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The best Kind of January

The Middle on New Year’s Resolutions? One that might actually make things better.

Here’s a thought.

Rather than “Dry January” or “Juice Cleanse,” how abut we do “Kind January?” You know, a full month to take the high road. Strive to find the silver lining, stay neutral in the fight — or at least stay on topic — without dropping insults and f-bombs.

We’ve all done it, I’ve done it.

We’ve also all regretted it immediately.

Some might feel this notion of finding a better, more positive way to work the bee out of our bonnet to be a bit Pollyanna but think, for a second, about the levels of vitriol and mud being slung the last year or two.

On blogs, podcasts, and the biggest of all: social media. Twitter alone, we can all agree, sees meanness and swear-riddled barbs tossed around in a way that hits a new level of shocking. The tone is awful, the arena seems so steeped in anger. The examples are endless, but one recent exchange sparked the idea for today’s topic of leading by example.

This past week a pair of women (both I know personally) went after one another on Twitter in a way that struck me as embarrassing to them both.

Did they know that thousands of us could see them being catty and disrespectful? Knowing them both, I’d venture to guess they were caught up in this new (ab)normal.

It was tough to watch. What might have been a loud phone conversation, or fiery email exchange, is now a series of postcards for us all to see.

Sure, these two are political polar opposites, the easiest of excuses for vitriol, but the tone went too far. The urge to step into the fray, to say “step back, it’s unbecoming,” was tough to resist.

Resist I did, mostly out of fear of attack. It was frenzied. More and more folks looking for middle simply don’t get involved to avoid the chaos that often comes with standing ground in The Middle.

Since social media became our societal norm, I have made a few great friends out of debates that could have gone down the rabbit hole of meanness, but didn’t. A simple “I guess we must agree to disagree” can defuse things quickly.

It’s more than just a little satisfying to calm the waters.

On our family vacation we witnessed a few instances where, in days gone by, we would have interjected with some middle mindfulness. In Maui we saw tacky tourists jump a barrier to get selfies with protected turtles — one jumped, others followed, and while there were eyerolls no one said boo.

It was a topic of discussion at our table – why no one stood up for the turtles — the answer was fear of escalation. In today’s society, situations escalate so rapidly that it’s unnerving to step up and step in. Verbal attacks have become normalized. It’s a disease.

The shift from decorum to outright rudeness in most every social media debate — it need not even be politics — is no holds barred open season.

We need more of the likes of Harry Leslie Smith, the veteran activist and author of “Harry’s Last Stand”, who passed away November 28. Harry was able to shut down vitriol with words rooted in facts and diplomacy. He pandered to no one, had seen too much in this world to suffer fools – yet cared enough to weigh in.

We all need to be more like Harry, don’t you think? Doesn’t it start with us? If we simply start with ourselves, not letting this new normal be our normal, we can walk this back.

It seemed like nothing to retweet swear-filled tweets if they were funny or hit the point we agree with (see: Kathy Griffin) or have ** in some letters to homogenize the impact, somewhat. Who doesn’t love Ricky Gervais defending innocent animals on Twitter? I can rarely retweet him due to his curious love of one of the words that is a “never” retweet.

The Kind January 2019 rules are simple. Look for the negatives: the “n” word, the “r” word, the “c” word, the fighting words, the bait. Don’t let a “b” word or an “f” word get a pass. Those are tossed out like they are benign — they are not.

We need to collectively, earnestly, and intently become mindful with our message.

Consider a Kind January. Beats the heck out of a juice cleanse.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.