While social media — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat — all have beneficial uses, one dismaying aspect is how mean people can be to each other when they are typing words into a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Between the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests following George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, Facebook has become nearly toxic. Otherwise good-hearted people are posting memes that are often inaccurate and usually cruel. Many of these memes are designed to belittle, to humiliate, to mock or to point out the “otherness” of people.

Memes take highly complex, nuanced situations and boil them down into a few words and a photo or two. It is very sad that meme posting is how many citizens in our country are choosing to have social discourse over the big issues facing our country.

The positive spin here is that American citizens can be better than this. Instead of airing their political, philosophical or religious views on Facebook, they can take the time to walk across the street and meet their neighbors.

Engage with other human beings, face to face, and begin the truly needed conversations about what is right and what is not in America and how each person can effect change. Nothing is stopping citizens from reaching out and learning about the lives others live: rural and urban, people of color and white people, the faith community and atheists.

There are many chasms of understanding to be bridged, and only by building bridges of empathy and clarity will this country be able to resolve these issues and create a country that is great for all.