Monday, January 9, 2017

When Facebook Goes Bad

Being my friend on Facebook does not give you license to berate me for an opinion*.
I attended high school with approximately 1,300 other students. Just because you were one of them does not make us good friends (the same goes for any other association you and I might have—college, work, town, organization, etc.). It makes us have a location in common. If you were outside of my immediate friend group in high school, chances are, I had very little interaction with you, as I was a new student freshman year and I had a small group of friends. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know a lot of my fellow high school students better on Facebook than in school, a fact that amuses me greatly. Some of you I really do think of as friends, and I'm grateful for this social media platform that enabled our relationship. Others are mere acquaintances. Most of you make Facebook a fun place to be. But please recognize the boundaries.
If I’m not someone you’d choose to have a conversation with in real life—you know, face-to-face, in person, over coffee or chocolate—then chances are, we shouldn’t be having a potentially contentious conversation on Facebook. If you don’t like something I post there, you can simply continue to scroll down your phone or computer screen. If necessary, you can “dislike” it. If you absolutely can’t let it go, you can respectfully offer an alternative opinion. But there’s no need to make a nasty comment. I don’t do it to you, and believe me, it’s not because you’ve never expressed an opinion I disagreed with.
Social media gives us a false sense of security. It makes us feel as if we’re in a safe place and can say and do what we want with few consequences. It gives cowards a shield and idiots a platform. It gives us a microphone to reach a larger audience—without the annoying audio feedback and the incessant “Is this on?” It can also make us feel more important than we really are, thus giving us a license to say whatever we want, without thinking about the consequences.
Let me be clear. I’m not a huge fan of argument because I don’t like conflict. However, I am happy to put aside that dislike and enter into discussions with someone who disagrees with me if the discussion is civil, respectful and polite. You might change my mind, I might change yours or we both may agree to disagree. Those conversations are often interesting, educational and eye opening.
Disagree with my politics? Great, that’s what makes this a diverse nation. Tell me you disagree. Tell me why. Offer me an intelligent idea I haven’t considered before. Dislike my posts or don’t find my status funny? You’re entitled to your opinion and I believe your opinion is as valid as my own. We’re all different and that’s fantastic. Tell me your opinions nicely.
But--and this is a big one--my wall is my safe space. And it is a safe space for others as well. I will not tolerate anyone berating me or anyone else I might happen to be friends with on my wall. I will not allow bigotry or bullying or anything else that might offend me or make me wonder if your comment might offend one of my friends. I will delete, unfriend, unfollow or block without a second thought, and I won’t miss you being part of my Facebook world.

*99% of my Facebook friends don't cause issues--this post is for the other 1%.