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Twitter and Megan Phelps-Roper

Photograph by Katy Grannan for The New Yorker

This is such an incredible story of how Megan Phelps-Roper, a former prized daughter of the loathsome Westboro Baptist Church, came to see the absurdity of her beliefs, lost her faith, left the church and her family, and completely changed the course of her life. The trigger behind this conversion? Twitter.

As Phelps-Roper continued to tweet, she developed relationships with more people like Hughes. […] “It was like I was becoming part of a community,” Phelps-Roper said. By following her opponents’ feeds, she absorbed their thoughts on the world, learned what food they ate, and saw photographs of their babies. “I was beginning to see them as human,” she said.

As disenchanted and disheartened as I sometimes am with the internet and the petty squabbles and fanatical comments it facilitates, it is hard to deny that as a whole, it still does more good than harm. As someone on Twitter puts it, this story is proof that arguing online because “someone is wrong on the internet” can sometimes change someone’s mind profoundly.

Understanding breeds compassion. So much of what is wrong with our world today stems from our fear, reluctance or inability to see people who are different from us for what they are at the core: fellow human-beings with the same hopes, fears, dreams, sorrows and quirks, and who are all as imperfect as we are. Some politicians capitalise on or fan this fear for self-serving purposes. It is really up to us to see through their ploy and recognise that ultimately, our differences are what unite us, and kindness and empathy trump all.

 

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