“I can’t stand the hate anymore, Bart. I’m going to have to de-friend you.”
This was the Facebook status update of a friend(?) of mine a few months ago. Of course, I never saw the actual post itself as my childhood “friend” courageously made the post after he de-friended me. Another friend was kind enough to send me the “cut and paste” in a private message.
As background, political and religious discussions tend to dominate my Facebook wall. As you could probably guess, my former friend and I anchored opposite ends of the political spectrum. In my defense, I really made an effort to assure my friend that opposing political views would not diminish my affection for him and thus, I handled our conversations with great care and diplomacy… or so I thought.
Two thoughts occurred to me as I read about my elimination from a friend list:
- Here is another example of the left’s penchant for mislabeling “disagreement” with “hate.”
- I guess this is why we are urged to abstain from public discussions of religion and politics.
Whether it is advisable or not… the new social media such as Facebook and Twitter has made it somewhat easier to tackle weightier topics with quick hitting commentary without the awkward back and forth of an emotional, face-to-face conversation. (I said it was “easier,” not better.)
I have found some real positives to unabashedly leaping into the sometime controversial arena of political debate on my page.
- I have become more accountable for my claims and ideas.
When we spend all of our time preaching to the choir, we can become complacent and reckless with the facts because we know that we won’t face a challenge from our like-minded brethren. But when we dip our toe into a pool of circling sharks, we can expect, at minimum, a challenge and most likely, an attack.
Being more accountable means that I better have my facts straight or I better learn the old “bob and weave.” I have tried both methods and have learned that accuracy works much more effectively.
- I have become sharper in my focus.
In a birthday greeting on Facebook the other day, a friend stated on my wall, “You give me another reason to get up in the mornings.”
Along with some playful facetiousness, his message was clear, “I am the anecdote to your right-wing rhetoric and my daily mission is to correct your misinformation.”
Maybe my interpretation of his statement is a bit too dramatic… but I don’t believe that it is too far fetched. I have Facebook friends who will scrutinize my every statement. I am aware of that fact before I post.
- I have gained many friends.
My Facebook privacy settings are anything but private. Almost everybody and their great uncle can see my wall…. friends… friends of friends… blood relatives of friends… pets… EVERYONE can see my discussion threads. (Or so it seems).
Because of that, apparently many have found the discussions interesting enough to submit a friend request. I have had numerous friends tell me that they make it a point to pull up my page whenever they log into Facebook rather than simply reading what they catch on their newsfeed. I guess everyone enjoys a good fight.
Of course, I have lost a few Facebook friends too. (See my opening sentence). But my gains far outdistance my losses.
- I have learned to be open to new ways of thinking.
But just barely…
Of course, there are inherent risks to this type of engagement… again, see my opening sentence. You can alienate and/or lose friends. You can alter the way that people view you, your ideas and even your character.
My former friend and I talked mostly about our mutual love for the Hawkeyes. We talked about their record, their recruits, their most recent games… but because I didn’t think confiscatory taxes on the wealthy would solve the ills of the poor and destitute, I was a “hater” and got the boot.
The risk also spreads to your spiritual beliefs which can pull the religious aspect into the conversation. Liberals love to attack professing conservative Christians in areas such as God’s mandate to care for the poor versus being against government assistance programs or being pro-life while being pro-death penalty.
I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been told that Jesus isn’t a republican. To which I respond, “You might be right but I’m pretty sure He was the keynote speaker at a couple Tea Party rallies that I’ve attended.” (It’s not a bad thing to tweak your opponents every once in awhile, is it?)
I have several, like-minded friends who have made a conscious decision to not engage in political or religious dialogue on these social networks. They have decided that it isn’t worth the associated risks. I fully understand and respect their decisions.
I understand their tact to the point that I have tried it myself on a couple of occasions. No more political debate on my Facebook wall! I am going to limit my content to sports, music, recipes, family stories and landscaping tips!
Yeah right. That lasts about 36 hours… until some trigger causes an overwhelming desire to let it all hang out. I just cannot do it. I’ve tried, man. Maybe I need counseling. Or maybe it’s okay to discuss areas that you feel so passionate about that you just can’t hold it in. I don’t know… somebody help me with this!
In the end, I have decided that if I am going to engage and participate in controversial discussions, I will try (emphasis on “try”) to follow some simple guidelines.
1. View this as an exercise of personal restraint and self-discipline.
Stick with the facts and avoid name calling. When someone resorts to name-calling, it is the first sign that they have lost the argument.
2. Avoid being dogmatic about subjects where your knowledge is significantly limited.
There are some people that you just know that you disagree with on most every subject. That’s fine… but it is foolish to attempt to correct them when you are significantly deficient in knowledge about the subject matter.
3. Where appropriate, use humor to keep the conversation light.
Throw in a smiley face or crack a joke whenever the situation allows. Prove that you have a funny bone and you are not some hard-core ideologue. (Even if you are! 🙂 )
4. Be willing to start or contribute to threads that aren’t so serious or controversial.
It will give you depth. It will keep you from being a one-dimensional online personality.
5. Know when to pull out of a conversation with dignity.
Sometimes the kitchen gets too hot and the head chef needs to take a break and cool off. Sometimes… he needs to apologize to the participants. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen with any frequency.
Of course, if everyone would just do the smart thing and agree with me on all important issues… I wouldn’t have to write such a piece as this… but because this isn’t the case… I hope you enjoy my thoughts.