Tag Archives: Facebook

Trying to Be Reasonable in an Age of Hotheaded Sloganeering

Facebook is a funny place to be sometimes. That’s funny as in weird, conducive to eye-rolling, and even downright frustrating. All you have to do is dropkick any public issue into the fray and watch what happens. Every issue becomes hot-button. People post and repost memes and videos to spout off their views. If you have a view, you probably have a hashtag. (Hashtags are the new bumper sticker.)

DebateAll of this is symptomatic of folks talking at each other and past each other without truly listening to each other. Many of us don’t seem to have the time or the interest to have open, respectful conversations anymore. Or perhaps our cynical natures have written that off as a worthless endeavor. Some tip their hat to it and dabble in a meaningful conversation here and there, but then go right back to ranting out their viewpoints.

This is an angry, fearful, sardonic, pessimistic era in which we live. We question and make assumptions about everyone’s motives. If you voice an opinion, prepare yourself for the backlash. Everyone wants to be heard, but few choose to listen. Compromise is a pathetic word for sellouts and the noodle-spined. Humor and sarcasm are barely distinguishable. And any attempt to be a calm voice of reason in this climate requires an endless supply of patience and persistence. I’m finding that out for myself.

Now I don’t want to saint myself as the wise, reasonable one among a crowd of sinful loudmouth partisans. I don’t want to be the curmudgeonly hermit who holes himself away as the virtuous remnant of reason. In other words, I don’t want my contributions to unwittingly add to the swarm of negativity I think I perceive in others.

But if we’re all going to behave differently, we have to diagnose the problem and give it a name. The name I give it is Hotheaded Sloganeering.

  • Hotheaded– easily angered, easily offended, quick to jump to conclusions about the opposition
  • Sloganeering– the repeated use of soundbite-sized arguments and statements to solidify support for a view or a cause

For example, last week I wrote a piece about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem. I offered what I thought was a reasonable approach by saying that Kaepernick is well within his rights to free speech, and that what he did represents the very best of our American liberties for which many have fought hard to protect. Note: I did not evaluate the merits of Kaepernick’s actions or the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of what he did. I simply hopped off the bandwagon of criticizing Kaepernick’s fundamental rights as an American to not honor his country’s flag or anthem in the name of protesting the injustice of racism.

However, I’ve since then heard a lot of the following: “Sure, he has the right to do that, but he shouldn’t have. If he’s a real American, a grateful American, then he should be standing for the country who lets him do that. He should be barred for doing that. He’s totally out of line. If he doesn’t like this country, then he should leave it.”

And then I heard others say, “All you flag wavers are always telling black people to protest peacefully. Kaepernick does, and you demonize him, too. You just want black people to sit down and shut up, or in this case, stand up and shut up. That’s because you feel threatened if black people should rise up and become equals to you.”

[Sigh…]

While we’re busy shouting at each other we’ve failed to see that we are all trying to figure out the same thing- what it means for America to be America and for all of us to be Americans with dignity. Racial equality and patriotism. Two aspects of this same issue. Yet people take their aspect of choice, hold it up high as the sole battleground of the American struggle, and charge full steam ahead.

Meanwhile we find ourselves caught in a web of cognitive dissonance, character assassinations, and competing angles of the same issue.

The only way to break this logjam of unreason and disrespect is to make a concerted effort to experiment with another tactic. Humility.

Humility is tough to pin down because the moment we think we have it, we’ve probably lost it. That results in a self-assuring pride parading itself as humility. There’s a lot of this false humility out there, and I have to admit I’ve been found guilty of possession, too. Yet despite the lesser angels of our nature, I have discovered that the test for genuine humility is the ability to listen with the purpose of understanding.

Let the guard down. Put aside fear and suspicion. Bring a curious mind and heart. Look for reasons to respect different voices. Be open to the possibility that our ingrained presumptions are incomplete and inaccurate. Let others be themselves and show grace towards the unintentional things they do or say that cause us pain. At the same time, learn where others’ wounds are and the unintentional things we say and do that throw salt into those wounds. Respect that those wounds are real. Expect that the way forward will take some time to discern and that it will be a lot more complex than we think. Hang in there, anticipating that there will be some bumps and bruises along the way. But if we can do all this, the way forward will be life-giving and will bring more of us onboard together.

It’s tough to be reasonable in this age. Peacemaking is not for wimps. Sometimes it seems like an elusive quest to find people who will partner with us and stay in it for the long run. However, I’m convinced that no matter the issue or challenge we face, our work will stand the test of time. It will certainly long surpass the shallow notions and futile efforts of all the hotheaded sloganeering we hear around us… especially on Facebook.

 

 

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Christian Jerks on Social Media

Yesterday I saw this tweet from a pastor friend of mine:

I responded with the following:

fighting over internetGranted, the behavior of fellow Christians– and admittedly my own behavior from time to time, too– can be anything but Christ-like. When anyone tries to imagine  the ideal Christian one thinks of graciousness, love, humility, strength, sacrificial. However, we all know how lacking some Christians can be in those departments in our everyday interactions with other people.

But peoples’ behavior on social media takes on quite a different character from their everyday face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions.

Social media creates a semi-anonymous atmosphere. It’s not completely anonymous because we can see each other’s names (or some semblance of a real name) and a picture. But I think of the people I know in person and on social media. Often there’s a difference. Social media removes levels of accountability, and when they are gone, we tend to keep a shorter leash on our virtual tongues and on our manners.

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to spout off or be confrontational in an e-mail that in person? Just the other day, someone sent me an e-mail complaining about something I recently said. Why not pick up the phone? My guess is that would been too hard. But without my voice or face there, it was all too easy to just shoot off an e-mail. In that forum, they could say whatever they wanted. After a few e-mails back and forth, I picked up the phone and called the person. It’s funny. When I did that, suddenly the words were calmer. Understanding and resolution suddenly became a lot easier, spurred on by the necessity and accountability of actual, live, verbal contact.

So, back to social media, an interaction may go like this… Someone posts something on Facebook or Twitter that I don’t like. I either don’t agree with it, or I find it offensive. So I spout off on it, and before I know it, I’ve become a Christian social media jerk. Debates start. The virtual anger level ratchets up. After a while I know I’m saying things I would probably not say in person with this semi-anonymous face I’m interacting with.

And as for Christian love and grace? Whew… Gone out the window and replaced with righteous indignation, argumentativeness, condescension, and just plain ol’ jerk-face behavior. Again, all this gets magnified in the social media world. I’d never be so “daring” or “candid” in person.

Christians already get a bad rap for being judgmental, arrogant, holier than thou, and in general being short-fused snots. Admittedly, much of that criticism is well deserved. It’s high time that we own up to it, confess it, and repent. But, when all of this behavior gets exacerbated in the semi-anonymous world of social media, it only reinforced the stereotypes people already have of us “good religious folk”, a.k.a Christians.

Now I know what’s going through the heads of my fellow Christian readers, something like, “But Chris, we have to stand for Christ and stand for what is right, no matter the cost. Are you going to let unrighteousness and anti-Christian messaging go unchecked, especially when it has the power to influence so many spiritually wishy-washy people??”

To that I have three thoughts to offer:

1) Do you remember the childhood lesson of “it’s not what you say- it’s how you say it?” So often we mess up, not in the message, but in how we forward the message. We can challenge people without coming across as disdainful, know-it-all jerks.

2) We Christians need to learn the wisdom of picking our battles. Ask yourself what’s really at stake before responding to a post. Is it that big of an issue? Before blasting off some angry post, make sure you think about anticipated fruit and consequences. If what you’re saying is only going to fire up people who think like you and tick off everybody else, what have you really accomplished? Was that a battle worth waging?

3) Ask yourself this question and be brutally honest with yourself: what’s at stake in what I’m about to post, Christ or my own self-esteem? I think people often try to make points on social media to stoke their own ego or to vent their own laundry. Well, brothers and sisters, that approach is exclusively about you, and little to nothing to do with Christ. Remember that Jesus knew when to engage in a discussion and when to walk away. Pray for that kind of wisdom. Believe me, the gospel is at stake.

So to reform ourselves from being online Christian jerks, I’d like to suggest a few behavioral modifications that will go a long way to making for better interactions.

1) Read, listen, and think. One of the most underutilized forms of witnessing for Christ is the ministry of listening, learning, and curiosity. That communicates respect and humility which then earns a listening ear from someone else.

2) Ask open-ended questions without copping an argumentative attitude. You’ll be amazed at what you learn. Misconceptions are cleared up, and– miracle of miracles!- you might actually find points of agreement to go on.

3) Make your points calmly and respectfully. Yes, you can do that. Enough said…

3) Have the courage to shut up and move on. In all the years I have been on social media, I have never, ever, ever seen anyone converted to a point by losing an argument. In fact, rarely have I seen anyone lose an argument because that would require a degree of humble concession, a rare bird to find on social media. So, never hesitate to say, “Thank you for sharing that,” and move on.

So there you have it: Etiquette for Christian Jerks on Social Media 101. Now, I have class 201 to attend…

 

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