this online life

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.

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23 Comments

  1. I agree with every single word here.
    I have my opinions too, but I keep them to myself (mostly).
    And I wouldn’t spit at someone if I disagreed with them. I’d just roll my eyes in private. Never say something online that you wouldn’t say to their face, that’s my motto.

  2. I’m probably quicker to unfriend than most. There are several issues that I feel strongly enough about to not want to associate with someone whose opinion differs from mine. My Facebook friends have gone from well over 1,000 to under 100 in the past few years and FB is a much more enjoyable place for me now. I don’t make a stink about it when I unfriend someone and I don’t much care if someone unfriends me.

    1. FWIW, it wasn’t the unfriending that really bothered me. I respect a person’s desire to whittle down their friends list, and I should probably do the same. It was the personal jab that came with it. :/

  3. Remember the days when “Unfriend” wasn’t even a word?
    I love every word of this post, Leigh Ann. Especially the part about good hugs. Wish I could get one right now.

  4. It stinks when people are mean online. It does hurt. I’m not sure that thicker skin business is realistic. I certainly haven’t managed to toughen up much at all. Sorry someone spit in your tea. You are pretty darn nice!

  5. I agree and want to give you a HUG..a huge hug and tell you that your thoughts and opinions are valid (even if I should disagree with them).
    SM has hurt my feelings so much the past few years, even in what is NOT said.

    And while I have strong feelings about certain issues I keep them to myself online and sometimes even off. Like you, I want to make room for all opinions in my room not just the people who look and think like me. That’s a selfish way to live.

    I’m so sorry that you felt that hurt…but thank you for sharing that experience here.
    xo

  6. I relate to you so much. I’ve been guilty of this, but from the opposite spectrum – having a (sort of) knee jerk reaction and unfriending someone who was on the far right politically. Of course, I let her know why and all that but it resulted in the loss of a friendship. I think the friendship was destined to fizzle anyway, but I think I could have handled it differently and with more grace.

    And I am so sensitive too. I hear you!!!!

  7. I agree. I think we can learn so much from people with opinions that differ from ours. I miss when people were more open-minded, or at least more polite about the fact that they disagreed with you.

  8. Ditto – I have lots of opinions on lots of issues and mostly keep them to myself. Whatever I do post, I would say to anyone’s face as well – and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea either. And the only people that get to spit in my tea are my kids, I’ve probably drank quite a bit of their backwash in my life and everything else is just gross, like you said 😉 except my dog, he gets to lick my face 😉 xox

  9. Great post. I’ve been appalled by the utter lack of civility and decency I see online sometimes and it makes me sick. And I’ve had those agonizing moments of scrutinizing myself after online attacks, too. I really appreciate your articulating how all of that feels and why it’s just so senseless.

  10. Oh yes, I have been there too my friend. I don’t like how people feel like it is okay to hurt people’s feelings online or write things that they would never say in person to someone.

    I don’t unfriend people that have different views unless they become threatening in some way. I like having different views around. I like that we live in a time where we can post links to articles and blog posts that might shed light on a topic. I’ve read various pieces from people that have different opinions and sometimes I see an issue in a different way. And sometimes not so much but I don’t unfriend them. I think being different is good, it’s great actually. It’s the whole idea of our free thinking country!!! (Uh-oh, I’m getting political lol) But I do wish people wouldn’t be so rude or hurtful or all unfriend-y.

    But what do I know? I care less about someone unfriending me based on my political opinions and more if they unfriend me because I’m not funny. Waaaaa.

  11. This is totally unrelated to blogging, but a few years ago I was unfriended by about a dozen people who were in some sort of moral debate with my brother. I didn’t even know it was going on, but apparently they’d all banded together and decided to block him– and then me as well, since I’m his sister. So weird. These were people I’d known since I was a child, and yeah– the whole situation left me rather jaded for a while. People are weird on the internet.

    1. It seems like it’s such a personal thing when they go out of their way to click a button. Like in person, they could have just avoided you. But actually going in and “unfriending” someone on a social network is like so deliberately hurtful.

  12. I totally get this. I’m pretty good with people who disagree with me (as long as they’re not completely ignorant AND intolerant, ahem). But it sucks that people can do stuff like that and make you feel shitty.

  13. Her extra digs were completely unnecessary. She was clearly trying to get to you and hurt you in some way because she felt wronged or was jealous, somehow. Stick with those of us for whom you are our cup of tea. 🙂

  14. I hear you on all of this. Sorry you had a bad experience. Facebook exhausts me, which is why I often avoid it. That’s not an effective solution, just a confession. I am an avoider. HUG.

    p.s. You are having a great hair day.

  15. There’s an element of honesty online that isn’t present in face-to-face conversations, and I’ve found that I much prefer hearing how people really feel rather than hear different versions of their feelings from others. I feel that confrontations are easier done online, so that is why people are more apt to voice their strongest beliefs via this platform. HOWEVER. People have used the online veil (love that!) to add rudeness and nastiness to their opinions and beliefs, and I’m so sorry that you were the recipient of it in this case. “Friend” has a more complex meaning these days.

  16. This is one phenomenon of the internet that I do NOT like. I would say social media but I think it is all over the internet. People doing things they wouldn’t do or say to people’s faces.

    If I remember this was a coincidental, sort of bad-timing post for you but even though, you should not be attacked and especially by someone you considered a friend…

    I may not always agree with you but I will always have your back. xo

  17. Agree completely!! I love a good discussion as much as the next person, but the respect for differing opinions has to be there with everyone who is participating.

    (also agree re: the 2012 election. That was some ugly stuff. oy.)

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