Words hold a degree of sway over human emotions. It falls upon us as, writers especially, to wield these weapons wisely.
While browsing a social media site, I came across a deliberately inflammatory post and quietly mourned as I read through the flame war1 that naturally ensued. It does not, however, require a provocative statement to start a barrage of insults and personal attacks. Trolls2 aside, any discussion of strongly held beliefs can cause discomfort or even rage in the audience. If you think hard enough, you will find some topic about which you occasionally become irrational. .
Does that mean we should shy away from sensitive topics, wading in social niceties and empty altruisms? Of course not! As a keeper of words, it is your responsibility not just to entertain but to engage, challenge and enlighten the world around you. What it does mean is that to reach the broader audience, we need to communicate in a civil manner.
Respect is too often missing from social discourse. Respect starts with understanding that whatever race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliation you claim, billions of your neighbors on this little blue rock differ from you. Your words, no matter how eloquent, will fail to reach some percentage of your audience. Incendiary and abusive remarks might stir up the bastion of hardcore proponents you already have, but they will rarely make a way for dialogue and understanding.
In the end, it is your choice. How do you want to impact your environment? Who is your intended audience and what is the purpose of your communication? Remember this, words can build a bridge or words can topple nations.
1 A flame war is a verbal altercation conducted over the internet often devolving into personal attacks between opposing sides
2 A troll is a person who deliberately instigates controversy without any purpose beyond creating chaos