Back in late August 2013, I wrote a piece called “Think Before You Post, Because The Internet Will Expose You For The Idiot You Are” in response to the seemingly endless supply of keyboard jockeys who are content to hide behind their computer monitors and spew hate and insults toward people they don’t know – those who don’t agree with them on a particular issue, such as politics or gay marriage. Now before you click on the little “x” in the upper corner of this particular computer window, please know that it is not my purpose here to opine on politics or gay marriage. The gist of the article was, as the title suggests, thinking before you click on the “post” button, because once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back. Sure, in most cases, you can delete a post, but if someone has seen it, and if it is inflammatory enough, it may just go viral. Then you’re screwed.
The aforementioned article dealt with strangers being mean to other strangers. But the phenomenon of keyboard cowardice extends to friends and family as well. That is what I will discuss here. Before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to thank “E” (you know who you are). Your reaction to an innocuous post I made is a big part of why I am writing this. More on that later.
As near as I can figure, I have been active on Facebook since 2008, over five years now. During that five-year period, I’ve connected (or reconnected) with over three hundred people. It has been nice to reacquaint myself with people that I haven’t seen in many years.
I have noticed that over the past couple of years that Facebook has increasingly become a forum for people to express their political beliefs. I don’t have a problem with this. Hell, I occasionally make a political post, but I find myself doing so less and less lately. I am more inclined to respond to someone else’s post than to initiate a political post of my own.
I have also noticed that some people who make political posts on Facebook are wholly unprepared to be challenged on their opinions. The most blatant example that I have experienced happened just recently. An acquaintance (“E” that I mentioned above) that I had recently reconnected with posted a meme about a certain politician who has been in the news a lot lately. That should narrow it down to about three-hundred. The meme posited that this particular politician didn’t know what was going on in his own office.
I’d like to go back and pull up the text from my response, but alas, I can’t. More on that later. I said something like, “It’s too bad that [POLITICIAN] doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in his office either.” Not my exact words, but you get the idea. I didn’t tell “E” that he was wrong, because the meme he posted seems to have some merit. I merely pointed out that this particular politician isn’t the only one who claims ignorance about what happens on their watch by providing an example of another politician who seems to have the same problem.
A few hours later, I went back on to see if “E” or anyone else had responded to my post. Lo and behold, I couldn’t find “E”’s post. I went to check my Facebook friends. He was no longer on the list. I did a search for his name, found it, and clicked on it to view his profile. A message on the screen revealed that the profile was not available. Perhaps, I thought, he deactivated his Facebook profile. I know that people, on occasion, will do that because they’ve had enough of the social media rat race. Just to make sure, I contacted my sister, who is also connected to “E” on Facebook. She was able to pull up his profile, and was still among those he considered friends. It turns out that “E” had blocked me. And to top that off, he posted a terse response to my post after he blocked me, or at the very least, before I had a chance to respond. Here is his response. I purposely didn’t name the politician, political party, or news network he mentioned, not because I am ashamed of my politic beliefs, because I’m not. I did so because this post isn’t about politics. It’s about friends and acquaintances being able to agree to disagree, about politics, music, reality TV – whatever – while remaining civil, and dare I say, friendly.
“Just gotta drag [NATIONAL POLITICIAN] in it didn’t you Mark? Typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME]. Man change the direction of what’s really going on. You must be a [NEWS CHANNEL] watcher…and then there’s right out lying and being a bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN].”
Instead of attacking my ideas, “E” chose to attack me. Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, perhaps he would have had a different opinion of me. But he didn’t, so all I am to him is a [NEWS CHANNEL]-watching, bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN]-supporting, typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME]. Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, he would have known that I don’t define myself in such narrow terms, politically or otherwise. But “E,” along with a lot of other people, are content to hide behind their keyboards and bash others who don’t share their beliefs. That’s pretty closed-minded and intolerant in my book. Sadly, all too often, these are people that we count among our friends and family.
There is hope though. When I began to think about writing this blog, two of my friends came to mind: Micah and Rick. Micah and Rick are on different sides of the political fence. Anytime either of these guys posts something political, I make sure to read it. You know why? Because I know that I am going to learn something. You see, Micah and Rick know how to do it right. They use what many others do not in their political posts – FACTS. I know that if I disagree with them, I might get set straight, again, with facts, but I’m not going to be called names, blocked on Facebook, or otherwise attacked. So to my buddies Micah and Rick – keep ‘em coming. We might not agree on everything, but you know what, that’s all right, because we can agree to disagree. And, most important, we’re still friends when it’s done.