Facebook vs. Civility

What happened?

I don’t know.  I posted that I liked brussel sprouts and I lost all my friends.  One guy even wants to send me all his dirty diapers.







Have you seen the battlegrounds of facebook?  I may be wrong but I don’t believe that facebook was created as a war game. I am not at war with anyone.

When I friend someone or when I approve a friend it is as if   I HAVE INVITED YOU TO COME INTO MY HOME.
If you were physically here with me, I would hug you, show you to my comfy couch and fix you something to drink. I’d ask about your family and I would tell you about mine. If you wanted to talk about current events, I would be happy to do that.
But…even in person – in my real home…. if I get the idea that we stand on opposite sides, I will choose my words carefully and I will be Respectful of your ideas and not push you to the limits of anger. I might continue to share my ideas, but I would try not to push you to anger.
So many issues in the faith or political arena have hundreds of side issues and sub plots. Your comment might be true until I add my side issue.  My comment might be cancelled out by your sub plot.  To discuss them all would take hours if not weeks. Long interactions without a break can become exhausting. And yet….I still do like to “share” ideas. I am often thoughtful or mindful of new ideas and I have often adjusted my own ideas to accommodate the changes I feel are necessary.  
However, I am being taught by some facebook readers that it is better to just let an issue lay quiet because I have determined it would take an exhausting amount of time to explore all those issues. And exploring those issues might also be unwise considering you have hundreds if not thousands of people reading every word. Those strangers may allow my words to ignite anger causing them to feel free to make unfounded and possibly unwise decisions about you, me or the person we are engaging. They might judge your beliefs all while ignoring everyone’s public feelings.
Writing about an issue will never have the same impact or be able to cover all the details like a personal conversation can.
It baffles me that so many people feel as though facebook has given them the right to force arguments, to demand that we all think the same and to question every idea out there. If you don’t jump on their bandwagon they attack your faith, your intelligence, the process you use to make decisions and your reputation.
I believe many of us have tried to make good decisions with our lives and we’ve tried to gain honest information. I also believe (like I’ve said in my honest articles) that there are some who don’t really care if their information is right or not. And I adamantly believe that there are various degrees in between those two extremes where people are making decisions based on a combination of both good and bad facts, rose colored glasses from their own experiences and a lot of emotions based on needs. Those people may possibly benefit from a “respectful” exchange of ideas.  That’s why I continue to write on facebook.  **I want to be there for people who need me all while understanding that some people don’t want my help and they don’t like what I say.**  That’s a tough place to navigate.
I would encourage you to watch an old black and white movie staring Henry Fonda. It’s about a jury of 12 men who have been asked to convict a young boy of killing his father. It starts out with an 11-1 vote of guilty. As they continue to discuss the issue you see how the personalities, backgrounds and prejudices are brought out and how they control the vote. I won’t tell you the ending but it’s a great movie and a lesson in this war of ideas.
So how do I feel we all can remain good friends on facebook?
1. If you truly believe you have a friend that is willing to discuss both sides….by all means raise the issues with them and exchange the ideas. Keep in mind that hundreds of people who have opposing ideas may also be following the conversation. That is NOT a call to water down your beliefs but rather an understanding that at some point you may have to back away and stand still so that others won’t become angry. Perhaps you can continue your discussion in private or perhaps you need to move on.
2. If you read a comment or post that is completely opposite from your own views – and you know it not only makes you angry but you are so angry you want to hurt the writer’s self-esteem – PASS. Move to another page. It’s not even necessary for you to leave a thumbs down. Why would you want to push them to anger or get in a written fight about the issues – especially if there will be no change on either side? Why do you want to hurt the person you are hoping to help with your ideas?  I have shared ideas thinking it was just that – sharing ideas.  Recently I found out a friend escalated to anger because they were frustrated when I didn’t change.  I was sorry that my simple discussion of ideas took them to that point.  I finished my return comment  and ended it.  When they felt compelled to be the last one to comment – I smiled and walked away.  
While there are times when harsh confrontations must happen between individuals – that kind of angry outpouring should not happen on the soapbox of facebook. That would be the same as having a yelling match on the nearest street corner.
3. If you write or see a post that you feel will benefit from your input, by all means comment. If however, your comments insight someone to anger or you see it going that way – limit what you say and go on quietly if you can. The public does not need to know every single thought you have or even every piece of research you are involved in.
4. Don’t rat out your friends. There are a select few people that are well placed that I stay in contact with. They have many more degrees than I do and they are well known. There’s also common folk like me who share information but don’t want the backlash from angry facebook readers. I don’t feel compelled to share information I receive from them or discussions we’ve had – especially if the outcome will not change.  I respect those friends and they do have an influence on my opinions – but that’s a personal thing and not for facebook.
5. While I’ve written books, taught classes and led conferences – I am not the only voice that should matter.  Even a pulitzer prize winner should not be considered the God of knowledge and believed without reservations.  Almighty God is the only one that occupies that position.  
According to Google there are almost 7.7 billion people in this world. I guarantee none of them totally agree with me or with you. Maybe we all need to understand that there is only a small measure that any of us can agree on. When I teach a class on parenting or any other subject – I tell parents that my work is to make parenting easier for them – it is not a specific blueprint that must be followed without any deviation. I caution them to move away from controlling authors that demand  absolute adherence to their advice. Each person should listen to advice, apply what they can to their own lives, adjust as possible and pray for guidance.
Honestly, I do NOT want the responsibility of making decisions for others. Yes, I have to judge some situations but I do not want to tell anyone “you have to do this or else”. That makes me responsible for their failure and it’s not a job I want. However, I do think we all should share things we’ve learned so others won’t have to re-invent the wheel.
I recently had a conversation with a dear relative.  He did it right.  Because a situation came up, I talked about my political decisions.  He smiled and said, “I understand why you feel like you do but I have other ideas.  May I express them?”  I said yes.  He did and then we both smiled knowing we disagreed.  I changed the subject and he laughed.  We had a wonderful visit.
Please allow me to caution you on getting caught up in the feeling that it is your job to comment on everything you disagree with. Not only will that be exhausting, it will keep you in a constant state of anger and that’s not healthy.
6. Don’t shake your finger and write about how the world is going to come to an end when a friend or acquaintance doesn’t accept your views. Instead, change the subject, wait quietly or redirect with a different topic. If you are on someone else’s page (in their home) perhaps it’s time to look at your watch and politely dismiss yourself.  
Unless you are the ultimate decision maker on the topic, your opinions are just that – your opinions.  Anger doesn’t need to invade those opinions because you don’t have the power to change the outcome.  It’s fine to express those opinions but anger is counterproductive.
In the old movie Mr Smith Goes to Washington,  Jimmy Stewart   got very angry about a situation that he was trying to solve.  But…He was one of the decision makers and his fight was different from Joe the carpenter.
“Don’t be ridiculous Debbie.  No one can do that.  I care so much America and I want to help. Why would you say I need to walk away?  I’m ready to fight.”
There is a time to fight, but there is also a time to wait.  Fussing and fighting with others isn’t always productive.  Sometimes it’s more productive to work with those that agree with you and to find inroads to actual community change.  
I sincerely hope my friends reading this will allow me to be transparent without attacking me. I voted against Obama. I disagreed with everything he talked about. Some of the things he did and said hurt me to the core. I was vilified for my faith and my beliefs. I tried writing about it but decided that was unproductive.
I never resorted to anger or displayed any type of anger for those that disagreed with me.  I was heartbroken that he had been elected but that’s how our country works and I needed to accept it.  I worried that Christians would be persecuted and we have been.  I wondered if my faith would ever be respected in this country again or even if I would have the freedom to publicly be known as a Christian.  I couldn’t believe the brazen verbal attacks on TV in music and in our schools.  I watched people begin to change and I was afraid.  I prayed for our country and I prayed for God to remember the way this country was founded. Friends in Europe and Africa wrote to say, “We are praying for American Christians.  We’ve been persecuted for a long time and we pray we can handle it.  We worry that American Christians can’t.”  
I worried about my strength too.  My core values and freedoms felt stomped on. But I remained quiet. I continually prayed – “God, please let me help if I can. But if this is our time to be persecuted for you – I will hold on to you and be the Christian I should be through all of this.  And dear God, if you can bring about success and spiritual revival in this time – please do.” I never stopped praying for our country. I never stopped praying for God to save people and to give us a spiritual revival. No matter what I thought about the political events, I tried to always be respectful, to pray for everyone and if necessary to be quiet.
Let’s remember……There is a time to take a stand.  I believe the saying…”All that evil needs to succeed is that good men do nothing.”  I believe that with all my heart.  Yet….
Our lives are nothing more than 80 years of roller coaster rides. We move up and down with problems, wars, political changes, faith and personal upheavals. That’s why each of us should hold on to friends, family and moments of love and happy memories. Life is good – but only if you preserve relationships and trust that an almighty God watches and cares about you.  
Once you have done that, then you must fight the battle of good and evil.  Most of the time that doesn’t include those closest to you.  I believe in Martin Luther King’s “peaceful resistance”.  Work within the political system and as much as possible work within your community.  Leave the rest to prayer and God.  
We can do our part but the real mover and shaker is Jesus Christ and his battle with Satan.  God continues to be our Savior and Friend and we can trust our futures to Him.  
So to all my dear friends of facebook. I love you. I want to share my life and my ideas with you. I am not in charge of this crazy political world so if I share my views don’t be angry, my views probably won’t go viral.  Your views probably won’t change the world either. Each of us can impact the 200 or so people we influence and beyond that it’s up to God.  
I need you to be respectful of me and I promise to respect you. If I haven’t done that – please accept my apology. And if you have hurt me, I don’t need an apology, I just want to be your friend.

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