On Controversy

It’s inevitable.

I tick people off.

I reluctantly waded back into the rather terrifying waters of Facebook recently as part of my return to the world of freelance copywriting. I was trying to keep my posts to things related to business, books, and grammar, but inevitably, I found other things of interest to post. Mostly, I’ve attempted to keep it all fairly innocuous. I post things about art. I post interesting quotes. I post TED Talks that, hopefully, won’t raise too many hackles. I’m trying to be informative, but not combative.

But then, an article came through my feed that I thought was important to share. It was about a controversial topic. The specific topic isn’t important, but suffice to say that I knew in sharing it that I would alienate a lot of people and stir up a lot of simmering coals.

I shared it anyway.

And then I immediately regretted it.

A few hours after I posted it, I went back and saw some of the responses. I considered deleting the whole thing then, but decided to wait till morning. After going back and forth with a few of my friends on the subject matter, I couldn’t take it. I finally deleted the post.

I am just not good at being confrontational on Facebook.

The experience of the last day has me thinking about the nature of controversy, though, and how I respond to it. My husband thrives on vigorous debate. It doesn’t bother him in the slightest. He can mix it up over any number of topics.

Me? I shrink into a quivering mass of heart palpitations and knotted stomach.

It’s probably not a secret to anyone who reads this blog that I’m a fairly right-wing sort of person. And yes, my politics are informed by my Evangelical faith in Jesus Christ, but they are not dictated by it. In fact, what may not be obvious from reading some of my tweets and posts here is that I diverge from a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ in MANY areas, not just those concerning art. I am probably more libertarian in my views, and that does make me a bit of an odd-man-out in a lot of conversations.

My libertarian politics tend to bleed into how I practice my faith, I think. I think there’s a huge, gaping prairie of liberty between what the Bible actually says about how we should live and how a lot of Evangelicals interpret what the Bible says. Drinking, for instance. We aren’t teetotalers. We go to a Southern Baptist church. This can cause some issues at times.

(Side note: A Free Methodist friend joked a couple of weeks ago, “know what the difference is between Southern Baptists and Free Methodists?” Pause. “We drink our beer on the front porch.”)

I don’t mind being more open about my beliefs on Twitter or here on my blog. But on Facebook, I’m posting under another name, and I have a lot of real-world connections there, and I guess . . . I guess I want them to still like me.

But maybe the question is, do I want them to like me, or do I want them to respect me? How can they respect me if they don’t know me because I’m hiding who I really am for fear of offending or angering or hurting people?

This is why I hate Facebook.

I guess it seems like the last few years, we just have to always be angry about something. I wake up every day and go to Twitter wondering what the daily rage will be. Is it the government? Culture? Entertainment? Doctrine? There’s always something I’m supposed to be angry about. And I find myself siding against–or at least being irritated by–my Evangelical friends and family almost as often as I agree with them. (I can’t say the same of the political progressives. I pretty much always disagree with them.)

To be perfectly candid, Internet, I don’t have the energy to be constantly angry.

I can’t maintain that kind of constant passion for the offense du jour. Half the time, once more information is revealed, I alter my perspective a bit, or I discover that it’s not as big a thing as I thought, or I just decide it’s not a hill I want to die on.

So I guess it comes down to a question of balancing a need to be liked and a desire to be respected. How much controversy can I endure in order to be respected? Turns out, not much–at least not on Facebook. And it also turns out that a lot of things I think might be innocuous are probably going to stir up some kind of rage from somewhere. That article on how literary fiction improves brain function is probably going to piss off the writers and readers of genre fiction. That doctrinal analysis of Noah or Son of God is probably going to ignite a firestorm from both sides.

Facebook does not invite respect, I’m discovering. In general, social media does not invite respect. And I will confess that I have lost respect for a lot of people I know in real life once I’ve seen their Facebook posts.

So, I guess it’s back to posting pictures of grammar snark and the occasional cat video. Facebook seems a lot safer that way.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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  1. Pingback: On Facebook | Notes from the Threshing Floor

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