Category Archives: Social Media

A Word About Polite Discussion

I intend to throw absolutely no shade with this post. My intent is to convey my thoughts, imperfectly and in a biased subjective manner….

When I see or hear “I remember when it was impolite to talk politics,” I almost always know deep in my bones that a well-off person is the one saying it, if only because people who are happy with their lot don’t want to hear a contrary opinion. As for the “I remember when” argument, many people remember when women didn’t have the right to vote or when some people were openly treated as lesser human beings. Pointing to the past isn’t a strong way to make one’s point.

Also, one of my favorite axes to grind is this: people rush to label topics as politics, sometimes casting the net so wide so as to include everything: birth control, religion, sexuality, education, healthcare, and just about anything else. In so doing, they attempt to skew or control the conversation. This is especially true when their own arguments aren’t defensible. Limiting the playing field to weaker points of view helps them to maintain their comfort level at the expense of someone else.

If a topic is important to you, discuss it, even when the comfort level of those listening isn’t immediately receptive. If you speak from an honest place, no one who loves you or appreciates your opinion is going to silence you -and if silence is demanded without reciprocal silence from the person objecting, you’ve been shown that your place is not one of mutual respect. Conversations don’t occur in a vacuum; people must choose to engage and to continue to respond for them to survive even a few moments.

I, of course, wouldn’t visit family or friends and insist on a specific topic of conversation, and probably wouldn’t even start it myself. But once broached, I would be less inclined to favorably respond to someone intervening with “Let’s avoid politics.”

Small talk is the glue which binds us socially, but it is the discussion of weightier issues which allows us to know one another. In the context of a group, the dynamic alters the content of what’s being said. Societal expectations change and with those changes comes a looser grasp on the fabric of what we talk about.

It is rarely the topic per se which ignites an argument or dispute. Rather, it is a person’s poor communication skills and their lack of tools with which to confront reasonable ways to interact with opposing or even repugnant ideas. So often, people make the mistake of equating disagreement with something to avoid at all costs. We are a world of billions of people. Disagreement is mandatory, even with those people who are closest to you.

No one should expect you to participate in a discussion if you aren’t comfortable. Most of us also won’t force a continued conversation if everyone isn’t participating. In those cases where it happens, though, please leave your privilege aside and instead of silencing the topic, step away and let those who are interested engage in a spirited discussion. Not all windmills call out your name.

Taking the argument to social media makes the issue even less troubling. Since each of us only has to scroll past to avoid discussions we don’t like, it is the ideal method to toss around political ideas. No one can be forced to engage, and each person can participate at the level they feel comfortable doing so. You have time to consider your responses and even double-check the content before you participate.

To be clear, though, much of the objection to politics (whatever that might be defined to be), is really just a disguised attempt to make some people feel comfortable. Many people despise the democracy of social media, as it puts others in a position to ‘see’ information and content they object to. People tend to walk and talk inside their own comfort zones. When exposed to other politics, religions, and culture, their defense mechanisms kick into gear and push them to look away.

Our conversations reflect what we are exposed to. Politics is simply a huge part of that. Politics isn’t the problem. It’s us, as we struggle to come to terms with both talking and listening.

An Abridged Reminder to Our Social Media Friends…

Note: “If you choose to not engage with any of my personal posts – the ones which reveal both personal humor and outlook, you don’t get the privilege to snark unhelpfully on those posts which prick at your political, religious or social discomfort.”

I use social media to share my life; not just the window dressings, either – I share what lies behind and beneath. Most people are astonished by my volume and willingness to share. Unlike most, I create what I share and of course do so with the belief that not all my nonsense will interest you.

If you can’t honor the expectation of engagement with the full range of meaningful sharing without lashing out, the problem then lies within you and with the uncotrolled urge to fight every opinion which fails to mirror your own. Spirited debate is not the problem. It is the surliness people exhibit when their ideas are challenged, especially by contrary or superior ones.

I can imagine the spittle spewing from your snarled lips, the zealotry throbbing at your carotid artery. Take a moment and consider: if my opinion is meaningless it should not awaken anger. And if it is valuable you do yourself a disservice by screaming in response.

Disagreement is mandatory, but doesn’t negate the social graces imposed on us mutually and reciprocally.

We each have equal footing in these personal spaces. If we are to engage as if we are visiting each other’s houses, we must refuse to enter with pointed finger or raised fist. Let courteous wit and wisdom be our calling card. Friends do not hurl bricks through windows – unless asked to do so. Each person and each house sits on its own foundation.

May ideas win by their merit. Use your soapbox and inded your life to demonstrate by example.
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PS: a reminder came to me during the wee hours. It’s expected that the internet will scorn, with its distant anonymous anger – but not from those who’ve shared moments with me.

Invisible Fingers in Our Minds

Whether it’s on social media or in a blog, I’m constantly surprised by the eternal nature and reach of the internet. We all see to travel a similar trajectory of recognition when we discover music, words, or content which move us. When people find and identify with things I’ve written, it’s a fulfiling sensation.

The video below is something I did last year, after brawling with people who insist on editing history or controlling the content of their friends and family social media. This tendency is especially evident after someone passes from this world.  All those stories and truths which might wound get buried with that person, too, if we aren’t careful. I’ve long fought the battle against censoring anyone’s full story.

I’m a big believer in sharing the content of our lives as it unfolds. It’s true that our perspective will change even toward the facts of our lives as we grow older. We tend to either blossom outwardly, taking our secrets out there with us, or contract and hide within an ever-narrowing caccoon.

In this case, someone else happened upon my blog, and out of the hundreds of blog posts that still remain, watched this video. It sparked a renewal to write their story, no matter who liked it or not, and regardless of whether it was well-done by any objective standard.

 

 

The Sunrise Admonition Principle

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If you post glowing sunrises speaking of the beauty of god’s creation but privately judge gays, the impoverished, addicts, Hispanics or Muslims, you are missing the point of a graceful god. If it irks you to read this, imagine the hearts of those you are judging as they live their lives surrounded by distrustful eyes and dark wishes.

In so doing, you are also being dishonest. You are only sharing those things which serve as window dressing, the reflection of things you know which will draw no controversy.

All of us can look at the easy things and rejoice.

Few of us can see our own prejudice against the ‘other,’ much less admit it to the world. Like the admiration for the sunrise, however, the bile of dislike you might feel toward marginalized groups is just as much a part of who you are as that appreciation for light.

If I know you deeply, I can look at your picture of the colorful sunrise and smile – but not fully, as I understand that behind that window you present, there is a sneer of superiority, one which discolors my regard for your worldview.

Who you are is both the sunrise and the concealed dark shadows you guard so closely inside your heart.

Share who you are or change those things which shame you once revealed.