Tell me, what has happened to us?
How did the discourse between us become so violent, so extreme and unrestrained? How did social media become a place where nothing seems to be off limits, where people feel free to badmouth others, humiliate them, denigrate them, and treat rivals or simply people with different opinions as enemies?
It is hard to deny that social media networks have brought a lot of good to the world. They often allow for a plurality of opinions and the creation of terrific communities that provide help and support and sometimes even save lives.
But today, there is also no doubt that the boundaries are too blurred and that these wonderful platforms are also used for harassment, bullying and violence. We have all come across insults, foul language and forms of expression that we must not tolerate. The Internet doesn’t need to tolerate this, and we don’t need to tolerate this either.
We have to change this extreme and violent discourse. This change begins with the keyboards and smartphones of each and every one of us. Just before sending out another insulting reply, simply because we can, and just before we use our words to sully or trample on people who see things differently from us, we have to stop, take a deep breath, and remember: foul language and hurtful words never do any good. They only cause harm.
They harm not only the individuals we attack. First and foremost, they harm all of us: they harm our society, and our ability to live here together and build a shared future together. This is the first necessary step: to put an end to keyboard violence.
There is another step, one of bringing light and good to the world, or as the psalmist says: “Shun evil and do good.” Because words carry incredible power. The power to create new realities and to transform them; the power to destroy, but also to rebuild. Therefore, believing in our ability to transform our social media discourse, I call on all of us to think good thoughts and I invite you all to join our campaign to encourage a different way of behaving online.
If we change the atmosphere, if we lift each other up, if we see the good in each other, compliment each other, shine our inner light and help others shine theirs, I am confident that together we can create a more pleasant public space, for the sake of our shared life here in this beautiful land. As the Jerusalemite poet Yehuda Amichai, wrote: “In this burning land, words must provide shade.”
As I said in my inaugural address as president: Let us choose, every day anew, a sense of “us.” Let us choose to win together, not to win out over each other. Let us choose to be gracious, to extinguish the flames of hatred with the Israeli spirit, to be generous in our love of Israel. Let us choose to be united, not only in our principles and values, but also in our hopes and dreams.
I believe that if we think good thoughts, and type good words, good will surely follow.
The writer is the president of the State of Israel.