Stay in Your Lane, AKA Mind Your Own Business.

We moved to the US in the month of November. It was cold, there were few leaves on the trees, but the days were bright and clear. Around about January, thin metal sticks (about as thick as a man finger) started cropping up. They were tall (about 4ft / 1.5m) and usually orange. They would appear at corners, say, where a person’s driveway met the street. They also cropped up on grassy verges along roads and parking lots.

It was fairly obvious that they were positioned to mark edges where lawn met road, but we couldn’t figure out why they had appeared in places they had never been before.

Eventually, I asked a friend who laughed and said they were for when the snow came. I was still rather baffled. She explained that when the snow fell, it was difficult to see borders or boundaries; a blanket of snow covered everything And, even after it was plowed, the piles of snow obscured where road met lawn. 

These orange marker sticks helped people stay on the paved roads and off the curbs, verges, and lawns. 

After living my life in South Africa, I simply couldn’t picture how snow arrived in such quantity that the street in front of my house could vanish. Although we had a wide range of weather in Cape Town, you never had to shovel the sun or rake the wind to see where to drive!

Now, years later, and with piles of snow heaped down the sides of the road, I have come to appreciate these orange markers that help you stay in your lane.

 Credit: artwork by Alex Solis.

Recently, with all the time spent indoors, a thought struck me: social media needs orange driveway markers, some sort of clear signal that states “stay in your lane.” These virtual markers could have an image of a nose with a giant line through it. In other words, keep your nose out of other people’s business.

Social media is a Pandora’s box: a present that seems valuable but, in reality, is a curse. It allows all of us to share whatever pops into our minds: Witness me with my blog announcements. But, despite all its obvious drawbacks, it does give an opportunity to connect, learn, socialize, connect and grow. 

What I don’t get is why people feel it is their duty to comment, critique, evaluate, and dissect other people’s posts. When did all these people become experts on everything? All of us see countless posts that we think are daft, annoying, childish, rude, or worse, but the majority of us are capable of scrolling past. Why do others feel compelled to expend their valuable energy on some random post, often by someone they barely know?

I shake my head when I see people jump in and start (virtually) yelling about someone else’s post when it has absolutely nothing to do with their lives. They were not asked their opinion, and the topic is unrelated to their area of concern or their goals, yet they burn off huge amounts of energy attacking the poster. I accept that everyone is free to express their thoughts, but do some people wake up automatically disgruntled, ready to go to war? Do they seek out anything that could upset their sensibilities in order to launch an attack?

Yes, I also read posts that make me roll my eyes, sigh, or cause my blood pressure to rise, but I simply scroll past them. It takes enough energy just minding my own business. I certainly don’t have the energy to tackle someone else’s.

The other day, after an old acquaintance posted yet another inflammatory comment and a hundred people got into a full-on verbal brawl, I was tempted to post my Social Media Driveway Markers.’

Here are my stay-in-your-lane markers:

You have the right to remain silent. You aren’t required to give air to every single thought that pops into your head. The world will not grieve the loss of your pearls of wisdom. 

Follow the guidance of American educator Stephen Covey. He talks about your Circles of Control, Influence, and Concern. If you cannot control it, do not get stressed about it. If you cannot influence it, do not get upset about it. Focus on what you can change, not on what you cannot. 

What other people post is only your business if you choose it to be. Choose wisely.

And as my mother would say: if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say (post) anything at all.

Lastly, think before you speak (post.)

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