Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Rules

From now on, I'm going to try and make sure my own social media behavior follows a few simple rules:

  1. I plan to post my thoughts and opinions on Facebook. Many of them will be political in nature.
  2. If you do not like to see my thoughts and opinions on Facebook, I will not be offended if you hide or de-friend me.
  3. If you disagree with my thoughts and opinions on Facebook, I will not be offended if you make comments to that affect.
  4. That doesn't mean Imma let you slide. If you make a comment, I reserve the right to make a comment back. This is called an online discussion.
  5. Other FB friends of mine may choose to join such a discussion. That is OK.
  6. I will not apologize for knowing a wide variety of people who may disagree with you.
  7. I will try to keep my online comments civil and respectful, though snark and sarcasm are often how I communicate. 

And because I do not know anyone else's threshold for tolerating disagreements on FB:

  1. When I agree with your thoughts and opinions, I will "like" your post or make a comment to that affect.
  2. When I disagree with your thoughts and opinions, I will do my best not to start a FB argument with you or someone you know on your FB page.
  3. Fair warning - if you and I have a lot of online discussions, that last rule may be difficult to follow.

Here's why:

I try to be an easy person to get along with. I no longer need everyone to agree with me about everything in order to interact socially. This is a big change from my younger days, when I was something of an ideological absolutist. (Or "asshole" as some undoubtedly would call it.) I was one of those folks who thought I knew everything, and it took me a while to realize I didn't.

Don't know what it is that brought about that change. Probably a bunch of things. But I can tell you that washing other people's dirty dishes in a restaurant is one of the more humbling activities in which an opinionated human being can engage. I can also tell you that at some point far later than I'd like to admit, I came to the realization that I would never argue my way into changing my parents' minds on any topic. More importantly, I realized that changing their minds doesn't matter very much, I don't love them any less if we disagree about something.

At that point, it was just a matter of figuring out a variety of eloquent and diplomatic ways to say "that's the craziest damn thing I've ever heard," "we're not going to agree on that at all for a number of reasons we all consider important," and "we're not going to make it through supper without an argument unless we agree to disagree and get back to talking about sports."

And yeah, anyone who's heard me speak with my brother for longer than five minutes can tell you, I'm still working on that. Especially when it comes to communicating disagreements over the internet.

Because learning that I don't know everything doesn't make me any less opinionated about the things I do know (or think I know). And I'm not what you'd call shy about my sharing my views. I've got a lot to say about a lot of things. And you know what? I'm related to or friends with a lot of people who have a lot to say about a lot of things, too. Hell, one reason I started this website in the first place was so me and my friends could argue online and enjoy football tailgates.

Now there's social media, and the dynamic is very, very different. Before, I had a blog, and everyone contributing and commenting knew that opinions and disagreements were the very point. That's what it was there for, and if you didn't like it, you could click to a different webpage. With my social media account, not only are my obnoxious opinions delivered directly to other folks' news feed, their obnoxious opinions are delivered directly to my news feed.

Of course, the natural response to seeing something I disagree with on my social media feed is to disagree with it. But suddenly, EVERYONE can see your back and forth. One thing leads to another, and it can be pretty awkward to get in a long political argument with strangers on someone else's Facebook feed.

Which means the last year was a very awkward time for my social media presence. It had been so exhausting, I couldn't even bring myself to write a whole lot about stuff I thought was pretty important. Hell, I thought a lot of others felt the same way. Maybe we'd get back to goofy pictures of cats and other less controversial popular culture tropes, at least for a while.

So much for that. Between the fiscal nonsense and the school shooting, things are right back where they were in October. But this time, I've learned a little bit. Hence the rules.

Am I missing any?



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