I recently did a thing I say I’ll never do and followed that up with breaking another personal rule.
I tell myself and sometimes the world that I won’t read the comments on Facebook. Then I do. And I get angry. And start to hate and disparage humanity. The whole cycle is very predictable. The final step, of course, is when I pull out of this misanthropic tailspin and remember that God loves me in my wreckage and equally loves these stupid people and the stupid things they say. God’s amazing like that.
I’m not excusing my rule-breaking, but someone insulted Kim. She had commented (also breaking her rule not to read comments) and the response to her was dismissive and condescending. She had tried to cite evidence, which the person dismissed. I brought it back up, cited a study, and told the person I thought that this attitude was not particularly conducive to fruitful discussion.
What would you guess happened next?
A)We grew to understand and respect each other and became lifelong friends.
B)One of us saw the light and recognized lifelong-held wrong beliefs, to which that one fully admitted and of which that one completely repented.
C)”You mean dismissive like [insert previous perceived insult comment]? And your example is a red herring because [insert repeated arguments and cliches] and your study fails and is cherry picking because [insert repeated argument and cliches]. [Counter-example that I disbelieve], [counter-example that I think proves nothing], even though you want to be right you’re completely wrong, and you DON’T love America, or freedom or pie made from apples and yes this is a bad situation but there is no solution and your suggestions are naive and groundless.”
I’m not going to belabor this discussion because I got what I knew I would before starting, which is what makes my choice so stupid. But there we are. It probably won’t be the last stupid thing I do.
Kim and I talked through the interaction later. I learned a few things, not even counting that the amendments to the Constitution were made in order of importance.*
I realized that I’m very upset about the current situation in the U.S. I feel helpless and angry and I want to do something to make a difference. Then I get on Facebook and read words from people who, from my perspective, contribute to the problem. And some little part of my brain thinks, “If I could change your mind, that would help. You would stop adding to the problem. You might even help solve it, a little.” So even though I’m helpless, this feels to that speck of my brain like something within reach that I could actually do.
But it isn’t. It really is not.
People argue on Facebook because they like to be right. People argue on Facebook because they like to feel powerful and telling off strangers gives them that. People argue on Facebook because there are so many stupid people out there who desperately need to be corrected.
I don’t argue on Facebook because I don’t want any of these…except for when I do.
I’ve caught myself reading through comments that I knew would piss me off, simply for the purpose of..what? Like I want to see how stupid people are so I can be angry about it. How does that help me? How does that lead me to love?
I think the best I’ve ever seen or experienced is when both parties speak respectfully, make their points, acknowledge their disagreement, and part on civil terms. Usually when I see these, they are accompanied by solid self-congratulations on all sides. Nothing wrong with that; patting ourselves on the back when we’ve done well is healthy. But the fact that civil interaction is the exception, not the norm? Yeah, we’re in trouble.
So in case it helps–and because I need to return to these–here are my commitments to being a decent human being on Facebook:
•Don’t read the comments on any political posts. Just. Don’t.
•Don’t wade into the arguments of political posts by responding to the comments I didn’t read. Double don’t.
•Choose very carefully and wisely** what to post, remembering that my desire to “contribute to the conversation” or “challenge people” can just as easily backfire. When I do post, don’t be surprised when others respond without following my commitments.
Treat others as I want to be treated. That probably sounds familiar from somewhere. Don’t call names or use any of the illegitimate methods of argument.
IF I think there might be fruitful discussion with someone, message them directly. I’ve done this a few times, with varied results, but I will say doing so has never resulted in ugly arguments.
When I think I have some deeper contribution, write a blog post. Of course not everyone agrees with what I say on here (someone right now is thinking, “Bull!”), but taking 500-2000 words to form and express a point beats three lines with ALL CAPS and (&#@(*%&@#(&!!!!!
In all of this, how can I be a peacemaker? Because even though it doesn’t feel like much of a time for peacemakers, I’d argue that we need them–we need to be them–more than ever.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
And, Lord, remind me to pray that every time I get on social media.
**I know, this presumes wisdom. More cause for prayer.