HOW TO PREVENT A FACEBOOK FIGHT LIKE JESUS

Not long ago my sister-in-law asked me why she was unable to find a Facebook post that I had recently shared. She had commented on it the day before and went back to look at it the next day, but couldn’t find it. I told her I had deleted it, and she seemed surprised about that.

Have you ever deleted a social media post? I do it fairly regularly, actually. Sometimes because I get insecure and feel like it’s dumb, but sometimes I delete the more political posts that I’ve shared. I deleted two like this in the past few months. I probably still agree with the main viewpoint of both of them, but I took them down.

“Why did you take them down if you still agree with them?”

I’m glad you asked.

I deleted them because I quickly realized what they were accomplishing that I was not intending.

One-sided facts.

Most political articles are one-sided. Rarely do they treat fairly an opposing viewpoint. They simply spit out the so-called “facts” and make clear that they care nothing for the other side of the argument. And we post them anyway. It’s kind of weird, actually. It’s like social media is an exception to Christianity. Everywhere else we’re told, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), or “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), but that doesn’t apply here. We feel justified in sharing something because as far as we’re concerned, it’s truth, and truth is something that must be shared with everyone, even if it hurts them. So we run people over with our truth.

But there’s a difference between truth and perceived truth. Truth matters because it holds up even if no one ever believes it and everyone rejects it. But what people perceive as true is what transforms them. Truth may stand even if everyone rejects it, but if everyone rejects it then no one is changed by it. And people are generally not willing to reconsider what they believe if they don’t feel heard and loved. So when we click “Share” on the unfair article and think we are justified because we presented truth, we don’t realize (or maybe we do, and just don’t care) that we are not going to change anyone’s mind because we are not listening to them or treating their side with fairness. Here are two examples of one-sided arguments that demonize the opposing view.

  1. When the refugee crisis was a hot button issue, I saw a post that had a picture of a bowl of M&Ms. It said something like, “If you were given 10,000 M&Ms and were told that only 10 of them were poisonous, would you eat them?” The metaphor was that while there is probably only a hand full of the refugees that might potentially pose a threat to our national security, we have no way of knowing who is good and who is bad, so we should leave them all to fend for themselves. The argument on it’s own is actually a reasonable one that I personally disagree with, but would love to enter into dialogue about. But the way it was presented has at least two problems. First, it shares nothing but cold and heartless “facts.” People are not M&Ms (do I even need to say that?). You’re literally comparing a bowl full of tooth decay to thousands of homeless and terrified women and children who are running for their lives. Second, it isn’t being fair to the other side. It makes anyone who believes any differently look like a fool. This article is embarrassingly condescending. It doesn’t invite anyone into meaningful dialogue.
  2. On the other political side is the topic of homosexuality. My goal here is not to share my opinion on this issue, but to simply point out a bit of unfairness in the argument. The hashtag #LoveWins, which was started as a way of pushing the legalization of same sex marriage, isn’t very fair. Instead of presenting a well thought out argument and winning people over that way, you simply call your side “love.” So any opposing belief, no matter how understanding and respectful and kind people may be as they present it, is not on the side of love, but hate. Instead of seeking to understand the opposing side, it demonizes anyone and everyone who disagrees.

Useless rallies.

We are not inviting anyone from the opposing side into a meaningful dialogue, but instead share stuff that will rally our own tribe to validate each other’s opinions. Most of our “friends” and “followers” agree with everything we say, so we get fifty “likes” and five comments that make the same point in an even more one-sided fashion. And the few “friends” who do disagree with us either know better than to protest a rally and just keep scrolling, or they start a fight. No one is listening, nothing changes, no one is convinced.

But I just want to know why. Are we really just in it for affirmation? If all you want is for everyone on Facebook to think you’re awesome, just post pictures of your food or have some kids and post pictures of them. People love that. But please stop seeking affirmation at the expense of someone else’s feelings by making their argument seem stupid or hateful. And please stop rallying your tribe to only agree with your opinions and never challenge them.

6 Questions.

So next time, before you post that article you found fascinating, would you be willing to ask yourself these 6 questions to see if what you’re about to post is actually helpful?

  1. Will this post bring people together, or push people apart?
  2. Will those who disagree feel like their side was heard and treated fairly?
  3. Am I challenging people on both sides of the argument, or just the side I disagree with?
  4. Will this lead to meaningful dialogue, or to one-sided monologue?
  5. Does this build others up or tear others down?
  6. Does this present the truth in love, or just cold-hearted facts?

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