselves on the wrong end of that flip of current popular opinion. It flips fast. With instant 24 hour news and social media access giving a voice to anyone and everyone all the time, a single incident and emotional reaction can go viral and turn the tide right now.
Having a voice is good. Seeing that voice as the end is not. A tweet or a post or a comment or a shout out is not enough. It does not bring real change. The old saying is still just as true: actions speak louder than words.
The greatest athletes tend to speak less. They don’t have to say as much. Their actions and results do the talking.
Just as the player on the field or court is greater than the critic in the armchair, so is the one who is out there doing something greater than the one who trolls around looking for a place to comment online.
Participation is greater than commenting.
Yes, the best and the greatest do listen to others. They just know who to listen to. Yes, everyone should have a voice, everyone should also be willing to listen and engage constructively.
This advanced consciousness has been a good thing at times and brought needed change in ways that otherwise might not have happened. It was always a result of those who rolled up their sleeves and got involved, participated, got off the couch and took action.
We will only truly advance as a society when we engage each other in constructive and meaningful conversation AND get involved to do the work. Fly-by comments do not equal activism.
As leaders, we need to example this and make sure we are NOT just sitting in the stands screaming out an opinion and complaining when we don’t like something. We need to lead the way to constructive change through participation.
The player is greater than the commenter.