I am struggling with some things related to social media. It occurs to me that others might have some of the same challenges. When I am troubled by something, I write. I am troubled tonight (again) about the profanity on social media. I am also troubled about the negativity, anger, and extreme opinions of some things posted. Let me be clear about this. I am fine with others posting whatever they want to even when I do not agree with those opinions or language. After all, in our country, we do have freedom of speech as a right. What concerns me, however, is that others might perceive me as agreeing with those positions just by the fact that I am a “friend.” This is mainly an issue with Facebook. Now, I know not to “like” a comment that I do not agree with, or one that does not represent me well. I do not share articles or posts that I do not agree with. For I know that “we are known by the company we keep.” I guess it is that “company that we keep” part that really concerns me.
A few disclaimers. I have never (to my recollection, at least) invited anyone to be my friend on FB. I have, however, accepted most people who have requested that I be their friend. Those few that I have not accepted are ones who I can’t identify a connection with, or in a rare case or two, those who I chose not to for concern about their potential postings. I have never de friended anyone, and do not even know how to do that. I never want to offend anyone by defriending them, although I have been told that there is a way to do this without the person knowing they have been defriended. (I obviously need some social media training!)
I have never posted any negative response to another’s post, regardless of how much I disagree with it. (I have been very tempted to do so a few times with younger relatives who I think should know better, but I have not!) Nor have I posted my strong opinions (and I do have them!) about some of the same subjects some other people rant and rave about. My reason for this is simple. Life is too short and people are too important for me to willingly choose to offend anyone just because I have an opinion, regardless of how strongly I feel about it, and especially if I feel strongly about it! To me this is not being cowardly or disingenuous. I prefer to think it is just being tactful and kind.
I don’t necessarily think I am as careful about these things in face to face conversation as I am with the written word. I know I have crossed over the line with my strong opinions in conversation. I regret those. Some of those conversations have caused misunderstandings and hurt, and when I have known about that, I have apologized and done what I could to repair those relationships. As hard as that can be, it is much harder when those thoughts are put in writing, and especially when they are on social media for all the world to see.
Most of what I read on social media is positive and helpful. Most of my FB friends are people who share the same values as me, although not necessarily the same opinions, which is absolutely fine. I learn from divergent opinions when those opinions are presented in a positive, professional, and kind manner. Facebook and Twitter are wonderful modes of transmission of useful, helpful, and inspiring information. That is the good.
But there is the dark side, the bad and the ugly. I do not (usually) use profanity, and certainly not in everyday language, and am tired of others who do use profanity in everyday language, both from platforms and in writing. Can we not express ourselves well without profanity? If not, what does that say about us? And why so much negativity? Have we lost all of our filters and all civility?
I realize that in this post I may have done the very thing I have avoided doing, offending others. I hope not. If I have, however, I hope that you do not feel that I have personalized it, that I have not told you personally and all of your contacts how wrong I think you are. For after all, who really wants to hear that?