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Social Media/Facebook Destroys Friendships

Updated on July 17, 2014

Social Media Diatribes

I’m very impatient these days with Facebook and social media. Even though, it has probably kept me more up to date than I’ve been in previous years about the state of our country, it has also caused me more heartburn and aggravation than a screaming toddler in a shopping cart in a crowded grocery store.

I don’t watch the news often, but Facebook and Google+ have exposed me to people and politicians who say ignorant, stupid, false, bigoted, incendiary comments. I am disenchanted with republicans, conservatives, judgmental people, and the crazies who comment on any and every subject. I’m sick of men remarking on birth control when they have no clue what they’re spouting opinions about. And I’m weary of basket-cases and trolls and those who want to stir the pot.

Social media should be a place where people connect personally and professionally. I joined Facebook so I could stay in touch with my best friend who lived a thousand miles away. It was my tool for reconnecting with my cast-mates from dozens of shows in dozens of states and countries. I keep in touch with friends in California, family in New York and Virginia, coworkers and students in Florida and many others. Facebook has connected me to Russia and Japan and all over the world in ways email never could, because I didn’t have email to many of my past friends. Facebook was able to find them and connect me to them. Past friends and current friends have all been added to my friends list and it has thrilled me to see what people are up to now, how they’ve aged, funny comments their kids say, pictures of their lives, and to reminisce about this class or that play, this professor, or that trip to Washington D.C. It has been fun to have those shared moments where an inside joke is “liked” by those who were involved at the Irish salsa club in Washington D.C. or the Sverdlova bathroom in Nijni Novgorod. Professionally, I don’t use Facebook for current colleagues, but Google+ and Linked In have been my networking tool to stay in touch with others.

Unfortunately, social media has become a platform for politics and preaching. Free speech is our right and a privilege, but I wish people would exercise their right after thinking through what they want to impart and deliberating about how they want to go about implementing their information or opinions.

Evangelism

People who want to evangelize on Facebook need to think about their tactics. I believe people are won over by actions more than words. People are attracted to consistency and kindness. People can change their minds, but they will be more easily won over by the way we live, not by questionable actions on Facebook. By this I mean: 1) Chastising someone in a public forum puts that person on the defensive. That person will not change their mind because he/she wants to save face. That person will not be won over because they feel attacked. 2) Posting jokes or cartoons about Obama, democrats, feminists, healthcare, gay rights, or any activism ideal you don’t disagree with. I don’t mean the kind of joking between friends. I am referring to ugly mockery that has shades of hate speech in it. I’d rather hear “I disagree” than have my beliefs ridiculed. This passive aggressive and sometimes very offensive method tends to offend others, pushing them away from you. If you are trying to win someone over to your opinion or your faith, remember Grandma’s cliché that you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. 3) Making snap judgments on others’ choices or lives. One of those posts that goes viral was shared by a handful of my friends. The gist of it was that you don’t know what has happened in that person’s past and you shouldn’t criticize them. Hearing/reading “you’re wrong” or “you’re a sinner” or “you’re an abomination” is definitely no way to win friends or collect converts. 4) Being disrespectful and intolerant speak for themselves. Respect births respect. Intolerance produces ugliness.

Disagreeing is human nature, right? We all have opinions and beliefs. It’s acceptable to disagree on any topic, but the blatant disregard for another person’s dignity, humanity, and his/her right to disagree, without name calling or degrading behavior, is a violation and makes the violating person an opponent unworthy of debate. People need to realize that they will rarely change someone’s mind in an argument, and have even less of a chance if the argument becomes hostile. Unfortunately, it seems that many people argue for the sake of arguing, not for the sake of searching for knowledge, meaning, and understanding. Intelligent conversation is so attractive, even in the midst of a disagreement.

My boyfriend and I argue infrequently. But, a while ago, we had an argument, a mini-argument, where I expressed dissatisfaction in the way he talks about religion and Christianity. He tends to be pretty caustic and identifies as a Gnostic, who has been bruised and bewildered by the way many Christians live their lives. He also likes to tease occasionally that we’re both going to end up in Hell. But, when he’s not teasing, he’s asking questions. I classify myself as a Christian, definitely not a perfect one as I’m caustic myself about a lot of things, but I consider myself a follower of Christ and I try to love others. I also have witnessed the hypocrisy of others and have been wounded by the actions of people who have claimed to follow Christ. Our divergent beliefs have led to some passionate and loud conversations and I felt disrespected at times. I expressed to him this last time we argued that I felt he was disrespecting me and mocking my faith. He explained that he asks me questions because he really wants to know and he finds me one of the most well-read and intelligent people he knows, so he wants to hear my opinion. He wants to hear what I’ve studied and researched. While I thought he was being a devil’s advocate or an ornery jerk trying to get a rise out of me, he was actually delving deeper in a thirst for understanding. When I realized this, our next discussion became so much more of a journey of discovery and less of a defense tactic against a supposed attack.

There seem to be few people on social media who profess Christ, but actually act like Jesus would. I feel that I see more judgment and ugly speech from my Christian conservative friends and any of my other friends who are quieter or more reticent about their faith or personal values. I see more Christ-like behavior from some of those quieter folks, some of my gay friends who some label as “there’s no way their Christians”, and other people whose choices may not be the same as the Christian fundamentalist mindset. I refuse to call this speech hate speech, or even anti-gay speech as hate speech. I call it ugly speech. Fear speech. Ignorance speech. I don’t believe that those who speak out against others truly hate that group of people. Some do, I’m certain, but I think the majority is quoting others and speaking from fear, ignorance, and ugliness.

Gay Marriage & Gay Rights

On June 25, Indiana was sued by gay couples who wanted the right for their other-state marriages to be recognized and the right to legally wed in this state. My former voice teacher and his partner of several decades were two of the plaintiffs. The courts ruled in favor of gay marriage and couples flocked to courthouses and city clerks to get licenses and get “hitched.” Some Indiana counties refused to file the paperwork because they were waiting for the decision to be appealed. Some refused because they didn’t have the correct forms or paperwork. Individual city clerks refused because it went against their personal religious conviction. By the second day, there was a stay on any additional marriages as the appeal was processed. In this two day period, Facebook was flooded with pictures of partners getting married, cakes they ate, and gay pride items. Posts ranged from rejoicing to moaning about the destruction of American society. The comments were plentiful and rampant. I was elated for my gay friends and disheartened with remarks made by my anti-gay friends. But, I will also admit that some of my gay friends had nasty things to say about the counties and clerks who wouldn’t do the paperwork.

Gay rights is such a touchy subject. Most everyone has an opinion. Both sides of the debate can justify their perspective using the Bible. We’ve heard Leviticus quoted from the gays and Romans quoted from the Christians. We’ve heard that gossip and lying are just as bad as being gay. We’ve heard, though, that God is love. All of these opinions are crying out to be heard. The debate isn’t just amongst individuals, it’s invading corporations, religious institutions, schools, and families. I’m sure many of you remember when Chick-fil-e made some inflammatory comments about Christian values and gay people. In an uproar, many people, gay and straight, boycotted the company. Salvation Army also made some incendiary remarks, refusing to serve gay people who aren’t repentant and/or actively trying to change their ways. Chick-fil-e and Salvation Army are both against the gay lifestyle; however, Chick-fil-e hasn’t refused to sell sandwiches to gay people. Salvation Army figuratively has.

The next hubbub coming from the conservative corner is that businesses will be forced to cater to gays now that gay marriage is legal. From the pro-gay side, the upheaval is businesses and churches who don’t serve a gay wedding because of religious or personal principle should be sued. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say two seemingly contradictory things. It’s okay to be gay. It’s okay to believe that being gay is wrong. I believe a business owner has a right to refuse service to anyone. I know pastors who won’t marry two people with different religions, or couples who refuse couples counseling. I believe a pastor should be able to say he/she will not marry a gay couple. And though I think it horridly wrong and racist, I think he/she could even say he/she refused to marry an interracial couple. Let them say no. There are so many other ministers who WILL marry that gay couple. Let the baker refuse to bake a cake for the gay couple. Let them be boycotted. I don’t know if Chick-fil-e suffered from the boycotting, but I also feel a person shouldn’t suffer or be sued for a personal conviction. Let Weddings by Wanda[1] be boycotted and Wanda can still make cakes for Cheryl and Bob. There are enough businesses that will make cakes, plan weddings, take beautiful photographs, arrange flowers, and so on, so why bother or be bothered by those who won’t. Be against it without being hateful. I mean, I think the KKK is pathetic because they pass on hatred through the generations, but am I ugly towards the student I had this year who made anti-black and anti-Hispanic, and anti-gay comments? I enjoyed pointing out the wrongness of his misconceptions in a gentle manner that helped him associate with his classmates without them slaughtering him. By the end of the year, he learned tolerance and built some friendships that will help lead him out of the ignorance.

I have the same feelings/opinion about pharmacists who refuse to dispense RU-486, the morning after pill, or the abortion pill. I have a pharmacist friend who was troubled deeply about supplying this pill. She struggled intensely with whether it was right or wrong. She felt it was wrong and didn’t want to be culpable by assisting someone else in her choice to terminate a pregnancy. A couple times, she refused to dispense the medication. She was warned by a supervisor that actions such as this could get her fired. After personal reflection, she still felt it was wrong, but handled it in a classy way. There was no discussion of “I can’t serve you”. She just turned the prescription over to another pharmacist or tech in a subtle way. She made no judgmental “you slut” comments or vowed to blow up a clinic. She is quiet in her defiance and therefore does not risk firing. But she also does not risk offending a customer or that customer’s personal choice. If this can be so, why not for those who are against gay relationships? Let there be no comments of “no cakes for queers!” and let them politely say “have you tried Cakes by Callie[2], or another baker?”, pointing the couple to someone else who is willing to make the cake. Be respectful. If they explain why they will not make the cake, let them be boycotted, but forget suing them.

I am not sure how gay marriage destroys other marriages. I am unsure how granting the right for a partner to have access to medical records and decisions hurts anyone else. I am uncertain how openly gay people can ruin a society that is already corrupt with greed, poor getting poorer, child abuse, and all the other social ills plaguing us. People destroy their own marriages when they can’t commit to a commitment. I think the phobia is not whether marriage is destroyed, but parents who fear parent will change. They’ll have to teach kindness even when they disagree with someone’s choice they have no business sticking their nose in. So, instead of putting on their big boy panties and figuring out a way to discuss an uncomfortable topic with their children, they are shouting “marriages will be ruined!” As a result, no one can hear their whispered fears of “how can I pass on my legacy of intolerance?”

I’m not yet sure how I feel about posting boycotts on social media sites. A part of me feels enflamed when a friend is wronged for any reason, but another part of me doesn’t know both sides of the story and also recognizes that if my tendency is to exaggerate an event when I feel wronged, then so might someone else’s.

Hobby Lobby & Health Care

This summer has been a busy one politically and emotions are high. On Facebook and Google+, I am mostly silent, even though I observe and read almost everything. I was delighted for my gay friends on June 25. And I was dismayed by the reactions of people and counties. Hobby Lobby’s court decision sparked more lively and hostile debates. I worried it was setting a precedence. Corporations are now people that can have religious convictions? Corporations can decide what they will and will not cover? Hobby Lobby wanted to deny birth control to their employees under their health insurance plan because the Christian owners feel it violates their values. One side of the fence claimed Hobby Lobby was refusing to cover contraception. The other side of the fence defended that the corporation was only refusing the four contraceptives that are “abortifacient”, causing abortions.[3] These “methods may theoretically prevent a fertilized egg from implanting on the wall of a woman’s uterus” (Stone). This side argues that there are sixteen other contraceptive devices and pills that are covered under Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan. The other side also argues that certain contraceptive pills are used for irregular periods, endometriosis, and other medical conditions.

In all honesty, I don’t know the entire story. I’ve pieces together information from various articles posted from both sides of the fence. I did not read the multi-paged court document. It appears that prevention prescriptions are covered. The problem is the precedent that is set. If a company can decide a certain contraceptive device is against their values, what is next? Acne medicine could be seen as a frivolous cosmetic need. Diabetic medicines could stop being covered as the rationale could be made that people made the choice to eat sugary foods. Fibromyalgia, migraine, and depression meds could be excluded because they are seen as “fake” conditions. Skin cancer treatments could be denied as companies decide that “you tanned? Damn your sorry oompa-loompa hide!” I mean, seriously, I had insurance refuse to cover a mole removal of two suspicious moles even though cancer runs in my family. I was told it was an unnecessary cosmetic procedure, but they would cover it if it was malignant. What a Catch 22! The doctor cannot test it for malignancy unless he removes it. So, while it’s still on my body, I guess we’ll never know. Until the autopsy report…

My conclusions on the Hobby Lobby decision are manifold. Corporations are not people. People who own corporations make choices based on values, if they so desire, but that doesn’t create a personhood for a building that is not human and has no soul. If I wanted to get real fundamental and end times on your asses, I might even suggest that corporations will be the anti-Christ because they do not have souls. (Sorry Bill Clinton didn’t end up in the role several years past.) Some fundies used to say the first human clone would be the anti-Christ, I’m gunning for corporations.

My next conclusion is that contraception is a personal choice. I don’t need the four medications that terminate a pregnancy, but it worries me that all of these companies and politicians believe they have a right to dictate my vagina. If we are going to be so up close and personal, let’s mandate all drugs that can and cannot be taken, foods that can’t be eaten (processed and unhealthy) , clothes that can’t be worn (too revealing, you’ll get raped, too many drug references, too incendiary because of gang symbols or religious symbols or violent crimes, and put a censor on words that cannot be spoken. And let’s take away free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to meet in public, freedom of religion. And let’s do more rigorous screening on people who get funs and find a way to find the ones who obtain theirs illegally.

Play Nice in the Sandbox

See what social media does to me? It turns me from passively political to passionately fuming. These are all the messages flying at me from so many soapboxes. So, while I am in my rant, let’s also reform education so bureaucrats can hire soulless didacticitians who rob students of creativity and transform them into conformed automatons unable to critically think and self-reflect. Let’s teach and test them like lab rats. Bring on the cheese and electric stimulus! Sorry, Algernon, you lose. Throw metacognition away, we’ll tell you how to think.

Let’s push women out of the office and into the kitchen, get them out of big business and out of politics. But if we do, can we also eliminate all the overweight, red-faced, white old men who are so concerned about the sexual prowess of those whores who use birth control and think that rape is justifiable? Let’s also make abortion illegal so women can go back to coat hangers, and die like they deserve. Let’s bring racism back and sexism and homophobia. Bring it on! Oh wait, these beliefs are still here. They never left.

An associate of mine who was on the same Campus Crusade for Christ mission trip I took recently posted the status: “went to a doctor out of network and had to pay out of pocket $40. No big deal. #HobbyLobby.” Yeah, yeah, I’ve also gone to out of network doctors. The dermatologist removed the moles my insurance wouldn’t cover and I paid $175. My insurance only covered a portion of my podiatrist bill. I owed the podiatrist $319. But, associate, your visit and my two visits are one-time gigs. Birth control is a monthly cost of anywhere from $10 - $129 for the next dozens or more years until menopause hits. That adds up. It’s not always easy to get a doctor to change a medication depending on that doctor and if one can even get an appointment in a timely manner. I’m so lucky that my job has a free clinic that provides free check-ups, free preventive care, and free prescriptions, so that I’m not just another unwed mother with a child I don’t want right now, if ever.

Social media is being bombarded with un-researched opinions, articles, cartoons and jokes, bullying, and posts that are dividing friendships and killing some off.

I have very definite opinions. I’ve thought them through. I’ve researched perspectives, discussed viewpoints, written, and thought more. I’ve bitten my tongue on so many occasions when I’ve wanted to say someone was wrong. Someone was a bigot. Or the unkind comments of you haven’t aged well, your kid IS a brat, and singing isn’t really your gift. I’m not always a nice person, but I try to be kind and not hurt feelings. My witch friend says it well: “You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice. I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right.”[4] I know a lot of nice people who think as deeply as their shallow minds can tread water as they’ve never learned to swim in the murky depths of confusion, self discovery, and reflection. The water is cold, but refreshingly honest, and deep discussions build understanding. These people are nice, with no substance, no depth. I thirst for the depth of understanding I get when I research, discuss, debate civilly, and learn from others.

I’m not always nice. I’m deep though. I love deeply. I would take a bullet for those I’m loyal to and maim the ones who hurt the ones I love. I’m not good, but I’m forgiven. And although I’m not always nice, I do feel confident that I am right about many things. My opinions aren’t shallow. They aren’t arbitrarily pulled out of someone else’s mouth. When I was a child, I thought and spoke like a child. I parroted back the ideals and opinions of my parents. Through rich experiences, observations, conversations, and meeting many diverse, wonderful, unique people I’ve been blessed to encounter, I’ve developed strong beliefs, ideals, opinions. Even the bombastic bullies and deluded people have taught me things. My misogynistic math teacher who told me girls don’t belong in higher level math and science made me work harder to prove him wrong. I learned perseverance because of him.

As Facebook becomes prevalently more similar to a sandbox of screaming kids refusing to share the Tonka truck, I have found that I can’t keep silent on social media when it comes to politics or other hot topics. I can hold my tongue no longer nor still my typing fingers. I don’t seek to change minds or transform lives, but I would like to illuminate that there’s a way to play nice in the sandbox.

Footnotes

[1] I made up this name, so if there’s truly a Weddings by Wanda, this is not a slur against you. Just a coincident!

[2] Also a made up name.

[3] http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/07/07/the-birth-control-debate-we-shoudnt-be-having/32937 Rachel Marie Stone

[4] Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine

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