Confession: Giving up Facebook for Lent was a relief. I felt somewhat guilty for choosing a sacrifice I welcomed, something I was relieved to give up, something that was contributing negatively to my sense of self. I could mention numerous reasons for that: time wasting, jealousy and competition, vicarious responsibility, and positive/negative feedback loops – but above all, I loved not seeing the many controversial posts that regularly cause me stress. Stepping back clarified what those are, and why.
I am really bummed that I am so wimpy.
I may return to the forum eventually, because that is where people gather these days, and removing oneself only removes one’s own ear, and one’s own voice. (I discovered today that taking a break from Facebook meant I entirely missed certain pieces of news, such as a long-awaited baptism, and an engagement.) But I’m not sure yet what I will choose. There are many different ways to look at this question.
(And I do realize that Facebook is only one social medium; you and I are sharing another this moment.)
Here lie my miscellaneous thoughts on the topic of controversy – my greatest social media stressor. I have laid out my opinions as simply as I know how, to avoid additional pressure points, in a numbered list. See how natural they look. And hey, we know they’re in a better place.
- Many people use social media as a platform to share the things they care about.
- Many people use social media as a place to hear the things that others care about.
- At times, hearing what others care about causes *stress.
- *Stress may range from mild discomfort to violent disagreement.
- People may be selling something, and others feel obligated to a) buy, b) defend why they do not buy, or c) unfollow from a surfeit of disinterest.
- People may be sharing political viewpoints, and others a) strongly disagree, b) strongly agree, or c) feel this is not the place to be sharing political viewpoints of this caliber.
- People may be flashing their religious, dietary, medical, marital, educational, or parental experiences and policies (by no means a conclusive list; I could go on), and others who are reading will feel pinned against the wall.
- We know we do not need to be like others.
- But if we were sitting in a living room sharing these viewpoints, we would be more likely to a) be kind and appropriate, considering the other viewpoints in the room b) share opposing viewpoints in response, honestly but respectfully. “Do you really let him put himself to sleep? I could never handle that; I don’t like to hear him cry.” “Well, the way I see it, he cries for a short time but sleeps better and is happier long-term.” “Wow, hats off but it’s not for me.”
- Social media often ties otherwise articulate and capable people in knots because the choices are few. a) If I am kindly silent, my support of this position may be assumed. b) If I speak up in disagreement, however respectful, I am severely testing the limits of the medium, to communicate truth, grace, kind tone, good heart, and humble approachability.
- One MUST choose one horn of this dilemma, silence or speech; one cannot simply look uncomfortable and change the subject to gardening.
- And then we find ourselves being put in the Silent box or the Argumentative box, neither of which feels like home. It’s not really who we are. Why are we putting ourselves through this stress anyway? Why are we giving x person such power over us, to make us uncomfortable and wretched, so that all through the next hour of work we keep hashing whether we should have spoken up, and what we might have said?
- Perhaps unfollowing IS our only option.
- That or a slow burn for many months to come.
- Until we finally pop.
- (If you have no idea what I am talking about, because it comes naturally to you to speak your mind in any given situation, may I gently suggest that you may be one of the people causing stress to the rest of us? And I mean that in the best possible way.)
- (Yes, Shari Zook causes stress sometimes too. Always for a good cause, always for a good cause. And honestly, isn’t that the case for us all? that we believe passionately enough in whatever-it-is to risk making others upset?)
- Back on track.
- I am deeply concerned about our community veering into three extremes.
- First, I don’t want us regularly sharing things that don’t reflect the truth of who we are. These are the social media posts that bother me most. Example: We may be strictly non-political people, but advocating for and against American laws and leaders. Why? That’s not who we are. That’s not how we fight. Or if it is, let’s go fight – we can’t both fight and not fight. Another example: We may be very kind and good-hearted people who wouldn’t make a stink bug squirm, but find ourselves regularly sharing things that obligate others to choose between endorsement, or uncomfortable pushback. Why? That’s not who we are. A third example: We may even be advocating against our own lifestyles – sharing diet videos while freely indulging our appetites, or speaking against the hiding of sexual abuse in the church when our own families would be badly burned by the full disclosure we never achieved. Why? That’s not who we are. We have to stop faking so much. And impaling others on the dilemma of what to do in response.
- Second, I don’t want us to stop objecting to what we disagree with. In our world of “no judging” and “grace by the barrel,” we have painted artificial lines that put all the naysayers over here and all the grace people over here. Objection is honest but mean; so let’s be nice – and quiet. People, it’s a lie. We are made to disagree in some ways: created with diverse and even opposing viewpoints, created to round each other out, created to rebuke one another, created to learn together and thus to grow. We can’t let social media change those rules, or we will create some kind of desperately silent and unhappy little cheering party. Vive le agreement! Bonhomie! Bon appetit! There’s more where that came from! Look how loving we are.
- I don’t want us disengaging. When we surround ourselves only with the things we agree with – unfollowing, unfriending, and avoiding all that makes us uncomfortable or pained – we are becoming less and less the community we were intended for.
- But some of us with tender hearts and floppy spines can hardly stand the strain.
- Third, I don’t want us using the medium for more than it can handle… but if it’s on the medium, that may be where we need to engage. We don’t usually walk away from a face-to-face conversation saying to ourselves, “I’ll need to write him a letter to address my concerns.” We don’t usually address school concerns at church, or church concerns at home, or home concerns at the grocery store. We need to address things where they happen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve left social media saying, “I should have a good chat with her about that and ask her what it means about x, y, and z…” and then have never. done. it.
- Why didn’t I engage there? Because I felt the medium couldn’t handle (perhaps I couldn’t handle) the nuances, and the high likelihood of misunderstanding.
- What are our options?
- As you see, I do not have answers myself. Only more questions.
- What guides your choice of who, what, when, where, why, and how to speak out?