On the week we broke the internet (and got a new water tower design in the process)…

Two weeks ago, my husband and I broke the internet.

Well, not really.  What we did do was try to make positive changes in our community via the internet.

Two weeks ago, I noticed the city council’s pick of a design for a new water tower.  I jokingly asked my husband to make a new design – because he is hilarious and I knew he could do a better design in less than five minutes.  He posted his new design on Facebook.  By noon that day we started a Facebook group claiming the water tower design was lame.  Then we asked people to submit new water tower designs, and asked people to vote on the design they liked the best.

Mlive (a local news source) did a few stories on our group (thanks again Mlive – especially you Will!).

The city council held a special meeting –where one of the topics was picking a new water tower design.

Last night – the city council picked a new design based off of submissions from our Facebook group.

The designs people submitted were beautiful.  I feel so incredibly proud of Jackson, and so incredibly proud of the level of creativity that runs throughout our city.  I am also incredibly thankful that the city council was receptive to reconsidering a new design.  Overall, I am just thankful and grateful.

I also learned a huge lesson about the internet: people on the internet can be jerks.  I go online and read three newspapers a day, and I peruse the comments section.  I always knew that there were a select group of people that were incredibly cruel.  It is one thing to read the cruelty when it is directed toward an op-ed piece on a news site.  It is entirely different to have people rip apart and denigrate the creative work of others for no apparent reason other than to be a jerkface.

When my husband and I created the group we had two rules: we would be positive about Jackson and we would never be mean to people that posted cruel things.  For the last two weeks, I think my husband and I have had several nose bleeds from taking the high road.

Foucault’s discourse analysis looks at how power can take form via language.  In other words, the moment you put something into language – you give it power.  By talking about the water tower design, we gave that power.  By talking about the negative comments via the water tower, I am giving them power.  We heard one guy ranting about how dumb our water tower Facebook group was.  I giggled thinking “We won.  You just gave us power.”  Then, I caught myself in my own ironic trap and thought “Damn, did he just win because I gave his conversation power by talking about it?”

It is easy to get lost the power of it all.  So – let’s not get lost.  Moving forward, there are three things my husband and I want to do with our new found “power”.

First, we want to give power away.  The worst bosses are the people that sit atop of their knowledge and never disperse it.  Those bosses make you feels scared and intimidated.  We don’t want to be that type of boss.  Through this Facebook group, and through voting, my husband and I realized we have the ability to help people’s voices be heard.  We want to give more power to that.  We have an entire generation of people who feel like no one in government cares about what they are saying.  We want to help end that.  We have a bunch of residents who love Jackson and are waiting to see where they can help.  We want to give power to those positive voices.  We want our generation to be active and engaged.  We want people to feel like their views and voices are important.  We want to take the power of people’s voices on the internet, and channel them into streams where a positive impact can be felt throughout the communities in which people live.

Second, we are going to die of nose bleeds.  By that, I mean we are always going to keep our integrity.  A few days ago my husband looked at me and said a level of annoyance, “You ALWAYS take the high road.”  He is right.  I always do and I always will (well, more like 95% of the time).  I would rather die being kind to someone than live knowing I have the power to tear a man down and make him feel like he is less than I.  There is no love in that lifestyle.  There is no real victory in that lifestyle.  When people are mean to my husband or me it hurts my heart.  My human reaction is to punch that person (we are all human first).  However, because I have the ability to exercise control, my reaction will never be to punch.  My reaction will be to remain kind.  That does not mean we will be doormats to people whose only action is to tear us down.  I will walk away from cruelty and I will remove myself from abuse.

Third, I pray that everything we do is to honor God and help people feel the love and compassion of Christ.  Over the past two weeks, I have never felt so torn down in my entire life.  Fortunately, every time someone said something mean – we had 10 people on our side lifting us up.  We had friends writing to us sending us words of love and kindness.  We had strangers defending us.  Despite feeling torn down, I do not know if I have ever felt so much love.  More than that, my husband and I had some amazing reactions with complete strangers.  One person wrote saying that he was disappointed that he missed the deadline to vote and that he had tough personal day.  My husband wrote back and sent the stranger kind words.  My husband and this stranger then proceeded to have an amazing conversation.  God’s grace came through in that moment.  Wherever we meet anger with kindness, we find God.  Whenever we meet dissent with compassion, we find God.  Whenever we find God in any of these moments, we honor Him in what we do.  I pray that we continue to do that.