Yesterday, Sunday, day of peace and rest, my stepbrother unfriended me from Facebook as a result of a social media debate that went sour.
It all started when a virus evolved and got out / the Chinese manufactured a bioweapon / bats were served at a market / the animal kingdom met humanity / as a natural consequence of evolution / Fauche commissioned a lab… this is it exactly: the dabate around the origin of Coronavirus and everything that has led to social distancing, lockdowns, political agendas, economic implosion, conspiracy theories and dinner table disputes.
As time goes on, we learn more and our opinion evolves, sometimes erratically, often emotionally. At some stage we form a position and then see the world from that place, often looking for evidence to support how we feel. We eventually pick a side and remain there, trying to convince others that we are right, or simply moaning.
I posted a message that hit hard. It was a copy-paste, with a short preamble of my own. The content took a position and strongly suggested that others read it. It was direct and emotive; it made some good points and asked some tough questions. It would have landed well with certain hashtags but countered the positions of others that didn’t necessarily subscribe to the same thinking. Enter the online boxing match…
I received some ‘likes’ and noticed some ‘shares’. The responses began, some long and considered, some short and sharp, but the comments themselves started to receive responses from others, challenging, questioning and disagreeing. It soon became personal, with direct attacks between participants, until a point at which I sent a Whatsapp text message to my stepbrother and told him to ‘play the ball, and not the player’.
Our own debate ensued, resulting in my deleting the post entirely, but he had already unfriended me, not because our real-life relationship was over, but because he didn’t want to be drawn into any further online quarrels over a subject that he too feels passionate about, albeit from another perspective. He is active online and would not have been able to avoid seeing future posts of that nature, so took the decision to remove himself from any temptation to show up destructively, to others and self.
It didn’t take us long to settle our differences, offline, but the experience was a great reminder that:
You are connected with your friends, family, colleagues, [potential] clients / customers. Remember who you are ‘talking’ to.
You have the right to connect and disconnect.
If you are coming from a place of anger, hold back.
If you feel yourself being drawn into something emotive, exit.
You might not agree with a person’s views, but they are still a human being, one that you could get on with outside the debate, and off a social media platform.
What you post is how you are seen.
Publicly, try to remain objective and curious.
Although we have differences of opinion, we are all in this together.
Once we had taken some deep breaths and approached the situation like gentleman, I received a friend request. It would have been easier to end the debate, walk away and not care, but life is about more than topical issues, and true relationships of value and depth do not reside on social media platforms.