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.
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.