Admittedly, I’m a heavy facebook user. I’m pretty much on there all day, as I partially use it for work, and partially for keeping up with friends and family. Recently I’ve been going through a lot of new things professionally and personally. I’m in the middle of this transition of thinking of myself as a young professional, whatever that means, to a parent. In the midst of that transition I’ve been faced with some unclear problems to deal with, and so I figured I would take a month off from the stress of adding more stress to my life (If that makes any sense at all.). I decided to run a personal experiment to help me reach that goal. I decided not to post on social media anything that could be construed as inflammatory or political. I did not limit myself from liking posts, just sharing or posting about them. Which, I’m not sure but probably, still may have shared them. I’m not sure about Facebook’s algorithm and what they have decided to share or not publicly with your friends as of writing this. I started on December 6th and planned to stay away from these posts until today, January 7th. Here is what I posted on facebook:
As an advent and holiday present to me and everyone else. I started yesterday, but until Epiphany I will not post anything political or inflammatory. Just things I find amusing. Happy Holidays.
I stuck to it. I survived, and learned some things along the way. Here is what I learned:
1. It’s difficult
“Seriously, it’s difficult to not do something online?” you may be asking yourself. But yes, It’s difficult. There are several reasons why It’s difficult and they are other things that I learned along the way. But yes, this is most certainly a first world problem.
I think this is mainly because of what facebook has become. Facebook is really a place where people share how they feel about the news and hope that other people feel the same way about it as well. Overwhelmingly this is what facebook has become. If you don’t believe me just take a look at Facebook’s Look back video for 2015:
Notice, it’s all news stories. It’s how people reacted to all of the news going on around the world. That’s what facebook is embracing. it is a reason for people to sign on to the most popular social media network. So for an introvert who doesn’t really share how he feels face to face with people, it’s very difficult to cut off one of the only outlets to the world. The weird thing is that even though people may know that you are taking a break from these things they keep trying to pull you back in, which leads me to point two.
2. People just care about their own feelings
It’s true, especially for me. That’s why it was so hard for me to do. I wanted to share how I felt about things. Not that anyone cares at all about how I felt about something, except maybe one or two people. This isn’t just a bit of self-depreciation.
It’s something I overwhelmingly noticed during this time. People want to pull you back into arguments, because the more you argue with someone the more it validates their own feelings on something. Maybe I’m just being cynical about it all, but it was all my news feed was during the first two weeks. There were a lot of big events in the month I took a break from posting those things. People had a lot to say about said things. There was a lot I had to say about what was going on, but I decided to not share any of it. I chose not to post anything regarding those things, though I still read them. I still liked some things. But I didn’t give in to sharing. It really changed how I viewed these things. We tend to dehumanize the people we disagree with. That’s one of the things I think makes the internet and social media a dangerous thing. It allows us to remove human characteristics from a person and view them as only a name or a facebook profile photo. So then above all we favor one thing, our own viewpoint. The things we share end up becoming confirmation biased things, not things that change our viewpoint. Even if it’s something you believe that is way way way way outside of rational thought, you can find articles to back up your viewpoint. It gives validity to your thoughts and feelings, but I don’t think it convinces others to see things your way.
3. Being an Observer changes your Perspective
Before I took this break I had been called a wide variety of things in very quick succession, which sort of led me to do this as well. The things that hurt the most were ones that characterized me as angry or hate-filled. I decided to take a step back from my most public display of myself, and only post the things that brought me joy. I started to read articles and post with the lens of these questions: “Would anyone find this offensive? and why?” “Does it have anything to do with politics?” “Who does this serve?” “Is it just fun?”
The more articles I read the more I noticed something. A lot of the things I would normally post were written thinking that people who opposed the viewpoint of the writer were thought to be idiotic, or imbecilic. The “other side” was often viewed as a dehumanized entity that was only worthy of destruction. Granted, this may not be how the authors intend their work to become, but it reads that way a lot. Maybe it’s a bit of my own transference. It is extremely frustrating to try and have a conversation with someone who opposes your viewpoint, and I can see how that could lead you to just wanting to take the easy way out of the conversation by turning it into an argument and dehumanizing your opponent. The problem is both sides do this. Nobody wants to just talk anymore. We do everything we possibly can to avoid hard conversations. We would much rather argue, because there are winners in an argument. I have noticed this offline as well. People do whatever they can to avoid conversations with people. Even the simple ones. Which is quite humorous. I mean think about it, how would you rather order pizza: Making a phone call or going to a website and filling in information? Why is that? Is it because you know that someone is on the other side of the phone possibly making judgments about your order?
4. The worst option is most often the easiest
I saw a ridiculous number of posts from people saying that the way to fix said situation “It’s so simple”, and more often than not that simple solution was probably the worst idea ever. Granted, as in ministry, most of these situations are solved in the way that would cause us to fail the least badly. We often face situations that are “kobayashi maru” situations. These situations are caused by people who have already decided on the easy way out. People who feel like the only way out of their situations or to get people to listen to them is to make others fearful or to hurt other people. As a person I was talking to recently said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Our first reaction is to take the easy road and hurt that person that hurt us back. An eye for an eye though just leaves the whole world blind…
I love this scene from the most recent season of Doctor Who. I believe it breaks up every war, every argument, every disagreement we have into very simple terms. I understand that not everything is as simple, and this doesn’t solve everything, but when we sit down and talk it’s very helpful to figure out the better solution.
5. Change doesn’t happen overnight
I very much tried to narrow this all down to an easily consumable list. In fact I could probably add another 5 more and still have more to write about. But I wanted to end this on a happy note and with a lesson to learn from all of this. The biggest thing I think I can emphasize is be patient with people. I know that we often are like Varuca Salt in the Willy Wonka universe, we don’t care who it hurts we want it now.
But change takes time. People wont change from an internet status post. They wont read a single article and suddenly decide that your way of thinking was the right one. It will take time, and who knows maybe you were the one who was in the wrong the entire time. I’m done with my personal experiment, but I think that I’m not going to care so much about other people’s reactions to my posts on facebook. I think instead: I’m going to think a little bit more about the articles I post, Try to see things from the other person’s perspective, realize that other peoples feelings are valid too, try do do things that are a little more difficult for me to do like having a face to face conversation, and be patient with people.