In the last few months, social media has seemed an unsafe place. Because I have friends all over the world, I see their beliefs on my timeline. Each day I spend not having reacted to some of the views posted on there, I feel like I’ve aced some sort of test. While I’ve limited my time on social media for exactly this reason (some days books seem like the ultimate refuge), I also do not want to completely isolate myself– I’m part of the human community after all.
On the belief spectrum, I believe in equal rights for all, no discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual preference, skin color, religion, or place of origin. I’d like all of us to see each other as an alien would– as the human species. My belief is in compassion and equanimity. I’m mostly vegetarian, and I believe in moderation in every aspect of our lives. I also believe we as a species are harming the being that we’re part of, Planet Earth.
But these are just that: my beliefs.
I hold them dear, just as everyone else holds theirs. I’m as devout about these as devout Muslims are about their prayers, or Christians about their concept of sin, or businessmen about their concept of profit, or politicians about their ambitions.
Recently, I was very happy about women all across the US and the world marching for human rights: those beliefs seemed to jibe with mine. And then I read this post by blog and Facebook friend Ali Cross:
“I feel like I’m not a “real woman” because I do not relate to, nor understand, the whole Women’s March thing. I am not a v***a or a v****a. *I* am not my private parts. I’m annoyed that women said “I’m marching for women who couldn’t be here today.” I didn’t want anyone to march FOR ME. They didn’t represent ME.”
My response to her post are in the comments to that post, but to summarize: I respect her right not to feel as if she’s represented by the march, and to disagree with what it was about. In the comments, I found women who believed various things; and it struck me that each of us has our set of beliefs that we hold dear, so dear that we are ready to tear down perfect strangers in order to spout those. We forget that just as we believe in certain things, they do too. That those beliefs are long-held, and emerge from what they’ve gone through in life.
I found this post by Lisa Novak, in response to Ali Cross, very helpful :
I simply implored those who disagree with me to try to wrap their heads around how I see things, not so they’ll change their position, but so they’ll comprehend my perspective the way I comprehend theirs. So they can say, “Yeah, that’s totally not where I’m at, but I get why you believe it.” So we can continue to respect one another and focus on the things we have in common.
In a subsequent FB post , Ali shared how her posts and Lisa’s had become the basis of a positive interaction between them.
For the last few months, I’ve been reading posts by another blog friend Arlee Bird, whose views on politics and religion seem diametrically opposite to mine. At the outset, I did try to put forward my views, as he has put his forward, with respect and positivity. But I find that the best way for me to stay connected with him at the moment is to respect his right to express his feelings on his blog, and step away for a while. And that, I feel, is okay too. I’d rather interact with Lee the human, his love of music as shown through the Battle of the Bands, than his religion and politics.
When I speak to groups, I’ll bring together a choir to demonstrate integration.
First they all sing the same note, so there’s no differentiation. It’s boring, completely predictable, and rigid. That’s one extreme. Then I’ll ask them to plug their ears so that they don’t hear each other, and belt out a song that they think of in their mind. It’s a cacophony; it’s chaos. There’s differentiation, but not linkage.
Integration is a balance of linkage and differentiation. When I ask the choir to choose a song to sing together, 75 percent of the time, they pick “Amazing Grace.” They sing it in harmony. It’s a great example of integration because there’s differentiation through the harmonic intervals, and there’s linkage.
So here’s to respecting our differences, and finding and cherishing our linkages. Social media can become a toxic place if we focus and completely demonize the differences, and amongst the darkness that we all feel (and for which we often blame each other) maybe it would do us some good to follow Ali and Lisa’s example, and find things that we do have in common. Lisa also shares this video on how to have more constructive political conversations: while it is particularly relevant to the USA, it could also be very useful to all of us all over the world. Respect and Empathy, are not just words: a lot of effort goes into the application of both to our conversations.
As an author, I use social media to understand my fellow beings, to stay in touch with them, and to express myself, as and when I feel the need.
Sending out hugs to everyone, to those who agree with my beliefs, but also, and even more so, to those who disagree with them. May we all find the the compassion and the will to celebrate our common humanity.
How has your social media experience been of late? What are your coping mechanisms for social media fatigue? Do you see sense in Dan Siegel’s view of Differentiation and Linkage? How do you disagree on social media? Do you find it a draining or enriching experience? What advice do you have for me and the audience of this blog in how to make constructive use of social media?
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