I recently read Chip Gaines’ “New Year’s Revelation”, and in it he had a few powerful words that struck me: “Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie”. The statement reminded me of a time not very long ago when I was quite opinionated on social media; getting into arguments and un-following people I didn’t agree with.
But, within the past couple years I have been trying to quiet down across my accounts, and during the process I have become increasingly appalled at the anger which fuels division among coworkers, family, friends, and particularly, strangers. I’m shocked when I read through comments left by an individual who was relaxed (or empowered) behind the protection of a computer screen. Thanks to the evolution of social media, words that (I hope) people would never have considered saying to another’s face are being dropped through a comment box without reserve. What once looked like a shining City on a Hill in the world of technological advances has turned into an angry mob vying for people’s attention and approval- from self-image to political stance.
Social media didn’t start out this way, and it’s not its purpose.
I remember my excitement when I got my Facebook account in high school. I could share my joys, accomplishments and passions with the world. (I only had a handful of “friends” at the time, but it might as well of been my whole world.) Before our news feeds got slammed with distasteful memes and raging emotions, it was a place you could interact with family and friends peacefully, for the most part. Now, the very app which promised us connection is threatening our relationships.
It’s why someone has to remind us of the simple truth, “disagreement is not the same thing as hate”, because our society has indeed confused the two. We have forgotten how to form and argue our point of view with respect and class. Some would immediately point fingers at our politicians and other leaders saying they are terrible examples. But, in reality the dilemma lies with ourselves, and thankfully, so does the answer. “Disagreement is not the same thing as hate”, and the way we help people realize this is by taking a step back, and through self-reflection, examine the manner in which we use our social media accounts. What is our purpose for having an online presence? What do we hope to accomplish through our account? What do we want our impact to be?
When we decide individually to change our tone, we will in turn see the change collectively.
How can we begin to accomplish this? I believe part of the answer lies in pulling controversial topics off of social media platforms. Bring back the debates! Who says they are only reserved for politicians? We need to take the discussion offline and focus on cultivating lively, yet compassionate face to face discussions. This way, your opinion is expressed in the manner you intended and you also see and hear how your opponent is delivering theirs.
If political matters are your passion, leaving derogatory comments on a politician’s page is not going to get you the attention you are looking for. If you are upset over the way things are being managed in your state write a letter, attend a town hall meeting, or meet with your senator or one of his staff members directly. Not finding the public event you want? Consider starting one yourself or joining a group that is working towards strengthening local community involvement.
The next part would be to consider going through a social media revamp. Do some deep soul searching by logging off of all your accounts and staying off for a whole week. It may sound silly to use “soul searching” in regards to social media, but if you think about it it’s probably where you spend a decent portion of your everyday life and through it is how friends (and strangers) perceive you. During this time ask yourself the questions I listed earlier: What is my purpose for having an online presence? What do I hope to accomplish through my account? What do I want my impact to be?
When you log back in at the end of the week commit yourself to another one week challenge. This time everything you post has to be positive. Everything. After these two weeks, I’m pretty sure you will be feeling more satisfied in your new cyber life and you’ll be hesitant to go back to your old ways. In the future if you decide to post something more controversial (kindly of course) people might even be more inclined to read it because they’ve grown to respect and admire the thoughtful content you’ve been sharing versus having to scroll through your rants every day.
When you commit to fostering a positive environment on your accounts, use the following points to help guide the content you share.
1.) Research. Make sure your article or video is reporting accurate information. Don’t just accept it as truth because it comes from a news source you identify with or have even grown to trust. Any media organization can make mistakes and there is a lot of misinformation out there.
2.) Think positive before you post. Is the subject matter you want to share presented in a positive way and written to inform and not to berate? Is the personal comment you are about to include on the post written kindly and thoughtfully instead of putting down the group of people you disagree with?
3.) Monitor the discussion with kindness. If you see the discussion is turning towards the negative remind people that they are welcome to argue their side but rude comments will be removed.
4.) Ultimately, find content that will increase hope and compassion. To this day I have yet to have someone inform me that they won over an opponent during a heated Facebook discussion. Therefore, limit yourself to the amount of controversial topics you post because people will tune out your feed if it becomes “information overload”. Train yourself to look for content that encourages positive thinking and behavior. Follow leaders on social media who inspire and are committed to promoting the good in the world (and un-follow those who aren’t), it will make you want to follow suit.
Let’s make a decision today to return to thoughtful discussions on our social networking accounts and aiding the restoration of peace to our relationships. It will be hard to deny the power of that momentum.
Gaines, Chip. “Chip’s New Year’s Revelation.” Magnolia Market. The Magnolia Market, 02 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.