I avoid social media arguments as much as possible. Aside from reading through a string of comments for entertainment, I generally scroll right past an inflammatory statement or post. But the other day, for whatever reason, I got into a Facebook argument. All be it a tiny one, one most any expert Facebook arguer would consider laughable. I think there may have been a total of maybe ten comments on the post in total and I had two. Still, I felt it was a little out of character for me. But a learned a few things.
First, why the post caught my attention – like most things that slow our scroll, it had an image, this one was slightly disturbing. The text placed above the image made some remarks about various theological icons, so that made me pause. And it was just odd enough to make me curious.
Then, what made me want to comment? The verbiage in the post of the shared image had a demanding call to action. One that inferred that if I did not agree and commit to join this cause my own relationship with God was in question. Now you’ve got me. I’m a sucker for digging in further to those types of thought processes. I took the bait. I commented, and the exchange following my initial remark reminded/taught me a few things:
Cancel Culture is real and moves fast.
This particular post was sharing this person’s decision to boycott one, a celebrity, and two, a corporation. Now let me say, I am 110% about boycotts, using your energy and resources, or retracting that energy or resources to express your personal voice/ideals, yes, that’s a great thing. Your dollar has power. However, wow, it was so fast. It wasn’t ten minutes later my kids were in the car telling me how their Instagram feed was blowing up with the same image. Apparently their friends were “getting salty.” 🤷🏻♀️ The problem is, the image being shared with the statement above was only half true. I am not anti-share, nor do I think everyone should take the time to research to the equivalent to a doctoral thesis before passing along a piece of information. I’m more placing this here as a reminder to myself to slow down. The access and speed of information can be a blessing, and it can be a curse. We have now shifted from “think before you speak” to “think before you share/post/tweet/comment.” We may want to consider a re-work within the epistle James:
“Not many of you should become teachers (online commentators), my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach (comment/post) will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say (post) is perfect, able to keep their whole body (web searching) in check.
…the tongue (comment) is a small part of the body (stroke of the keyboard), but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue (post) also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body (modern communication)…With the tongue (post) we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse (cancel) human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth (keyboard) come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Celebrity and company names are easier to attack than people.
We all know this, right, but we forget. All structures, systems and organizations are made up of people. Of humans. Of men and women that God loves very much. That doesn’t mean they do all things right, but when we go from knowing a person or seeing a face, to commenting about “they” or “them,” to painting a bullseye around a logo, it’s easy to let the humanity slip so far into the background we post or say things we would never do over a cup of coffee with the faces of those groups or the “theys.” Not that we shouldn’t address issues, or have conversations. We should. We are given passion and convictions for a purpose. But I know in my frustrations I can be “all talk,” until I actually make the effort to learn how to communicate effectively with a person I disagree with. Perhaps that is why we so often end up posting in a vacuum, saying things to the people that already think the things we think, blissful in our cycle of affirming thoughts. I was shocked at how many people offered a virtual “high five” or “amen” to this post that was simply not accurate.
We have to consistently ask ourselves not only what we think, but also how we are arriving at those beliefs, and if we are willing to take it a step further, we can consistently ask ourselves how what we might be about to share could impact others. Again, not so that we don’t share what we think, but more that we learn to share effectively.
1 Corinthians 13 begins with this:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Please note, the list of things:
– Speaking like men AND angels.
– Prophecy AND can fathom all mysteries AND ALL knowledge.
– A faith that can MOVE MOUNTAINS.
– A willingness to share and sacrifice on every level.
These are great things. These are cool things I would love to have/experience. Think of these as amazing points that you want to share or post, they are probably great! (Example, you should totally share all my stuff. 😉) But if any of these amazing points lacks one tiny thing, love, it’s worthless, nothing, just noise. I’m not sure there’s a better word for those things we scroll right on by, we roll our eyes, those people we unfollow…noise.
It’s been affirmed, once again, arguing online rarely (and I so want to say never, but I’m sure someone will argue with me) work.
This person posted. I commented, affirming the way they felt, if the facts had been true, but since they weren’t, simply sharing a link to an alternative source. It did not go well. They were shocked that I didn’t agree, and quickly explained to me, through analogy, how my attempt to share this information was a means to validate abhorrent choices.
While the majority of comments were echoing the original post, there was one other person that made a similar point to me, citing other sources. Their exchange was even more tense than mine. But for both of us, the outliers of the thread, there was no recognition that our points made sense, or that alternative facts were even an option. Actually, this individual posted three following posts reflecting the same headline, later in the week.
I just wonder if we would get much further with a call, a zoom chat, or even better, face to face. In fact, I wonder if we could challenge ourselves. Next time you are about to argue online, try to connect in other ways, at least a private message. Want to go a step further? Next time your eye rolls at “that person’s” post, reach out and try to take them to lunch of coffee to listen to their ideas. Yep, I’m talking about that one person you are thinking of right now, maybe even the one you just unfollowed. I wonder what that could do in our lives and communities.
A possible rework of Paul’s challenging words to the churches of Rome:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (comment for comment) Be careful to do what is right (engage with love and respect) in the eyes of everyone (online, the www). If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live (post) at peace with everyone…Do not be overcome by evil (internet drama), but overcome evil with good (genuine connection).” Romans 12
Even with all the above thoughts regarding arguing online, I totally get why people keep trying, why we return to see the next comment. (Literally, just looked again.) The science behind social media is astonishing. The way we take in information today will impact us on so many levels, and not all of them negative. But as I caught myself throughout the day wondering if they read my comment, what they might have said, I think hoping for some type of “Jenn! Thank you for opening my eyes!” I thought to myself, “This is how people get sucked in. This is how the thread grows and spirals to a whole new level of pointlessness and even worse, that time and energy is gone.” I feel like if we are all honest we have all been pulled into the social media vortex in one way or another, even if just by being in relationship with someone that was overly involved in a post.
I’m thankful for reminders like these words from Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
“Making the most” could be translated, “redeeming the time” or “rescue from loss.”
I lost time as I repeatedly returned to see if there was a response, rereading the argument.
So if you see me online arguing, commenting back and forth, getting no where, please remind me: “You’ve been sucked in. Try an actual conversation. There are real people behind these comments. Slowed down and check the facts before you contribute to a cancel culture.”