Monday, December 22, 2014

Facebook Fights, or a Few of My Least Favorite Things

I love Facebook.  You will never see a post from me on the evils of social media and the joys of "unplugging."  I use my newsfeed to get my daily dose of world events, political commentary, pop culture and literary reading, and updates on my friends' cute kids.  I don't understand everyone's obsession with Facebook not being the "real world."  I see more of my friends in the real world now that I have Facebook to make plans and keep in touch than I ever did before.  I'm just never going to be that person who picks up the phone and checks in.  I don't like to talk on the phone, but for some reason, Facebook, Google+, and even texting are far less intimidating to me.  (**Note: I am not on Twitter.  I'm not against it.  I don't know why I've never gotten on board.  Maybe one day.)

My favorite part of social media, however, isn't really the social part.  It's the media.  I love reading about people's thoughts on politics and social issues, author's writing about their process, a mother's spiritual journey, an outsider's path to acceptance.  Through social media, I have learned so much about others and myself and the WORLD around me.  New music, obscure writers, information regarding my chronic health issues, indie films -- all of these are things I have discovered via social media.  I have read and encountered people and ideas that have changed the way I thought, or at least broadened my perspective on some things I thought I already understood.  Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I'd like to think there are other people out there with open minds hoping to make discoveries, not just go on a never-ending search for self-affirmation.

Back to my love for Facebook.  Since opening an account back in 2008, I've been extremely careful what I shared on my homepage.  Too politically divisive?  Not going up.  Too much profanity?  No dice.  Daring to have an opinion on the prevalence of racism in our culture or the legality of gay marriage? Not in a million years.  I saved those gems for my Google+ account.  For some reason, Facebook lends itself to incendiary comment wars.  I like to post articles or links without comment or commentary.  Just food for thought.  You cannot do that on Facebook.  Everything rapidly becomes personal.  You disagree with me so you are evil, and I am the paragon of righteousness and intelligence.  Yes, it seems like almost everyone on Facebook has very strong opinions on nearly every topic imaginable and spends all of their time online scanning for article titles that seem to contradict their fragile worldview.  (Don't even get me started on their inability to actually read the entire article.)

This constant carefulness that I have maintained over the past six years has started to wear thin.  Why when there is so much wrong in this world do I need to worry about being offensive in my desire to see it change?  When did being "nice" become more important than being challenging, innovative, or heaven forbid, provocative?  I'm not talking about being mean or disrespectful.  But is it so much to ask of people to simply look at or listen to another viewpoint?  We each have such a limited perspective.  How can we not benefit from hearing from others?

So twice in the past week I did it.  It wasn't easy.  I've seen the shit storms other friends have endured when they posted something that went against their friends' beliefs or views.  I took a deep breath and posted a video and brief article about one of the beatings of a young African American man in New York by a police officer.  I know, maybe you're thinking what I was: How could my belief that all lives matter and deserve justice and fair treatment be considered controversial or offensive?  But deep down I also knew I was going to get the righty-rants about respecting the police and not resisting arrest.  Because my belief that no one should be beaten by the police apparently puts me one step above an anarchist.  And yeah, it happened.  My hope that humanity would surprise me this time did not pan out.  So I tried it again today.  Different topic, similar result.  Apparently, I am intolerant and ignorant and just plain wrong.  Here's the thing, I have never posted opposing rants on any of their links.  I don't even argue with them when they make absurd comments on my posts.  I'm not out to change minds here.  This is SOCIAL media, you know, like, sharing and stuff?  You share stuff that's important to you, and I do the same, and we all have a good time.  Or not.

What makes me saddest about all this (or really, sad at all, because otherwise I'm not sure I would care) is that so much of the arguing and downright hate gets blamed on Christianity.  Speaking as a Christian, this makes me unspeakably sad.  I am so tired of reading about people who call themselves Christians blaming Scripture for their intolerance and lack of caring.  Some days, I'd just like to sit all of these people I'm "friends" with (many of whom I know from religious circles) and explain to them that Jesus was not a Republican.  And the Constitution was not a God-inspired document on par with the Bible.  And our founding-fathers (at this point even that term gives me the willies) were not additional apostles.  When did loving Jesus become about being right (in either sense of the word)?  When did it come to equal financial prosperity and an inability to imagine the lives of others who are different or less fortunate?  Why do we damn everyone who interprets Scripture differently?  Why are we so worried about what everyone else is doing?  Why are Christians so obsessed with sex in all its permutations and controlling/policing women's bodies?  When did we become so fixated on policing the thoughts and behavior of others? 

I, for one, am so very tired of the whole thing.  It's so disheartening and discouraging to only see Christians portrayed in the media as preachy, judgy pharisees, but I certainly understand why it's all the media shows. Because in America, it has become S.O.P for evangelicals to think and act in this way.  We've forgotten the message of the New Testament, of Jesus, to love one another.  That's it.  If we screw up everything else, that's what Jesus wanted us to do.  So, how is being adamantly against our government providing food for hungry families or health care for people too sick and poor to afford it showing love for others?  Showing love to others means all others -- regardless of race, class, or sexual orientation.  And by love, Jesus means not some theoretical goodwill toward our fellow man, but real, actual compassion.  We can do nothing less and still call ourselves followers of Christ.

So, I guess I said all of that to say this: Today, I hate Facebook just a little bit.  There won't be a status/post declaring this to my friends or a veiled or oblique reference to "some people" in a post.  Here's what I will do: If you like what I post, great.  Say it or don't.  I'm not necessarily looking for affirmation.  If you disagree with what I post, great.  Say it or don't.  I'll even discuss it with you if you like.  But if you slip in to a self-righteous rant that invalidates others' viewpoints, I'm going to put you on the restricted list.  Because life is short, and I don't have time for hate and ignorance.

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