A few days ago, I decided to begin the new year by quitting Facebook – deleting my profile, deleting the app from my phone, the works.
My husband quickly reminded me that not only would I not be able to communicate with most people I know (I don’t even have most people’s phone numbers), but I would ultimately, in all likelihood, be that annoying hypocrite who quits Facebook, gets antsy to see what’s going on in their world, and reactivates their profile two days later to a chorus of eye rolls and “I told you so’s.”
And who was I kidding, that’s exactly what would have happened. So I didn’t bother.
But I’m tired, so, so tired. I like to see pictures of my friends’ adventures, funny memes, shot-from-above recipes. Only that’s not what Facebook is about, anymore. It has turned into one gigantic argument, punctuated by someone taking offense to something. And it is absolutely, positively exhausting.
This year is our opportunity to turn the page and start a new chapter, so let’s top the resolution list with one simple but essential to-do item: bring back civility.
After a particularly nasty 2016, we’re in desperate need of a refresher course in manners. In decorum, in politeness, in keeping it together and behaving as adults, especially where others can bear witness. This past year was a real low point, social media-wise. People can find insult in anything – literally anything – and even the most innocuous statement can spiral into an on-line World War III.
If it’s a silly video of wedding bloopers, someone will turn that into a commentary on the church. A meme about Montreal vs. Toronto starts as good natured hockey banter and deteriorates into a full-on culture clash. Picture of a baby with a messy face? Nope, that’s a neglected child!
Name it, anything, and someone will find a way to pick it apart and argue about it.
In my estimation, part of the reason for the bad behaviour plaguing my news feed is that people need to be right. Even when they don’t have all the facts, even when they haven’t listened to an argument, being right, having others agree with them, is paramount. Nothing tingles the loins of a keyboard warrior quite like that sought-after compliment:
(Which it seldom is, from what I’ve seen. Most of the rants described as “well said” are quite the opposite, but maybe that’s part of the unsophisticated charm of it all. Birds of a feather and all that.)
Everyone likes to be right, and there’s no harm in that. It’s when insisting that others are wrong becomes just as important, that on-line discussion turns ugly, fast.
Whether the topic is immigration, vaccinations, religion, breastfeeding, or just something trivial, we have become a society of self-righteous people who stigmatize those who disagree with us, even if they have a point.
It is no secret that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I cringe every time he opens his mouth and I will forever be embarrassed that I lived in a time that saw him elected to any public office, let alone President of the United States. Yet, I have two long-time friends who are vocal supporters of Trump and who, given the chance, would have voted for him without hesitation.
These people are educated, intelligent, informed individuals who I would trust with my life, but on this one issue, no matter how much we go back and forth, we realize we will never agree. And while their political preference defies explanation in my mind, so, too, does my support of Obama baffle them. And yet, we can have interesting, spirited conversations without resorting to contempt and disrespect.
This is my wish for the on-line universe for 2017.
Civility is not about stifling debate or surrendering somehow. It does not require a person to abandon their beliefs. It just requires that we think before we speak, and not stoop to the level of undignified bickering to which we’ve grown accustomed.
So that’s my resolution, to not engage the trolls with whom I disagree, no matter how badly their beliefs or assertions boil my blood. Trying to bring others to your way of thinking is an exercise in futility that gets us nowhere fast, and makes the journey that much less enjoyable.