Why I want to Delete Half of my Facebook Friends during a National Crisis.

Via Emily Bartran
on Nov 24, 2014
get elephant's newsletter

Flickr

Sadly, we here at Elephant have been given reason after reason to reshare this. We have taken to resharing this time and again, whenever an international or national tragedy strikes and our “friends” enter into a war of emotions, words, an armchair war of social media. ~ ed.

~
Tonight, we found out that there will be no criminal charges brought against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown three months ago.

Whether it’s a Presidential election, a racial debate or celebrity scandal, I find myself wanting to purge my Facebook of half of the virtual names and faces that pop up on my newsfeed every time there is a national issue.

And, it’s only partially because I disagree with half of them.

Honestly.

I’m always happy to hear the other side, because I almost never assume I know enough, or that any one person can ever know enough, to have the right to shut out other opinions. Granted, I would prefer them to be well articulated and generally respectful—but I find myself reading through the ones that aren’t, just the same.

The problem is not that people are posting things I disagree with.

The problem is that we leave no room for dialogue.

We, by way of the media and horribly skewed news (on both sides of the political spectrum), have become so polarized in our response to any and everything controversial that it legitimately breaks my heart.

How is it surprising to anyone that there are issues of distrust and resentment between people in our country when all we choose to do in response to crises is call everyone who disagrees with us ignorant, make sweeping generalizations and post disgustingly insensitive comments from behind our keyboards?

One of our biggest issues in this country is that we don’t talk.

We don’t engage in any sort of meaningful, mature, productive conversation.

We point fingers. We blame. We draw lines in the sand.

We create an us vs. them dynamic, the “us” and “them” changing based on every issue, even when we do something as simple as bang out a few words on a keyboard and send it off to cyberspace.

We propagate silence by closing our ears to what the rest of the world has to say.

And all any of this is going to do is make us grow farther apart.

If you’re fighting the good fight, speak up. Use your voice. Always.

But remember that a crucial tactic in winning a debate—and a crucial component of being a good-hearted, mindful human being, more importantly—is listening. Is trying to understand, even when we don’t. Is thinking before you speak.

 

To those I agree with: Keep using your voice for good, but remember that denigration never changed a mind.

To those I don’t agree with: You keep using your voice, too, but please don’t disrespect the death of a boy for the sake of proving your point.

To everyone with a lot to say and a no-holds-barred social media platform on which to share it: leave room for dialogue. Change the conversation, don’t shut it out when it looks different than your own. Use your voice to spark unity, not hatred.

 

Relephant:

Would RFK could give this speech in Ferguson, tonight.

 

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Photo: Flickr


507,199 views

About Emily Bartran

Emily Bartran is a reader, writer, and relentless inspiration-seeker. She believes that the world is best felt under bare feet and that thunderstorms are an underrated phenomena. She believes that the Earth is meant for exploring, life is meant for loving, and words are meant for sharing. Over-thinking is one of her favorite pastimes, and she would find it ideal to be able to make a living doing so. Check out her mind in photo form on Instagram.

Comments

48 Responses to “Why I want to Delete Half of my Facebook Friends during a National Crisis.”

  1. Christa says:

    Thank you for this!! I was just about to purge. I am sharing this immediately. You have articulated my heart in your words.

  2. J says:

    Emily, social media isn’t geared for dialogue. It’s geared for consumption. Especially Facebook which sorts and collates everything under the sun down one single column known as the news feed. Have something important to say? It’ll show up right next to some black and white cartoon with a clever quote, and a story about how (insert city here) has a secret that you have to see to believe. It’s about quick satisfaction before you move on to something else in the blink of an eye. No one has time to read your well-articulated argument, they want funny cat pictures they can click “like” too.

    But I know that Facebook isn’t the only medium. Take twitter, a venue that does a little better of a job at allowing you to filter out the junk. If they wanted you to have a dialogue, why would they limit you to 140 characters that require you to be an expert in twitter-fu? For the same reason. Quick, concise, don’t stick around to talk, just consume consume consume.

    So two of the biggest social media outlets condition their users to get the most out of their sites by being quick. Quick to post, quick to judge, quick to forget. You would delete your friends for using Facebook the “right” way while those who would want to have dialogue know better than to be there. Is it worth offending so many people by actively not wanting to know about their snap judgments and little quips? Because you know someone’s going to be vewy vewy mad 7 months from now when they go to post something on your wall and they don’t see you on their friends list..

  3. Dick MaGee says:

    So you want everyone to be more open minded but in your 1st paragraph it says the man who shot and killed michael brown three months ago. Shouldn't it have said in self defense?

  4. LLalani says:

    Emily – kudos for providing a much needed perspective. You are helping those who read your words to step back & genuinely think – thank you.

    It does start with each one of us as individuals . . . in our own day to day lives in how we react & treat others. Until we do this – national conversations will be slow to proceed & have results.

    Thanks for initiating thoughts & actions with better energy & potential for each of our futures. Take care & keep smiling:-)

  5. Feck Off says:

    Very disappointed with all these "enlightened" communities bringing politics into the mix. What happened to, 18 being the legal "adult" age, anyway? Everybody wants to paint this guy as a "kid," and leverage that to garner sympathy. Facts are facts- if any white man had done what that guy did, there would be no outrage at the verdict. How many other cases simply go unnoticed, because race-baiters don't push the envelope unless it furthers their cause. Ya wanna change the world, change the world, but dig a little deeper than mainstream media for your cause, at least.

  6. Michele says:

    Thank you.

  7. keyarafleece2013 says:

    Thank you for this post Emily!

  8. Angie says:

    Man, Facebook (and social media in general) REALLY brings out the worst in folks during times like this. It is truly baffling!! Funny how this one simple app, that somebody banked bookoos on, has now become a filter to basically weed out old friends, and people with opinions that are different from our own. Can't help but feel we are moving backwards.

    Do our values and convictions now take precedence over relationships with the people and family we thought we knew best, and cared so deeply for, at one point?

    What kind of "new society" is this monster creating?…

    :::le sigh:::

    Angie from Memphis

  9. dognpony says:

    Here's my deal: If we disagree but you want to debate with informed, intelligent, logical and well-reasoned facts, I'm all for it. I'll debate you all day and respect you when we're done.

    But I don't suffer fools and I call a spade a spade.

    So if you want to post stupid shit you heard on Fox News, can't make a rational argument, are racist/sexist.etc., or are willfully ignorant, then I don't have time for your idiocy. I will call you a dumb-ass. You will be mocked for attempting to persuade people with your lies. You will be called out for lowering the IQ of the human race.

    Last night, someone asked me if I was ashamed to be a loudmouth jackass. My response was that I'd rather be a truth-telling loudmouth jackass than a liar or an idiot.

  10. Ryann says:

    Michael Brown was twice the size of the officer. He was no sweet, innocent, boy. He was a violent adult male engaging in a criminal act–he pushed a cop into his own cruiser and reached for his gun. This poor officer did what he absolutely had to do in order to make it home to his family alive that night. Praying for all of our good men and women police officers out there who are just trying to do your job. This man did what he was trained do to and now can’t come out of hiding thanks to the riling up of skewed media. And this town is upping its poverty rates and taxes by breaking all protesting laws and destroying property and harming truly innocent people.

  11. A Rebuttal says:

    I'm not sure how I feel about this article. Yes, we all need to keep an open mind to the opinions of others, but not when those opinions aren't based in fact. It's like someone saying I need to respect their opinions that climate change isn't real, which flies in the face of mountains of evidence. Sorry, I don't buy it! The way I see it, and from my debate experience, an opinion was only worthy of air time if it could be proven, and speculation was just that.

    Yes, a person is dead and that life cannot be regained. However, Michael Brown also intimidated a shopkeeper, and thought he could do the same to a police officer. I can't believe that the jury would reach a verdict simply based on racism and face-saving, and I am only more convinced after reading about the forensic evidence that corroborates the police officer's story. There simply wasn't enough evidence to find guilt/indict him, and that's how the justice system is supposed to work.

    Is there grey area? Absolutely.

    Is there a lot to be be said? Absolutely.

    BUT — it's no longer about whether or not Michael Brown requires vindication, or anything else that cannot be proven. It will have to simply be left to the past. What we need is a conversation about how to move away from this tragedy where NO ONE won — and for people to be willing to have that conversation even if it is difficult, or embarrassing, or it airs long-standing racial problems.

    It should be a conversation about enforcing that police wear cameras while interacting with the public on the job, to prevent these kind of hearsay situations — as well as police brutality, which is a legitimate rising concern. It should be about offering true social mobility to poor and minority groups in depressed areas that turn to a culture of violence and ignorance because they don't know of any other options (or arguably, perceive taking advantage of those options as acting outside of their social group – that they were denying their race or that excelling was "acting white").

    And probably the largest issue at work here is the media's sensationalism, painting this as a story about race, inciting an entire town to violence and rioting under the guise of a social movement, when we know those looting are simply impoverished opportunists.

    You talk about an "us-versus-them" mentality, but let's be honest about who set the national dialogue. The prosecutor: “The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything, to talk about, followed closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media.” McCulloch finished by stating that evidence mattered, and that no one’s life should be decided based on “public outcry or for political expediency.” http://www.breitbart.com/…/Media-narrative-impl….

    Michael's Cousin Ty Pruitt: "Pruitt said he was “disgusted” with the whole process, especially with the media coverage that “dehumanized” him. He said that by framing the shooting as “young black teenager” shot by white cop, the media has basically “divided our society to take sides.”" http://www.mediaite.com/…/michael-browns-cousin…

    This is just such a loaded issue, and I felt that you, as the writer, did a disservice buy preaching that we should all just "listen" , but then not saying anything else of substance when you clearly has a platform and an audience. Additionally, you speak about being open minded, and use loaded vocabulary like calling him a "kid" and not mentioning that he was found to have been shot and killed in the the defense of the officer's life.

    It doesn't appear that your heart is legitimately breaking, if you want to drop half your friends for disagreeing with you. Crying for Kumbaya on blogs and Facebook isn't going to do it at this point, when Ferguson is burning.

  12. scott says:

    This was a great article up until you showed your point of view on the matter. By insinuating those who agree with you are using their voice for good to change minds and those who disagree with you are disrespecting a young dead man makes you guilty of doing that which you are speaking against. An author of a dissimilar point of view could have just as easily written “for those I agree with, keep using your voice for good and remember denigration won’t change minds, for those I disagree with, don’t disrespect a peace officer whos life and family are in turmoil following these tragic events”. I reverse the point of view only to help show how someone of a dissimilar point of view could find that statement inflammatory and not part of productive dialogue.

  13. Elizabeth Brown says:

    Thank you.

  14. DeBates says:

    I get your point regarding how we communicate. However, it is my observation that the reason communication has broken down is because people ignore fact and derive information from media articles which obfuscate the facts of these issues by framing them in emotionally biased pieces. There is no objective journalism anymore, and in this case, as well as other national incidents, the media presents speculative misinformation designed to drive emotion, resulting in knee-jerk responses from the unenlightened masses. The result is people developing an opinion not based facts, but on something far similar to propaganda.

    As an example, your statement, "You keep using your voice, too, but please don’t disrespect the death of a boy for the sake of proving your point" still characterizes Michael Brown as a kid. The use of the word "boy" causes connotations of youth, innocence, and a future lost, which elicit direct emotional responses causing the reader to want to side against the shooter. "Who in their right mind would shoot an innocent boy!?" Well, Michael Brown wasn't a boy, or a kid, or a child. He was an adult.

    If people just stuck to the facts of this case, or the facts in a political issue, used rational thought, and critical thinking skills, then the necessary dialogs might be possible. The problem is that media outlets don't report the facts anymore, and in this case, the result is an officer tried, judged, and found guilty in the court of public opinion – an opinion based on emotion, not reason.

  15. Joshua says:

    I would agree with this if the bias wasn't so evident. Was there a need to express your view in order to get your point across? While facebook posts allow dialogue, a journal blog viewed by nearly 200,000 people at this point clearly does not.

    >>You keep using your voice, too, but please don’t disrespect the death of a boy for the sake of proving your point.

  16. There is more going on than just a lack of dialogue, it is a lack of understanding by many about just how differently one person can think compared to another. In neuroscience, especially in the neurodiversity movement ( I am ASD for example), we are seeing more clearly how folks think and approach things differently. Humans prioritize differently, feel to varying degrees, some prefer the object reality right in front of them, others are more disassociative by nature and prefer a more cerebral approach. When people can’t realize that no person can be expected to think 100% just like them and fail to apply their own self assessment to others, then we fail to even create the proper space to communicate. When our politics is based on bullying and demeaning difference and the person instead of the ideas, we cannot communicate. When we fail to realize that personal human context is a combination of inherent brain wiring (or the soul if one prefers that, i see no conflict here), socio-cultural values, and life experience. Ferguson, like so many other things happening now shows clearly when communication breaks down, and those who are not in the dominant more common thought paradigms, or who are demeaned or maligned for consequences of their birth, be it biological sex, race, socio-economic status, etc, we alienate each other, we force each other to draw those lines in the sand because the opposing out-group becomes part of a false dichotomy, they become bad and in turn the person allows themselves to feel good, instead of understanding, embracing, and seeing the value in the difference that drives us forward and thus would allow us to move away from good and evil and instead act morally. Our founding fathers did not always see eye to eye, but they were men of various degrees of principle, they attacked the ideas more often than the person stating them, and it is always the ideas that are going to cause harm, but if you demean and devalue a person simply because they have a different worldview and life experience, they go on the defense, we need to go back to talking about and discussing the ideas, no one person lives in isolation, the tragedies are a symptom of a larger social breakdown in communication. Many people do not even need to challenge themselves with other ideas because it is so easy these days to cherry pick news sources that reflect one’s own ideology, instead of challenging oneself to listen to the other side. All sides have valid arguments along with invalid ones, and we are not going to move forward and progress and really tap into our vast potential as individuals who are part of a massive social construct as well. Sadly, the burden of communication often falls on those with the least privilege and the least personal energy to invest in defending their ideas, we need to talk, as a nation, as a species, and not just attack folks because we view them as wrong, or ignorant, or even worse that somehow human children are born to be evil or good.

  17. Mark says:

    Thich Nhat Hanh once said something that really got me. He said that we have to be careful when we pick a side in conflict because what usually happens (almost all of the time) is that the only thing we accomplish is to assure the perpetuation of conflict.

  18. Jay Ettinger says:

    Emily, by far the most eloquent piece of read about the world we live in today, and the only way we can move forward together as a country. Madly in love with your thoughts.

  19. @jayettinger says:

    Emily, thank you for this timely and eloquent piece. You've perfectly stated the sad and current state of affairs we're facing and how we can move forward. I'm madly in love with your thoughts.

  20. what is truth? says:

    The controversy in this case is one of facts and deciding who is stating a correct version of the facts — the officer and authorities or the witnesses on the street. The officer's statements described a justifiable defensive shooting. Voices on the street described cold blooded murder. The truth likely lies between the extremes. Either way our opinions go as to which story to believe, it is a statement of bias from a position of ignorance. None of us were there.

    Now, that said, I'm confused about the blockquoted section. It really needs a more explicitly stated context. If it's intended to be an example of how self righteousness is used to shut down dialog, then it's perfectly placed. But if it's meant as a closing summation of the article's message, then it truly misses the mark because, well, it's an example of how self righteousness is used to shut down dialog. It is patronizing and condescending toward the other side and implicitly calls dissenters immoral for seeking out facts beyond the highly suspect statements of both the officer and the witnesses.

    If there is a greater good to be extracted from all of this, it should be that we all — regardless of where side on this matter — come together and insist on the inclusion of completely impartial recording devices to capture events like this to prevent the need to rely on untrustworthy stories.

  21. Caramia says:

    I don't see a way to close the chasm here. Racism and bigotry exist for people to feel superior to others. Realistically, I think class of people is the real culprit and unfortunately many people consider Blacks as a whole as low class. They never remember the middle class and upper middle class Blacks that are raising their families with the same goals and dreams that we all have. Bigotry – Jews are cheap and are in control of newspapers, TV, Banking and the World Bank…Really?
    All Italians are in the Mafia? Uh-huh. All Irish are drunks. All HIspanics are here illegally. All Muslims are terrorists. All poor whites are Meth heads. I think you get it.

  22. layni67 says:

    So well said and hard to argue with! You had me until "boy". Michael Brown was not a boy. He was a huge (and I would imagine intimidating), 18 year old MAN. He had just robbed and assaulted a person who reported it to the police. The police were on the lookout for someone fitting his very distinct description. Please remember that he put himself into a bad position, he is neither a victim nor should he be considered martyr for some cause? The whole situation is very sad, and unfortunately of the only two people that REALLY know what happened only one survived the altercation; so we have to move on.
    All this racist talk (see above: blanket generalities of low class black vs. Mafia vs. Meth-heads) is insane! Unless you are 95 years old, you are making a conscious choice to be a racist no matter what color you are! There are too many opportunities to be educated and know what's right. I see just as many white people I am quick to get away from as black people. Perpetuating this "race card" mentality has got to stop! There are good hard working people in every color. People like Jamie Foxx and Jay-Z don't help matters either! We all need to get along!

  23. K says:

    For the most part I agree with what you say here, up until the last tidbit. Sadly, the death of the boy is a big part of the issue and what led to it, and discussing it is part of the uncomfortable situation of context. One can do this without using a slur, racial label, etc. and should, but the actions of the entire altercation are really a big part of the discussion; while many people won’t, and perhaps, can’t, discuss any given situation like this in the singular. When it comes to emotional conversations, even the people that you seem to state (given the context), can throw logic out the window and argue emotionally; but it’s difficult to have any constructive conversation if we are unaware of whether we are discussing the direct conversation (The evidence of this particular case, our opinions on how it was handled, etc.), the context of the area it took place in (which is, arguably, an entirely different conversation, and what many people are actually reacting to), the history of such events, no matter how short, or how long ago (Here, we end up discussing race, rather than a singular incident, and it colors and distorts the lens of our perceptions), or a national view (taking a singular event and making sweeping judgments about the whole is probably the worst tactic of all, and it is done more and more often, not just in this scenario, but in any given scenario where people disagree, and rather than being constructive in disagreement, merely want to silence one another.)

    A big part of the problem is: we use language that is exclusive. It’s ever been done, in a smaller degree, here (IE: You’ve already made it clear who you agree and disagree with, which is going to shape the conversation from then, on. This colors the lines of who is on the defense from first response; and shapes the entire possible conversation just from that framing.) In most places, when people don’t agree with that exclusive conversation, they are shut down in general terms of “not being able to understand”, and various other appeals to emotion that not might fit the logical evidence. it’s much more difficult to have an inclusive conversation, but only by being “inclusive”, not demanding, not pushing, not using any given hypersensationalized events to play out old wounds and prejudices, can we really begin to speak and change things. This isn’t easy, it won’t ever be easy; because people would rather rehash the past than construct a future where we don’t visit these events again; but it takes all sides, all colors, all genders, being willing and open to talk to one another without shutting one another down, or without expecting making a shut down part of the social/political framing (This, by and large, has become socially acceptable, though when and why is beyond me. But it is definitely a very limiting factor.) So if we want to talk? We all have to be open to listening, not just: “I talk and you listen” or the other way around. Even if it makes us uncomfortable, even if it challenges our world view. We need to look at the impact, the effect our current route of conversations have. Because so long as we are trying to gag one another, there will be anger, so long as there is anger, we’ll respond from that place, so long as we do that? Change is a contentious thing, at best. We’re reacting, still. We need to remember how to respond.

  24. Joe says:

    Hey Emily – I think you are so on the money with this. We are so polarized in this country, it really feels like 2 different countries. No matter which side you're on, it's becoming so hard to have a mature dialogue between the poles. It's a complicated world and we try to wrap our heads around it by simplifying it with people of like minds – it helps us all feel better, but it makes honest dialogue with the other side harder and harder. My hope is that more people will do what you have done and emphasize the need for genuine kindness and real listening when engaging with those with different opinions and maybe turn this thing around.. Thank you..!

  25. Excellent article, Emily! I couldn't agree with you more. With the 2016 election approaching us, I feel like this article should be shared every day. So many people can no longer talk to one another about their disagreements… but dialogue is how we learn. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Leave a Reply