You’ve probably seen the same social media situation. Some of my friends have left Facebook altogether to escape the venom and vitriol that seems to have exploded there. One friend just left me; he was offended by comments from my other friends and blamed me for not shutting them up.
I’ve always wanted connections to people with different perspectives. Why live in a bubble where everyone shares my point of view? I’d rather encourage an exchange and even, in a perfect world, have fun with it.
Oh, once in a while I delete a comment that’s too vicious or vulgar. Sometimes, I ignore the itch in my eager-to-respond finger tips and keep scrolling. I’m all for engagement, but there’s no need to get into a spitting contest that can’t possibly end well.
For the most part though, I want to explore different viewpoints. And I’ve wondered lately if I’m alone in that – so I asked (who else?) my Facebook friends.
How do they handle the hostility in their newsfeeds? Some of them are ready to go at it with every wrong-headed friend-of-a-friend. Some just unfriend you at the first hint of disagreement.
I found people falling into a few Facebook camps.
If you don’t like ‘em, ditch ‘em
- “When a post expresses disrespect for anyone on any basis, displaying a lack of empathy and compassion, I will block that poster whether I know him or her or not. I don’t want that bigotry in my world.” – Pam
- “FB has not changed, it is the way people use it that has changed. I have been unfriended by political bigots and have done my share of unfriending. – Sherman
- “Once things get nasty, vulgar, name-calling and disrespectful, people will be deleted and blocked. It’s basically setting ground rules.” – Debbie
- “I tell the haters and ranters to take it to their own page. I delete posts all the time or if the whole conversation gets out of hand, I delete the whole thing. – Sue
- “There’s the right to freedom of speech, not freedom of hate. As far as social media, I don’t want to associate with hate. It’s unfriend and block.” – Ed
- “It’s your page, your rules, your show. I’ve seen people be rude and obnoxious to me when I DARED to voice my opinion. To prevent any further foolywang, I deleted and blocked them. You should see my delete-and-block list. LOL.” – Kathryn
Learn to love the battle—these guys do
- “Most times, I like a vigorous debate. I’m not bothered by different opinions or being corrected if I’m wrong.” – Chris
- “I appreciate differing opinions! If you seal yourself off from differing opinions, you become Trumpish!!” – Mick
- “The left is unhinged since Trump was elected, sick response is all they know.” – Paul
- “Being friends with someone doesn’t mean we have to walk in lockstep. It’s OK to disagree. And if someone calls you a name, GROW UP, get over yourself, consider the source and move on.” – Jack
- “I have never unfriended anyone over political posts. Course I’ve been blocked and had the f-bomb dropped on me more times than I can count. I think I’ve got 4 liberal friends left on FB. LOL.” – Phil
Keep them around…sometimes with a caveat
- “I never read what I consider to be vitriol, from whatever point of view. Whether left-leaning or right-leaning, my friends are precious to me, and I love you all. We are all each others’ history, and that is most important.”—Nancy
- “People are NOT identical so why should we expect someone to have the same viewpoint? I’ll read, at times I’ll rant, but then I remember why we were friends in the first place, so I allow them to have their rant, and I go on!” – Cindy
- “There is too much politics and anger on Facebook. I can be friends regardless of your politics…but sadly many people are wound so tight that if you have another view you must be the enemy…sad.” – Jack
- “I have friends on both sides politically who will never consider the other side. I just enjoy their personal posts and ignore the political posts.” – Kathy
- “You and I appear to be on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Knowing these things, should you post something from the heart, but I disagree with it, it’s up to me to either comment or accept you just the way you are, and scroll on. We don’t have to agree on an issue to stay friends.” – Steve
Men and women and “friendly” debate
Anybody else notice the gender differences? Both men and women said they’ll get rid of those who offend them. Same with tolerating political differences and focusing on other things.
But the ones who relish the disagreement, who are spoiling for a fight—they’re all men. And that mirrors my Facebook experience.
These guys whose point of view on most things is way different from mine show up over and over to tell me I’m wrong. They get mixed up in heated exchanges with my other friends who wonder why I let these pugnacious people play in my sandbox.
I’m convinced they have redeeming qualities. And I always want to know what people on “the other side” think.
I’m curious about the gender question. Are the put-up-your-dukes types mainly men because of social conditioning? Hormones? Neurological differences?
So what’s the best response to the increasingly toxic social media environment?
At last count, there were 83 comments on my post about hostility on Facebook. You’ve seen a handful of them, lightly edited. Many people wrote at length about their online experience and their feelings about it.
How to improve that experience and feel better about it?
- Pause before you reply – It’s the old “count to ten” trick applied to a keyboard. Give yourself time to get past that first flush of anger/upset/outrage. Then decide how to respond.
- Agree first – If there’s anything you can accept about what they said, acknowledge that before you launch into your opposing view about the rest of it.
- Hose down hot language – Choose not to turn up the temperature on an already heated exchange.
“I see it differently” is one of my own favorite Facebook phrases. As opposed to the increasingly common “you’re a moron,” “how could you be so stupid?” and “what’s the matter with you?”
Maybe you’ve noticed the tension too. How are you dealing with it?
Post a comment below about cutting back on screen time, deleting those feisty friends, or arming for bear every time you sign into Facebook.