I am a recovering EYP.
I may no longer be one, by virtue of no longer being young, but I remember what it was like to be an Earnest Young Person.
It’s a good thing that modern social media didn’t exist when I was an EYP.
I’d have been insufferable.
Common EYP Sightings
You’ve seen the earnest people who take to Twitter and other social media to express their outrage over something. One common trope is along the line:
All (men, car owners, meat eaters, or whatever) are the cause of (pollution, deforestation, gum chewing in schools, etc.).
When the words come from a young person, there is a special umbrage that seems to flow principally from the young person recently discovering an issue and even more recently starting to express themselves about it. (Of course this phenomenon is not exclusively found in the young, just more common in the inexperienced than the experienced.)
EYP expressions tend to fall far short of the mark of facilitating dialog. As Christian Orton put it:
And in reply, Olivia Faix built on an idea I’d expressed earlier:
Eventually some of these people expressing themselves so earnestly in their indictments of whole swaths of people will look back with regret. It’s not that they will regret caring about their causes, or at least they shouldn’t if the cause is just. But they will regret their manner of discourse as being unproductive and perhaps even hurtful.
How do I know?
I used to be one of them, and I have those regrets.
The EYP In The Mirror
I was the EYP who stated my position so earnestly that it allowed for no debate, no discussion, no deliberation. Anyone who dared try to open a dialog that did not implicitly agree with me was met with my insistence that the person was ignorant, wrong, and clueless.
So now I see it happening around me on social media, an arena populated principally by people a lot younger than I am.
And I find myself failing to follow this advice:
It’s because I am not all that removed from being an EYP. I see a comment that I think is inane, such as those “All ____ are responsible for ______” tweets, and I want to jump in to correct the faulty logic, the mistaken premise, and the overall fatuousness of those statements.
What I’m discovering is that if I respond in that way, I’m really an EYP myself but without the excuse of being young. Believe me, I can recall with burning shame some of the times I did this when I was younger. So you’d think I would be more understanding of those who are engaging in it now.
I’d like to be, that’s for sure, because unless younger people take steps to express themselves now they won’t learn how to do it better as they get older. In fact, all of us – young and old – are still learning to do it better.
It’s like learning to walk. Parents let their babies take stumbling steps, and eventually the stumbling stops. Some of those babies will grow up to be track stars, they move their feet so well. Others of us are pleased just to be able to walk from one place to the next.
When it comes to speaking out on issues, we also start with stumbling steps. Some people eventually become track stars in their ability to do so, while others of us are more pedestrian in how we express ourselves. But the goal for all of us is to move past the stumbling stage.
As I said initially, I am a recovering EYP (with “recovering” being the operative word). So when it comes to using words, I hope to avoid this:
Many words mark the speech of a fool.(Ecclesiastes 5:3.)
Instead I’d rather adopt this:
He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people. (Acts 20:2.)
The area I travel includes the internet – blogs, Twitter, Facebook – so if I am to speak I want to speak “words of encouragement to the people”.
It doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t you should feel free to tell me I’m being an EYP.
But in all our internet travels let’s remember that the best words are “many words of encouragement’ to all the people we meet.