This article was originally published over at Beginner Catholic. It is published here with the author’s consent.
We’ve all done it. We get on Facebook or Twitter, make a comment and the battle begins. We try to explain our position further, but if we’re not careful, things get out of control rather quickly. We can’t explain why other than we want to prove our point.
We think our position is straightforward, but someone else does not, especially when it’s a controversial topic or our opinion isn’t so popular. No matter how many ways we try to explain ourselves, some people simply don’t get it. They’re stuck in their opinion. The battle ends and we feel frustrated.
Why does this scenario happen thousands of times a day? What is it about social media and our own human nature that makes this so easy to fall into?
Even the briefest scan of salvation history shows us very clearly how prone we are to pride. Pride is the chief sin underlying all sins. To varying degrees, we are all self-obsessed, we are egotists. Social media platforms are places where vanity can easily take over if we don’t take precautions and set boundaries.
While there is plenty of audio and video that is posted every day, much of our interaction on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is still, primarily, written. I believe it is this, coupled with the largely impersonal nature (we don’t truly know everyone), that allows our egotism and anger to so easily take over.
I propose the following solutions, in no particular order:
- Take the time to read a post or comment – It’s so easy to simply react to a post or comment, throwing out an accusation that comes down to “I’m right you’re wrong.” This is because many have a tendency to skim and fire based on their own interpretation. Taking the time to read and even re-read a comment will help us to consider the person’s meaning, making sure that we haven’t missed any keywords.
- Take an inward look at ourselves – When we post, comment, or reply, there can be an inclination to react out of passion or pure emotion. Taking stock of where we are interiorly can help us to respond more reasonably.
- Arguments are business not personal – Our modern society has a predisposition to take every disagreement as a personal attack. This isn’t isolated to the political and religious left. We must remember and work on getting ourselves into the mindset to not take any argument personally. Doing so keeps our passions in check.
- Set personal boundaries – This can be anything from what kind of topics we choose to comment or post on to how many replies we’ll give to what kind of arguments we’ll respond to. I think the first just mentioned is especially important. Having the humility to recognize the subjects we actually have competence in goes a long way to prevent arguments that do more harm than good.
- Write gently and briefly – This comes from the Rule of St. Benedict. The eleventh step of humility is that a monk should speak gently, seriously, with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, and without raising his voice. This also applies to how we write. I’ve seen too many posts that are long, passionate manifestos that are more about venting emotion than making a substantive argument. If we have something we want to say (keeping in mind the above rules) we should state it briefly and clearly. Short and to the point is more effective than a long rant.
If we put in the work to make the above solutions truly a habit, I believe we can make social media platforms a more civil and fruitful place to interact. Making the above routine will go a long way in creating a space for real, substantive arguments. Please take the time to translate this into action.