When I look at social media, particularly Facebook, I see a forum that passive-aggressive assholes thrive in.
Let me take a step back. I’m not lumping any specific person or group of people into that category. It’s more like a daily choice. You can choose to be a passive-aggressive asshole today, or you can choose not to, and since we all make that choice everyday we’ve all been guilty of it at some point (myself included).
I used to have a season ticket for the Portland Winterhawks hockey team. I went to every single game. I followed their Facebook page. I would comment on their posts to try and win tickets for my friends. If they lost a game, there would inevitably be people who commented on the final score of the game with the absolute worst attitudes. They would say the meanest things about the players or coaches or refs, and keep in mind that some of these players are teenagers. They’re not even adults yet!
I would go on Facebook and I would read these comments and I would pick fights with these people. I would say things like really Karen, you think you could be a better goalie? Why don’t you play the next game and we’ll see how many goals you let in. I would reply to people’s angry comments and try to get them to see that they were being idiots, when really I was just stirring the pot and inciting this behavior. I was clearly part of the problem.
But the thing is, I was like sixteen, seventeen years old. Which is by no means an excuse for being a troll or a pot-stirrer, but it was definitely something that I largely grew out of and realized that my time was better spent ignoring Karen and letting her think she would be a better goalie.
What I’ve come to realize is no one has grown out of this behavior.
It’s all over. Every single post you read, whether it’s about politics, the news, someone’s opinion piece on why millennials aren’t buying homes, people are leaving these horrendously nasty comments. And then they’re arguing with each other just for the sake of arguing. It even happens on positive posts or articles. I read this great article about a woman who built a home for her family by herself, in order to get a roof over their heads and avoid the debt that comes from buying a $400,000 home. And there were all these comments about how she couldn’t possibly have built it by herself and where did she get the money to buy the land that the house is on and so many people have it way worse than her. And then all the people arguing on those comment threads about who is right and who is wrong.
You might be thinking just don’t look at the comments then. And sure, living in my own little bubble could be really great, but I’d like to think that if I saw someone being bullied or threatened or harmed that I wouldn’t just look away and pretend like I didn’t see it. I’d like to think that I’m the person who would intervene or call for help.
But there is no intervening or reasoning with these people. Once they comment, they are out for blood and they will eat you alive. And once again, I’d like to point out that no political party is exempt here, so I’m definitely not bashing on my republican friends and then turning a blind eye when my democrat friends do the same thing. I’m sick of everyone treating each other like this, regardless of who’s right or wrong or whatever. I’d like to think that there’s no excuse for treating people like garbage just because they have a different opinion than you.
But we have to toe the line, right? I’m an extremely opinionated and passionate person. I get fired up about all sorts of political and social issues, and I have a whole slew of ideas for blog posts that are going to be very opinionated and controversial. And I haven’t written any of them yet because I don’t want to create another space for people to argue and be mean. Of course, I’m going to have to get over that because I have things to say that I think need to be heard and there will always be people who disagree.
This is getting a little rant-y so I’m going to wrap it up. Here are some steps I propose we all take in an effort to interact with others on social media like the adults we are.
Because I’d really like for us to be good examples to our children.
Because we’re better than this.
Step 1: When you’re reading a public post, try not to look at the comments section (and don’t respond to the comments if you do). Responding to someone you don’t even know in an effort to get them to see that they’re being rude is probably a waste of time.
Step 2: Focus on the people in your circle. If your Facebook friend posts something and you see an argument forming in the comment threads, stay out of it if you feel like you’re going to do more harm than good. If you’re in a bad mood, chances are you’re not going to choose your words wisely. If someone is being rude and you have a good head on your shoulders at the moment, try and respond to them in a non-engaging, non-threatening way and encourage the conversation in an educational direction instead. This is tricky because it can backfire quickly, in which case disengaging is probably best.
Step 3: If you post something, and your friend comments with a wildly opposing opinion, remember that you guys are friends and love each other, and then think about your response before you send it. Focus on why you posted it, what information you hoped people would gain from it, and let them know that you understand that they have a different opinion than you, even if you don’t agree with it. If they are being rude, call them out on it. Joking and sarcasm do not translate well in writing and misunderstandings can happen too easily.
Step 4: Only post “the facts” if you are okay with being fact-checked and possibly finding out that your facts are incorrect. On this blog, I try and stick with my own personal opinions because I don’t always have time to fact-check things and I don’t want to be posting incorrect information.
Step 5: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. To make that a little more specific, if you wouldn’t say it to them in person, don’t say it to them on Facebook. If you’re very confrontational (like me), you may need more of a filter than that but it’s a good starting point.
And remember, we are surrounded by and have relationships with people who have different opinions and beliefs than us (note: this is different than being surrounded by toxic people that we should definitely let go of, but that’s another topic for another post) and somehow we still love them, like them, interact with them, tolerate them. It’s important to have people in your circle who have similar views and beliefs, but you don’t want a circle that completely cuts out anyone different from you.
We need our views and beliefs to be challenged so that we can learn and grow. But more importantly, we need to not let the passive-aggressive asshole versions of ourselves win.
Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
It really is that simple.