8.5
November 25, 2014

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

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

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Stacey Johnston Sep 28, 2015 5:54am

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!

Joe May 24, 2015 11:25pm

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..!

K Nov 26, 2014 11:57pm

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.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Emily Bartran

Emily Bartran has been a Writer and Editor with Elephant Journal for five years. She has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and is particularly interested in exploring writing habits, authorship, and how we put the experience of modern life into words. You can find her on Instagram.