So, I got my feelings hurt a few weeks ago over social media. It was stupid and insignificant in the big picture of life, really. I can hear everyone now – in Christian’s voice – telling me not to let it bother me, that I need to grow thicker skin if I’m going to “be a sharer.” I know that’s true. My humor and snark mask a great deal of vulnerability. But right here, right now, my skin is pretty worn down and easy to pierce.
The TL;DR version is that I – via a joke – accidentally started a political conversation on Facebook, which resulted in me getting unfriended – which isn’t where my feelings got hurt. But my initial reaction was just one of bewilderment. Like really? Someone poses an opinion that’s different from yours and you immediately reach for the unfriend button? That’s some pretty fickle shit right there.
There’s more to this story, but what concerns me is this knee-jerk reaction that we have all come so quickly to have over social media. Someone does something we don’t like and we are OUTRAGED! Someone expresses an opinion different from ours, and suddenly they are uneducated, illogical, tree-hugging, Bible-beating, women-hating, slut-shaming, liberal hippie, conservative tightwad whatever you want to call them. It’s a never-ending cycle of moral outrage. People say things that they would likely not say to another’s face. I’ve never been so paranoid and unsure of even my closest friendships than I was during the 2012 presidential election. Not because I loved them less, but because of the things that they would say on social media that were clearly out of their in-person character.
I know that not everyone is going to gel with me, but I care what people think about me. And that’s what the unfriending really boiled down to – this person didn’t like me or my writing, and she let me know it, in her own knee-jerk reaction way. She took this opportunity to take a dig not only at my political opinions – which I never technically stated – but to take a personal dig at me, my blog, and my parenting. And for what? For the satisfaction of having the last word behind a computer screen?
I wished her well, but my knee-jerk reaction was to bring everything I’ve ever done or said into question, to scrutinize interactions, status updates, blog posts, comments because why would someone say something deliberately nasty? I’m nice! I let people know what they are having a great hair day! Sure, I’m kind of a dingbat, but I give people the benefit of the doubt, even when they have different opinions than me! And I give good hugs!
The veil of the online world is powerful, and we find ourselves saying things we would often not utter to someone’s face – at least I hope. We talk to our screens, not the people behind them. Is what you’re saying going to be constructive to the conversation? Or are you using it as an opportunity to hurt someone? Make yourself feel better for having a different opinion? Tear others down so you can feel lifted up?
There are many, many people out there who can let rudeness or unkindness roll of their back. I am not one of those people. I don’t write on controversial issues, and I don’t express many opinions on Facebook, aside from the weather (too hot! Too cold!) or the atrocity that is Smurfs 2. Not that I don’t have them, opinions, not Smurfs. I just shouldn’t have to take being torn apart by someone who thinks that their opinions matter more than mine. I’ve learned that I’d rather share those discussions with people who aren’t going to blow their top and say things that are hurtful because they’re able to say them from behind a computer screen 200 miles away.
A good friend was once wise enough to tell me that I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s fine. But you don’t have to spit in the tea. That’s just gross.
Edited to add: Laura Tremaine of Hollywood Housewife posted a fantastic essay a few weeks ago that’s worth a read. Check out Facebook posts are the new bumper stickers.