When Online Hurts

Before I type a single word of what is on my heart, I want you to know that this message is truly from the heart. Would I say it to all your faces? Absolutely. It would be over coffee, and I may shed a tear or seven. I would look at you with conviction and confide that I’ve been hurt. That what I am about to say isn’t a slap on the hand but a call for us to rise above. I suppose some of you will move on, that my words will drift off your face without effecting you, but I hope it blesses you and opens your eyes to a new way of thinking about your online presence.

WhenOnlineHUrts

A few years ago, I posted an article on my private Facebook profile that hurt my heart. It had to do with the subject of pornography, which hits close to home for me, and I naively asked the hypothetical question of why people think pornography is okay. That post sparked a hundreds of comments long debate amongst my friends [people who I knew in real life] about the topic. It got so heated and a couple friendships were broken and lost. To the point of un-friending and blocking. I am not proud of the way I personally handled the situation, and that became the beginning of my fear of online opinions. I did not learn though, and it took a couple other heated debates over posted articles for me to completely close off my opinions to the online world about the hot topics of politics, pornography, religion, and more.

And now, it has come to the point that I second-guess what I post. I over-think whether or not to post an article or something because I am literally terrified of what the reaction will be. How sad is that?

I fear that we have become a culture of digitally bold people who lack the compassion to think past their computer screen. People who are okay with posting their opinions and thoughts without thinking about others. This may be controversial, but I don’t believe that the way people react is simply their responsibility. If you say something that has the underlying attitude that you do not care how people react to it because it is your opinion, you actually do hold responsibility to others whether you think so or not. Simply believing that you’re just stating your opinion is the lie the culture is telling you. Absolutely we are all entitled to believe different things. And I value conversations with people that have different views than me.

But let me ask you this…if you were to say exactly what you’re typing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or elsewhere to someone’s face, how do you think they would react? Put aside that you are entitled to your opinions and that Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. is your profile and people can unfriend you if they don’t like what you say…yada yada yada. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to hurt people simply in the name of standing up for your beliefs.

Let me say that again…no matter what position you take on any of the hundreds of hot topics out there, you are not entitled to hurt people.

Simply stating, “Saw this great article today… [Some article about how Republicans suck, Atheists are horrible, or some other position bashing article] …and if you don’t like it, then you can unfriend me.” I mean, come on. Are we adults or are we little kids hollering insults from the across the playground? Friend, would you say that to someone’s face??? Would you go up to a friend, or even a strager for that matter, and say, “I think that Christians/Atheists/same sex marriage supporters/pro-life advocates/etc. are just stupid. I saw this article that proved my point. And if you don’t like it, well, we just don’t have to be friends.”

I mean please…seriously imagine what that would look like.

That makes my stomach hurt…brings tears to my eyes. I do not care if you support same sex marriage and I do not, it is not okay for me to hurt you and vice versa. We have become a culture that will just throw our opinion out there for the sake of feeling heard and not caring what happens in its wake. We have become a culture where, instead of loving one another and having meaningful discussions [from Facebook up to national television], we just toss articles and such out there. We’re adding information to the “discussion” but we aren’t accomplishing anything.

Is that what we want? To simply hurt people in the wake of our opinions and not change anything? To sound bitter or biting or snarky?

I want to challenge all of us – myself, bloggers, non-bloggers, Twitter-ers, Facebook friends, family, acquaintances, strangers – to truly think about the person your message is reaching. Do you just want to bash the people that you believe are “at fault” for your passionate cause? Are you thinking about the heart of the person your message is targeting? It’s hard, I know. Who is going to think about my heart and feelings when the debates get hot? But I think that is where the problem lies. We’re hurt. So we hurt others. Inadvertently or purposefully. But lets rise above that. Democrat or Repulican, gay or straight, married or single, breast-feeding or formula, vaccinated or not, and on it goes…let us be people who navigate this world together and have meaningful discussions about the world we share rather than hiding easily behind 140 characters.

Comments

  1. Katelyn Lover says

    I actually remember that crazy argument on your Facebook about pornography, Erin! There were definitely some heated moments!

    This all reminds me of my Psychology of Morality class and learning about how political and religious beliefs reflect some of the deepest, most foundational ways we humans understand truth, life, and overall reality; that’s why people lose their composure so easily over these topics. We make significant decisions based on these deep beliefs our entire lives, no matter what side of the fence we’re on. These beliefs reflect how we understand our purpose in living at all.

    Therefore we tend to *react* rather than *respond* to the deep differences reflected between us in controversial discussions. UNLESS we learn to check our gut reactions, check our emotions, check our friendship with the person, and check our phrasing with every word we speak in those moments like you’ve written about.

    Okay I’m done with my two cents. :) Great post!

    • Erin Lauray says

      That’s a great point, Katelyn! Some topics are part of the foundation of the way we view reality, so it makes perfect sense that some topics cause much more heated discussion that others. Thank you for bringing that point up! Good to think about :)

  2. April Durham says

    I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that we really need to own up to who we are in real life, and not who we are behind a computer. The difficult thing with religion and equality is that it is an EXTREMELY sensitive topic because it’s so important to each individual. YOUR religion is much more important to you than a vaccination debate. So when people start discussing it, it’s a very real possibility that people would say those things in real life. (Just like I would in a debate over marriage equality.). When topics that hit a nerve are discussed, we have to be ready to thicken our skin and get ready to hear passionate people defend what they believe in.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, when ridiculous people get so heated they can’t defend themselves logically and rationally (which includes not saying things like “unfriend me then!”) it becomes almost laughable. The only reason I would ever unfriend anyone is if they were blatantly and publicly spouting hate. Then it’s my right to do so.

    Ultimately, I definitely know how online can hurt very badly. It’s so easy to hide behind your online persona, but easier to get hurt by things people say because they have time to form their conclusions. It’s not like in person when you get so upset you’re irrational…. It’s calculating and thought out, which to me hurts worse!

    I have to tell myself what I tell myself in any seemingly upsetting situation. “This too shall pass.”

    Because it will, and the moment you decide to no longer let it bother you the much better YOU will be… Because sadly we can’t always be immune to people who hurt us behind the computer. We can only control how we respond.

    • Erin Lauray says

      I agree, April. I can definitely have discussions with people, even heated ones, when people are willing to discuss it. If someone just wants to comment to put their opinion out there with a “So there!!” kind of attitude, it can hurt. Exactly like you said, it takes more time to type and post than it is to react instantaneously in person, so it hurts worse. I know a couple people who are always posting extremely snarky and jabbing opinions [not even about a topic, more just being completely negative and judgy towards people] and in person, they are not even like that! Its weird! One of the things I have been noticing even more is the posting of controversial articles and all that is said is, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” Literally words I have actually seen both on the religion and vaccination topics. To me, that is less a stance on an issue and more a desire to simply jab the opposing side. I agree we will need thicker skin if we are to participate in discussions [or simply scroll Facebook or Twitter for that matter], but I also think that if someone’s desire is to prove their point, they’ll get more headway if they aren’t mean. I most definitely can scroll past jabs on Facebook and such, but when something really hits home [someone posted something extremely crude and offensive the other day that made me almost want to instantly cry], it makes me want to call us all to a higher way of communicating online. I don’t deny the responsibility of any of us for the response we give, I just wanted to remind us all to think how we’re communicating before we hit “post.” It starts with one. :) Thanks for responding, April! I love your thoughts! :)

      • April says

        Oh wow, I totally agree. I like my family MUCH better in person than online. When they start doing the jabby, judgey, annoying thing I just want to write ALL MY FEELINGS at once on their wall. Which wouldn’t be very nice. :)

        Honestly? I have several people blocked from showing up on my news feed. They are ALL family members. I value my relationships too much with them to have a Facebook fight! LOL!

  3. says

    this spoke volumes to me. not only has God checked me on it personally on several occasions, questioning, why are you REALLY posting that? But i have been hurt by peoples “opinions” online when people blast my choices as a mom, specifically, in a “subtle way” … its a horrible way to hurt someone that you are supposed to love.

    • Erin Lauray says

      Oh my gosh, Julie, I SO get what you mean with the choices as a mom. That is the worst! I’m glad the Lord is checking all of our hearts on the matter. :)

  4. says

    Well said. While we are all responsible for our feels, we are also responsible for our words! Someone facebook, twitter, social media has devalued our words. We often seem to think that its ok if we share it on facebook because someone else wrote it and its ‘just’ facebook. Thankful I haven’t experienced a problem with the personally, and thankful that you are shedding light on the topic !

    • Erin Lauray says

      So thankful you haven’t had to experience this on a personal level. It stinks! Thanks for commenting, Teressa!

  5. says

    Ah, this is one of the many reasons I gave up Facebook. I would post articles that I found interesting…usually about religion or politics (but even that was religious really) and it would get so ugly so fast. I wasn’t always the best at handling it… I would feel myself start to get super angry and felt so attacked. I felt hurt often and I’m sure I wasn’t always the best at handling it. It’s hard…because I want to put my opinion out there, I want to speak what I believe is truth. I don’t want to get attacked though…a big reason I usually don’t post those things anywhere! Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Erin Lauray says

      Yep, Facebook is the biggest struggle for me when it comes to this. I still don’t post articles there, but I felt the need to get this out. It’s my heart to help to build the online community for GOOD rather than making much of myself (ourselves). Love you, girl!

  6. says

    This. Yes and Amen. Had this happen recently between me and my best friend and we had never fought before. Just emailed her tonight to try and repair. Thank you for having the courage to post this!

    • Erin Lauray says

      Oh, Becky! I am so glad you took the initiative to email your friend! And you’re welcome for posting this! Thank YOU for reading!

  7. says

    I couldn’t agree more Erin. It’s amazing how we can transform into a different person when we get behind a keyboard…somehow we feel “uninhibited” or bold enough to say something we wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Great article you’ve written…it helps me to remember to rethink my own reactions & thoughts I share on social media.

    • Erin Lauray says

      That is exactly it, Liz! I know I need to be mindful about my own heart in what I am posting. I don’t have to see people’s reactions, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  8. says

    Yes, yes, a million times yes. Thank you for putting this out there. And it’s easy for me to say, “Oh, I never do this.” But let’s be real, I totally do. Thank you for another opportunity for me to take a look at how I speak and respond online. ALWAYS a need to shine a mirror on myself here.

    • Erin Lauray says

      Me too. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it either. Thank you for your honesty :)