I need to address something, y’all.
We’re being assholes to each other.
Complete and utter assholes.
I gave up reading the comment section of news articles a long time ago because it was rare that I didn’t find myself appalled at the language, the judgements, the holier-than-though attitudes, the downright obvious hatred and racism and sexism and misogyny and…well, the comments section on news articles is basically the armpit of humanity, I’ve decided.
But lately I have noticed a rather disturbing trend. We’re being complete jerks to people we actually call “friends”. It’s happened to me personally recently and since then I have watched it unfold in other places in my Facebook newsfeed. At some point, I’m going to swear off the comment section of my friends’ Facebook posts because it seems we can’t even be nice to people we know and the people they know.
Here’s the thing: if I keep you around on my friends list, if you can see my posts, it’s because I like you enough to let you. There is a level of trust implied with this privilege, because I’m trusting you to not embarrass me or make me regret keeping you around and allowing you to potentially mingle with my other friends. I’m not sure if we are forgetting how to respectfully interact with other humans on a personal, social level because so much of our interacting is done over a screen these days, but it seems we have forgotten the basic concepts of group discussions. So for your consideration, I have prepared a list of things we should remember when interacting with, and I emphasize this word, FRIENDS on the World Wide Web.
- First and foremost, remember they don’t have to be friends with you. Act a fool and you will likely find yourself un-friended, blocked, restricted, or worse, still friends and described privately as “oh you know who I’m talking about, she has to say something about everything. Ugh.”
- If you would not say it to the person’s face, you should not post it on the Facebooks, y’all. It is actually that simple.
- If your initial reaction to something you see a friend has posted is outrage, it is probably best to take a deep breath, find something else to look at for a moment, collect your thoughts, and THEN say something if you absolutely feel something needs to be said.
- Remember you are allowed to continue to scroll past things your friends have posted that anger/upset/sadden/frustrate/piss off/disgust/create some other undesirable reaction in you. That’s right, you can KEEP SCROLLING. Channel you some Dory and “just keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.” You don’t actually have to say ANYTHING! Obviously, if it really is important to you, and you feel you must, then speak up. But refer back to Helpful Tip #1 first. And then #2. And then #3.
- If you find yourself annoyed by a comment on your friend’s post from someone you do not know, weigh the pros/cons of responding. You may be about to insult the intelligence of someone’s mother, sister, father in law, dearest cousin they love so much, their friend of 20 years, or their crazy relative they’ve all had a family meeting about and decided to just let ramble without anyone engaging because they are hopelessly crazy and constantly looking for trouble (y’all know you’ve got a family member like this…). If the comment is attacking your friend and you feel they’d appreciate support, help them out. If it’s a statement of agreement with your friend that you happen to disagree with, figure out what’s more important to you – stating your point & disagreeing with your friend, potentially creating undue stress, or keeping this matter out of your friendship. Getting into it on a friend’s Facebook post with another of their friends is just…well, it’s awkward. And since you’ve both got a mutual friend in the poster, you may cross paths again. I’ve had it happen where I’ve had to “warn” friends of mine, “So, Jessica’s coming. You remember the girl you argued with about minimum wage on my Facebook post?” That’s awkward, folks. Don’t be those people.
- Making it personal makes it nasty. Don’t air people’s dirty laundry in Facebook comments, y’all. Your mama taught you better than that. And don’t go calling people names. You won’t convince anyone you know what you’re talking about if you feel the need to call people names and use foul language. While I am quite fond of well placed curse words myself, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your credibility when you’re just tossing around enough four letter words to make a sailor cringe just because you’re an adult and you can, dammit.
- Speak with the intent to listen. Don’t speak just to speak. Busting into a conversation just to say something because it makes you feel better is rude. Speaking with the intent to hear what others have to say in reply is a different approach that not many people use these days, but it would be better for us all to attempt. We like to hear ourselves a lot anymore. We applaud people for being able to “speak their minds”, “say what they mean”, and “say things other people will only think”. But listening to other people, inviting people to discuss things, sharing information with people who are also open to hearing other information is all seemingly undervalued these days. We could all stand to hold our tongues sometimes and hear what someone else has to say. The most well defended arguments are ones where you have heard the other side, you understand their concerns, and you have solid counterpoints, because you’ve taken the time to become educated, not just defensive.
- Remember, you are absolutely free to hold the opinion you hold, but you are not free from the consequences of stating that opinion. If you put something out there and it turns out 72 people descend upon you with their replies, you don’t get to yell about being attacked. A large number of people who disagree with you isn’t necessarily an attack. Unprovoked ugliness is what makes an attack.
- You’re totally free to “agree to disagree”. But that actually does carry meaning, and that meaning is “I can see we do not agree on this matter, and I respect that your opinion works for you and you also respect that my opinion works for me, so this conflict is over.” Key word there is “over”, meaning “the end”. It doesn’t mean, “I can see we do not agree on this matter, but I have more to say about this and I really think after I say these things you will be able to see my side more clearly and will understand why I am right.”
- Aretha said it best. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Look, in short, be the kind of friend you want your friends to be to you.