Because of its tendency to polarize and alienate people, and how easy it is for online “discussions” to lose control to third/fourth/fifth parties, I have resolved to no longer engage in emotionally charged social and political discourse on Facebook (or social media in general).
This doesn’t mean I don’t have strong beliefs and opinions, or that I don’t care about voting or community activism. It doesn’t mean I don’t think speaking one’s mind is important. I think there are many people who are gifted at political discourse, activism, organizing and social theory, and they continue to share those gifts.
I have simply come to the conclusion that it is more beneficial and fruitful for me to have these discussions in an environment that is controlled, peaceful, and personal. It is way too easy for me to dehumanize another when we use machines to communicate.
If I share something, I want it to be in the spirit of sharing what I learned, how something helped, edified, or challenged me, not as a means to shame my detractors.
(I have not “arrived” or perfected any of this. I’m writing this- all of this- for the same reason I write anything down- to hold myself accountable; to preserve my commitment for posterity.)
Beyond that, I don’t feel it’s my prerogative to make sure an online acquaintance changes his mind, or that a friend changes her opinion and votes for the same person I do. I am not obligated to answer for their choices.
The best I can do is set a watchman for my conscience, my feelings toward others, and my own behavior. I think the best way for me to change the world is to change it around me, through interacting with people and with my community at large.
Some will disagree with me and take the big picture approach. Some will see things more the way I do. Both have their benefits. Both can and do have positive outcomes. One is just a better choice for my own peace of mind and relationships than the other.
With some professional guidance, I realized that If I focused the same energy I expend trying to convince others to see my way, if I channeled that into action, big or small, my relationships and my community would transform. [Wow, I thought. What if all people had this approach.]
With all that said, it would be hypocritical for me to tell you who to vote for, how to voice your opinion, what to protest, how to act. When it comes to choosing your candidate, your cause, or your way to take action, there’s only one thing I can ask people I care about to do.
And it’s the same thing I’m asking of myself:
When you make your choice, do it with intention. Doing one small thing that you know will have an effect changes more than sitting idle for hours, stewing in anger and contempt. If your conscience tells you that something (or someone) is morally repugnant, align yourself elsewhere. If you want to change a social or political reality, take an action that answers the call of your conscience. Whatever you choose to do, do it to strengthen your community, not to tear down someone else. While it’s always nice when others join you, sometimes they won’t. Don’t lose heart. Act in a way that leaves you at peace and doesn’t betray yourself. You can act big, or small. The important thing is to act from kindness, in earnest, and with empathy.