I used to be one of the greatest social media debaters of all time. I could debate a topic for DAYS. It got even worse when I got a job in technology that had a lot of down time. I was able to research a topic, post a long drawn-out response, and look for other topics to debate all from the comfort of my office while others had to wait for lunch breaks. I would never let up either. I always had to have the last word, because in my mind, that was “winning”.
Things changed when I became a counselor. Before you assume that it’s because I saw that there were “bigger problems”….keep reading and hear me out. What really happened is that I found out that I didn’t have the time. I go to work early in the morning, I have back to back sessions all day, then I hop in my car and pick up the twins, then I go home, cook dinner, and do my homework as I’m finishing another degree. Then I get in bed and thank the Lord for silence (provided the twins are asleep), and then start the process over.
I remember the first time I realized that I simply didn’t have the time, I had started a debate with a friend on Facebook early in the morning. During my sessions, I was hearing my phone inundate me with notifications. A quick glance in-between sessions showed me that they were all people commenting on the post. Even skimming the responses, I could think of how I wanted to respond, but I simply didn’t have the time.
Eventually, I started to let go of debating, and in so doing, I was shocked and a little dismayed at seeing from the outside what I had been engaging in for so many years.
Social media has made everything a “10” on the severity scale. Let me explain. In my job, we generally work off of treatment plans. We talk to those who come in about their problems and we ask them to rate each issue on a scale from 0-10 on a severity scale. The purpose of this is to determine what we need to focus on first, or the most. In the ENTIRE TIME that I have worked there, not ONE person has rated everything a 10, because in life, everything simply is not a 10. Making new friends is generally not as important to people as getting a promotion. Getting legal issues taken care of usually trumps things like going back to school. It’s all in perspective. Unfortunately, with the rise of social media, we have lost all perspective. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your Facebook/Twitter feed.
Pro-life vs. Pro Choice? – 10
Republican vs. Democrat? – 10
Vegetarian vs. Vegan? – 10
Batman vs. Superman? – 10
White potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes? – 10
EVERYTHING is a 10 on social media. Everyone has incredibly strong opinions about EVERYTHING. Even things that they didn’t know were “things” 24 hours ago! What’s worse, is that it is impacting people’s real life relationships. In the past couple of years, I have seen more people say that they aren’t inviting family members over for Christmas, or that they have ended friendships or relationships over debates they have had on social media.
For those who have grown up with social media, let me tell you this: it wasn’t always like this. Yes, people have always had strong opinions, but when we took the time to sit down and talk to our friends and family, we often evaluated how important these debates were to us in comparison to how important our relationships were to us. We had friends who were on the other side of the political spectrum, and we made those friendships work. When we got together, we might have a brief debate, but if it got too heated, we would back off the topic, because we knew that the relationship with that person was more important than the debate. I managed to have friends who thought Superman was better than Batman. I knew they were ill informed, but still…by some miracle, we were able to make the friendship work. Those days appear to be gone because we have lost perspective.
We have decided that every topic on social media is a 10 on the severity scale, and if people don’t agree with us, we simply cannot be friends or we must disown them as our family. In ANY other context, we would find the same behavior completely asinine. Think about it. Imagine meeting up with your friends or family at a coffee shop every day, several times a day to have the same argument over and over. Then imagine strangers chiming in, and you actually CARING what those strangers have to say. Then imagine disowning your family because they disagree with you (even though you keep engaging in the argument), and further imagine treating those strangers like family because they agree with you. Keep in mind, that the MOMENT the stranger disagrees with you, they get disowned too. Who would choose to live like that? Who has that kind of time?
We keep doing it though. We keep engaging in pointless debates and declaring any dissenters “evil”. We continue to throw real relationships away because they don’t agree with us. Before you get all high and mighty and tell me that you can’t have a relationship with someone who believes this or that, I want you to consider the following:
- You had a relationship before you knew they held those beliefs. There was something about them that you liked at one time.
- Regardless of the belief…for the most part, that person’s personal belief does not have a deep, direct, personal impact on your life. If you hate Trump, I want you to realize that if EVERY Trump supporter in your life didn’t vote for him, he would still be president. I highly doubt you know ENOUGH people that it would have made that much of an impact. If you hate abortion….I want you to realize that if EVERY person in your life was pro-choice, the laws are the way they are and would be, REGARDLESS of those individuals.
Am I saying that you should stay friends with someone who openly admits hating people of other races? No. Am I saying that if you find out that your friend is a mass murderer you should remain friends? No. But what I AM saying is that before you enter into debate, I want you to ask yourself: “On a scale of 1-10, how severe of an issue is this to me?” Remember, not everything can be a 10. Ask yourself: “would I engage in this conversation with these people live?” and if the answer is “yes”, ask yourself, “if I were having this conversation live, would I take it this far? Would I be willing to end my relationship over it?” If the answer to those questions is “yes”, then I encourage you to have a face-to-face conversation with them….because I’m pretty sure the conversation will be very different.
We need to change the conversation. I’m talking to EVERY ONE of my friends here: it’s time for ALL of us to evaluate our perspectives. We really need to ask ourselves: is this a 10? If it’s not, we need to move on.