My Facebook friend list is a crazy mix of people that I love. There are the politically conservative and religiously liberal, there are libertarians, a few anarchists, a hippie or two, a few yoga instructors and plenty of cowboys. There’s some who love their kids, some who treat their pets as kids, and some who don’t like kids at all. There’s retirees, teens who have yet to start working, a few unemployed, some who stay at home while their partners work, and a lot who have a regular job…or two…or three. There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Non-Denoms, Atheists, Pentecostals, and Agnostics. When I get on Facebook I have the opportunity to see a veritable cross-section of America.
When something ‘big’ happens in the world (terrorists, politics, sports, church) I am blessed to see all sides of the story – those who are for it and against it; those rooting for their home team while cursing the away team; those standing with and those opposing against. I see arguments that are fact-based, faith-based, emotionally-based, and the occasional pot-stirrer who just wants to make everyone upset.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like if my Facebook friends ended up in the same room together because it’s such a varied list of people, but my wondering often turns into anxiety because I don’t know if it would be such a great idea. This side opposes that side; that group hates this group; this person is holding a 20 year-old grudge against that person; I’m right and you’re all wrong.
And they all talk a big game on Facebook – ‘I’d show those damn snowflakes what real oppression is’; ‘If I see him again, I’m going to punch him in the face’; ‘Those people have no idea what they’re doing to me and my family.’ If they all got together in a ballroom at the Hilton, I’m afraid the niceties would end and all hell would break loose in about 38 seconds.
I think we’re all pretty angry with each other. We’re angry for both valid and invalid reasons. We’re angry because the other isn’t of the same mindset as we are. We’re angry because we’re losing things that are important to us. We’re angry because we’ve missed out on things for so long. We’re angry because others are suffering, others are winning, others are inflicting harm. We’re angry because we’re seeing a few lines of text on the screen and assuming the rest of the story.
Five years ago I don’t think I’d have been this reluctant to bring all these people together – not because my list of friends has changed, but because my friends have changed (as have I). There was a time when we could disagree online and in person, but still treat one another with respect and graciousness.
I think we’ve blurred the lines between online interactions and real-world interactions, sacrificing civility in the process. We no longer listen before we speak. We no longer discuss things. We are no longer flexible in our politics, theologies, or standards. We can’t not say something. We assume, we fill in the story, we take sides before knowing the facts. We have allowed the meaning of ‘fact’ to be redefined. We have drawn our battle lines, made our teams, and have set our feet firmly on the ground that we believe to be right (and to hell with those who don’t agree with us).
I know how to fix this problem and make us all more loving, civil, and nicer to one another. It’s fixed by doing it. We need to recognize that each one of us is important, each one of us is valid, and we are together on this planet. Truthfully, we know this and we know how to do this. We all have it in us to be better to one another, to be more loving to one another, to be nicer to one another. There’s no magic formula, no three-step process, no seminar that needs to be attended before we can do it. We know how to be better than we are – we need to act on our knowledge.
The fighting, arguing, and yelling will only make the rifts between us grow wider and deeper. Being uncivil because they’re being uncivil will only make it worse. By all means, disagree with one another! Just don’t be an ass in the process. Hold on to your beliefs, but don’t be afraid to let go of them if you need to. Keep an open mind, but make sure you filter what’s going into it. Understand others. Empathize with them. Think before you speak or type. Get off social media and have actual discussions with people. Have conversations with people you disagree with face-to-face. Be kind. Be civil. Be nice. Be loving. Be vulnerable. Be the other.
May we understand who they are, who we are, and that we are all in this thing together. May we converse more, love more, and understand more.
much love. sheth.