Who remembers that feeling of being completely carefree? For me, it casts me back to being a child. My greatest worry was about whether my friends would be free to go and play in the park after school, or whether I’d get that Barbie house that i ADORED from Father Christmas this year. Life’s intricacies were not yet formed in a world of colouring in, potato smiley faces and grazed knees.
So yesterday, on 22nd March 2017, after a day of watching threatening headlines unfold, and uncensored images fill my timeline, I found myself huddled under a blanket watching Cinderella. I’m 25 years of age, and my initial knee-jerk reaction was to bury myself into a fairytale to escape from the reality of what was happening. Because escape from reality was all my childhood was about, pretending to be princesses or wizards and fleeing life’s “hardships” through play. It’s only now, as I feel that I really start to head into adulthood, that I realise that part of being a “grown up” is how we learn to face the realities of what life presents to us.
Life is hard. Life is shocking. Life isn’t a play-by-play of normal occurences that happen to everyone. And I feel like the moment we realise this is the moment we come into adulthood. It could be just realising how tough it is to make ends meet and pay your bills, feeling your first proper loss and experiencing grief, or it could be the moment we see that other people, who seem exactly like us, can do things that are harrowing beyond belief.
What shapes us as adults and human beings is how we learn to cope with these moments in life. Initially, sure, we may need a reprieve, to hide under a fluffy duvet and immerse yourself in a Disney movie for a couple of hours, to allow space to process the information that we are, as millenials, forced to bear witness to. But how we choose to deal with this information will be what shapes us as decent human beings. Seeing graphic imagery should never feel normal. Sharing photos of the injured and dying to your “followers” should never feel normal. Speculating about people you don’t know, concocting your own version of events and sharing this amongst your peers should never feel normal. And yet, in this day and age, it is the first reaction for many.
I willingly put my hands up and say that when I hear of something happening, I head to Twitter. In a world where we need information in an instant, Twitter is there to provide a constant stream of hearsay and speculation that settles that craving for news, fast. But I’m writing this blog post as a plea to myself, and to others that may read this, to stop. To stop and assess what you are doing. Not every piece of news is credible. Not every image you share is suitable to be seen. Past the news articles, the phone camera shots, and the live instagram feeds, there are normal people who are affected by something real, that to us is seen as passing information. I am asking us to stop and realise that what has happened is not just something you witness on your television screens, and not just something to tweet about to gain more followers, it is real life. There are no fairytale villains and They lived Happily Ever After‘s, it is real life. There are mothers, fathers, children, co-workers, classmates who are affected and who’s lives have been altered from the course of the narrative they thought they were on.
So I simply ask us to do the following:
- Try to choose what you believe in the media responsibly. Understand that “Breaking News” is never normally accurate, and to ensure we don’t share the opinions and speculations of others without first thinking whether it is actually beneficial.
- Be mindful of sharing images and videos that contain graphic content. You don’t know how simply clicking that “share” button could impact a person who see’s it. Think of those beyond yourself. No one should have to bear witness to something if they didn’t choose to. The media does it enough, don’t add to it personally.
- Please seek kindness and unity with others. In times of terror and fear, it is easy to split apart, blame others and divide ourselves. But that is exactly what fear shouldn’t do. Fear should be about finding courage in others, about finding strength in togetherness and understanding that respecting what has happened can be done by simply sharing a bit of kindness, rather than a tweet.
Life doesn’t always give us the happy endings that are so often drilled into us as children. But we can choose to spread happiness, kindness, sympathy and understanding amongst our friends, family and fellow citizens. Life’s path is never certain, but if we choose to take each step as the best people we can possibly be, the road will always seem much easier.
To all my fellow Londoners, and actually everyone who reads this, spread a little kindness today in honour of those whose lives were changed yesterday. It is the simplest and noblest thing we can do.
– Koko x