5 hours ago
Monday, January 21, 2013
A friend posted a link to an article about gun control the other day. This is a complex issue and I'm not 100% ingrained in my views (and always want to be willing to consider all sides), so I decided to follow the link...until I saw the avatar for the original site. It featured a photograph of President Obama with the words "Muslim" slapped below. I recoiled, immediately recognizing an extreme sight, no matter your political affiliations.
A few days later, a meme comparing the President to Hitler for using children "as props" appeared in my newsfeed. This shocked me - the poster is intelligent, not generally prone to extremism, and someone I'd happily discuss politics with. In fact, I probably trump him in extremism. Here's the thing, though. Once you compare someone or something to Hitler, your point is lost.
A fascinating conversation followed this post, with one friend beautifully articulating why the Hitler comparison amounted to hypocrisy and how nonsensical it is to use an extreme example to accuse someone of extremism. I would quote for you, but the entire post has since been deleted. No minds were changed, but the conversation remained polite and intelligent. Surprisingly, the conversation turned out be an excellent example of success in facebook civil discourse from a very unlikely source. It gave me hope for the human race.
Not long after, the Feminist Breeder posted a witty reference to the end of tax credits and their minimal impact on her family. She is no stranger to controversy, but I don't think she could have anticipated the backlash. Hundreds of people took the post personally, accusing her of being a rich blogger (a contradiction in terms) and of mocking them as their finances took a major hit. Her post, most likely intended to draw a few laughs, led to a crazy trains of angry discourse. It also eventually led to the real truth behind the increase in all of those paychecks, although I'm sure many missed this point in the midst of all that fury.
Reading all of this, you might be thinking, Listen. It's my page - I can vent if I want to. And I don't disagree. Honestly, sometimes it feels good to think of my facebook page as my space. A place to be me and share what I really think. But it's also a place where I share endearing stories and photos of my kids, connect with family I wouldn't see otherwise, and keep up with friends who live at a distance. Just like real-life relationships, facebook is a complicated place where I balance relating to and connecting with people I truly care about - people with a diversity of views, opinions, and ideals. Just like I try not to dump every thought and belief out there in real life, I hope to practice a little restraint online as well.
A handy little info box popped up in my newsfeed on Friday from the President. It encouraged me to "share" and help educate others about the President's gun control plan. I shared and then about a second later, visited my page and hit "delete." Why? It occurred to me that, in these impassioned times, this post would only preach to the choir, alienate people, and most likely promote a debate on my page I didn't feel like having. It felt like a "choose your battles" moment and I certainly choose them. I just want to do so wisely.
Because, here's the thing: Sometimes I'm passionate about something controversial. There are moments when I truly hope to make a point, have a real discussion about an important issue, or provoke thought. If I've alienating my audience with a hundred snarky posts that don't really matter much, I might find that there's no audience left when it really matters.