“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln
I like social media. I frequent both Facebook and Twitter but after a number of years of emotional frustration I have been working the past few months to turn over a new leaf in how I conduct myself on it. I am learning though that sometimes strongly held opinions need to be muzzled in places dominated by people that like to slam their opposition with what amounts to sound bites, usually accompanied by some vitriolic picture and phrase to paint whoever and whatever they oppose in the worst possible manner. This is especially bad on Facebook and though I like the medium as a way to stay in contact with friends I am growing tired of its use as a vehicle to promote political, religious and other issues in a manner that cheapens debate and actually destroys any chance of reasonable discourse.
I used to join the political, ideological and religious wars on Facebook until they wore me out. I would try to enter into actual dialogue, get blasted, often by third parties that didn’t know me and then find that I got spun up and drawn into the muck. When I did that I felt cheapened and that something died in me. It wasn’t real debate, it was shouting and sometimes people that I thought were long time friends turned out only to be friends so long as I completely agreed with them.
Twitter seems to be a better fit for political discourse because at least there no-one is claiming to be a friend. They are followers or supporters maybe even haters and trolls but it is easy to not be as personally consumed by debate so long as one knows that going in, where I don’t know if Facebook has that distinction or if people understand that friends can disagree and still be friends.
Some of my twitter comments do end up on my Facebook page, but I do try to keep things separate. I would rather use Facebook now to keep up with friends and attempt to stay out of the political, social and religious wars that often envelope those pages. To do that I have worked over the past few weeks not to enter into those firefights on other people’s Facebook pages, even if I think that they are full of crap. I don’t have the energy for it. I would actually rather write well reasoned articles here and then deal with the replies.
As far as those that decide to comment on things I have on my Facebook page I try to be civil and reasoned now and sometimes just leave negative comments alone, not because I am afraid of conflict, but because I would rather try to maintain relationships rather than prove myself right. I figure that time will always tell.
I have around 1150 Facebook Friends. I would have a good number more had I not gotten into some of the firefights that I have over the years. Some was my own fault, but others, well intolerance is more common, especially among the more “conservative” Christians who I spent much of the last 20-30 years hanging around with. I was actually surprised to see how many of them were quick to savage me when I didn’t agree with their (and my former) religious-political-social views. Things got so bad that earlier in the year I went through my friends list and weeded out the dozen or so worst offenders, those whose posts that were the worst, most vicious, intolerant and mostly inaccurate that showed up on my page. I didn’t need the vitriol, hatred and viciousness. Out of 1100 or so friends I only got rid of about a dozen, and the sad thing that most were ministers, many from my former denomination which kind of creeped me out.
No wonder so many non-Christians want to have nothing to do with us when the face that they see is one of hatred, bigotry and intolerance. Today I saw a friend, who is a minister, on another friend’s page blast someone that he did not agree with. The tone my minister friend framed his comment was arrogant, condescending and demeaning to the other person, a young person who was obviously struggling with faith. I decided not to jump in knowing that no good could come out of another debate on someone else’s page.
So I am learning to shut up a bit and try more to let the grace of God permeate what I do on social media. If some people think that is foolish I guess that it will have to be that way. There are some things that do spin me up but I am going to try to treat people, even if they disagree with me or I them the way I would want to be treated. I will probably screw this attempt up later tonight or tomorrow but I am going to do my best to be a better citizen on the often un-social social media. Hopefully in doing so maybe set some kind of example that will maybe help people with radically different views find reconciliation and not just toleration.