By Jamie Neben

In a world full of differences, the fact that we are so alike seems hard to believe.  We live in different places, have different faces, and speak different languages.  We pray to different gods and grow up with different life experiences.  Yet, the human condition binds us together and extends from the largest cities to the far corners of the earth.  Our emotions and feelings, although very personal, are not unique. We all know the pleasure of joy and the agony of pain.  We’ve all been brave in certain situations and afraid in others. We mourn our loved ones with equal grief in the wake of tragedy.  We have so much in common that it’s unexplainable why some people try their best to disrupt our lives rather than helping us to develop into a more connected state.

The intentional chaos that mankind creates is a veritable insult to humanity.  Everywhere you look, and especially on social media websites, meaningful discourse is interrupted by so-called trolls who spew inflammatory rhetoric for the sole purpose of agitating the other participants.  They often use religion and politics as their platforms, knowing those topics cause more division than anything else has in world history.  The most troubling aspect of this ugly reality is that the toxic venom doesn’t originate in a vacuum.  Our fellow human beings, perhaps some in our own communities, are posting these hateful words.  Chances are pretty good that we interact with them without even realizing it as we simply go about our daily business. The most startling realization is that they could be members of our own families.

I understand the notion that we’re all brothers and sisters is not for everybody and that’s fine.  I also know that we’re prone to disagree on many issues, and spirited debate is indeed healthy and necessary to make progress as well as to keep the peace.  But I am very curious as to why people who are of sound mind, and are often quite intelligent, feel the need to descend into darkness.  When did they start believing it was acceptable to abandon civilized conversation simply because they can remain relatively anonymous?  Actual random acts of violence that occur away from the computer are exponentially disturbing.  No satisfactory answer exists that justifies attacking a stranger who has done nothing to provoke such an act.

Fortunately, there is still evidence of unity, compassion and charity on a large scale.  For instance, we are always quick to send aid to natural disaster victims around the globe.  We sponsor children so that they will not die of starvation or disease.  As a society, we are increasingly recognizing the freedom associated with marriage equality.  If we treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of whether we communicate in person or through a computer screen, we bring honor to ourselves.  In doing so, we are also using our hearts and minds in the way that they were truly intended, which is to say that we become connected.