Most of us tend to have an opinion. I sure do – on just about any subject except where we should eat tonight…much to the huz’s chagrin. With technological advances and the trappings that have come with them, we are able to share our opinions with the masses. As the huz likes to quote from despair.com: “Never have so many said so little to so few.” Having the ability to share our opinions does not always mean that we should.
I found out this week that sharing an opinion can be hard.
After weeks of going back and forth in my mind about whether I should write a blog post about why I was not reading 50 Shades of Grey, I wrote the post…and then I wrote another one because I found the comments that agreed with me so compelling. I think the second post is where I truly come down on the issue – it’s a double standard to think that women can read explicit material about sexual activity while thinking that men cannot watch sexual activity. Some may agree but decide that it’s ok for both to go down that road. That is pretty hard to argue with that, but at least the standards are the same.
In retrospect, though, the second post is the more reasonable of the two. The first post could be read as condemning or judgmental of those who disagree with me. The friend who pointed that out to me did so gently, and I appreciated that. We need to learn how to communicate respectfully with one another in this public realm if we are going to continue to have conversations via social media. If I came across as judgmental, I want to apologize. It was not my intention. Rather, my intention was to sound the alarm and to wake up what I have observed to be a blind following of the latest fad.
This week has been hard on me emotionally. I chose to share my opinion in the public realm – one that I had thought through and talked through with the huz – and some people disagreed with me. I am ok with that. If someone did not disagree with me, I would have to question the necessity of the post at all. Several people who disagreed with me did so in very respectful ways. One woman hesitated to write her response, and it was obvious that she had gone out of her way to be respectful toward me in her disagreement. I so appreciated that!!! I actually hope that she is reading this so that she can be thanked publically.
What I had not experienced to the extent that I did this week was the way in which others would anonymously disagree with me in a less respectful manner such as the one below.
“I don’t think I have ever read anything more hypocritical than this.”
This went to my core! I am sure that I am hypocritical in areas of my life, and I would like to reprimanded appropriately when that happens. What hurt so much was that there was no explanation as to why! The friend who suggested that the post may come across as condemning of those who did read the book did so in a way that was truthful without being mean to me – she was gentle and even questioned if her reading of it that way could be her own struggle with the book. But the anonymous commenter who called me hypocritical – well, let’s just say that it felt mean to me.
And then I realized that what I have said all along about social media is true. The anonymous nature of social media allows us to behave poorly, to call each other names, and to say things without full explanation or critical thought. This means that we are not entering into engaging respectful conversation about critical issues such as health care reform, so-called marriage amendments, and literature that may or may not promote a view of sexuality that is unhealthy.
By the very nature of having an opinion, we are going to disagree with someone else on some issues. And that is ok! This is the beauty of living in the United States. We are entitled to our opinion, we are protected by the Constitution to share it, and we often are asked to vote about it. We live in a nation that seems more divided than united on most issues. Presidents are elected by margins, governor races often require recounts because of how close they are, and referendums pass or fail by the skin of their teeth.
We live in a nation that seems more divided than united on most issues.
The flip side of my experience was watching the experimental experience of a friend who posted on Facebook that she would like to have a civil conversation about the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act. It worked. And here is why: she stated that she wanted to have a civil conversation. She set up the expectations, and people carefully chose their words. But everyone could still say what they needed to say, share their thoughts, and even disagree with each other. 69 comments later, I think that people on both sides of the issue understood each other better, some may have started agreeing with other people, and – for the most part – everyone felt heard. Props to her!
What have I learned this week about conversations via social media?
- If I do not want people to disagree with me, I should not post about issues that will for certainly (isn’t that a great phrase? “for certainly” – it is correct, too, because it is an adverb!) cause a disagreement.
- I need tougher skin so that I do not take anonymous, hurtful comments to heart.
- There are ways that we can set up conversations to be more respectful in nature. I’m obviously still learning on this one!
- Nothing can replace an in-person conversation
- Social media allows for many from all over the world – who may not have ever been in the same conversation otherwise – to participate in these discussions.
What to do next? I, for one, will recover from this week by relaxing on the beaches of Rhode Island and Massachusetts for the next week, hug a cousin’s baby, and laugh with my grandmother over (hopefully) baked stuffed shrimp.