I went back and forth on whether to actually publish this post. Because I know some people will disagree and I will inevitably leave out something important or word something incorrectly. But it was written straight from my heart, and those are the most vulnerable and scary ones to share with the world. So since I’m sharing with an open heart, I hope you’ll read this with an open heart.
But first, take a moment and focus on that title. The key word in it…is I. Why I don’t talk politics/controversial issues/etc. on social media. The title doesn’t read Why You Shouldn’t Talk Politics on Social Media because I’m not speaking out against those who do. This isn’t an advice column. It’s more of a journal entry, really. I’m simply sharing my story and my personal reasons.
Last week, following the Charlottseville events, I could barely go on social media. It was hard enough reading about the deaths and the riots and the hatred and the brokenness…but what actually brought all that hate home was stepping into the den of social media.
It was like entering a stadium where everyone is screaming. At each other.
Words are powerful (that whole “sticks and stones” thing is a lie, btw). And because my every day is founded so deeply in words, the vitriol and rage on Twitter was especially painful to swallow.
There’s a huge difference in fighting against something versus fighting for something.
So many voices on Twitter were against. Some against neo-nazis, some against Trump, some against Black Lives Matter, some against white supremacy, some against KKK, the list goes on.
But what I didn’t really see unification happening from people being for something. (This may also be part of who I actually follow. So please don’t read this as a generalization.)
Finger-pointing doesn’t fix the problem. It perpetuates it by stoking the defensiveness.
There was shaming for speaking out. There was shaming for staying silent. The majority of comment threads I peeked in on spewed hate and anger and sarcasm and backlash and a total lack of grace. Even when someone tried to share love and comfort, hatred responded.
So I didn’t Tweet.
I didn’t post.
But I certainly had a lot I could have said.
But what I encountered on the walls of Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram to a small extent…was not communication. And from someone who spent 7 years of higher education studying communication disorders, I know a bit about it. 😉
Communication is one of the most difficult hurdles we face in life–even with the people closest to us, let alone the acquaintances on social media. So since communication is such a fragile and intricate thing, I can’t do it affectively when limited to 140 characters over hot-button, life-changing topics. (I’m obviously referencing Twitter…)
Some people think that because I don’t tweet a stance or a statement or an outrage that I don’t speak out.
Well–for me–that’s not speaking. That’s tweeting.
I speak. In person. Over coffee. Over phone. Over Skype. And I’ll talk to you at length about whatever you want to discuss–politics, religion, identity, racism, etc. But if you want to hear from me on a sensitive topic then it has to be voice-to-voice. Face-to-face. Over coffee where we can act like human beings. (Because without coffee we’re all zombies anyway.)
Because on Twitter, you can’t see the “I love you” in my eyes when we’re talking.
Because on Facebook you can’t hear my tone of voice–and that it’s gentle and broken right there with yours.
Because on Instagram you can’t see how intensely I’m listening to you and valuing your words.
Communication is more about listening than about talking. And social media is often more about talking than listening. On top of that, it’s often merciless because we tend to focus more on dissecting the word choice than peering into the heart behind it. (Though there are times when we look at the heart and see the light…or see the sludge.)
Social media isn’t without its ability to communicate. It’s part of our culture and I do believe that God has given us voices and opportunities and we should use those. But He’s also given us different personalities and different ways to reach each other–and we need to understand that, too. I am not able to communicate my heart via social media. But others can–and I respect those who do use their voices and their gifts and their personal wiring to communicate love on social media (so this is not a bash against those who do speak out on those platforms.)
But instead of you picking apart my sentence and looking for the typos or errors or holes in my logic, I’d rather you be picking apart my facial expression and realizing that I’m flawed, but I love you–so my words may not be perfect but hopefully you’ll see my heart and it will transcend the gaps in our conversation.
I am not a coward. I have a lot of thoughts about the state of our country, our world, our people. But 99% of the time, social media is not the place for me (repeat: ME) to share them. And I understand that people say “If you have a voice, you should use it” and “If you’re not using your voice to speak out, then you’re “privileged” and that’s evil.”
I know I’m privileged. I know I’m white. I know I’m a follower of Christ and I know that those three things are three strikes against me out on the interweb.
But I’m using my voice. It’s just not in the way that the public is demanding. Yet it’s just as effective as those doing the shouting.
A heartfelt whisper in an ear.
A passionate shout across mountains.
An honest conversation in a coffee shop.
All of these can change the world when done in love. But the world needs to understand that not everyone is a mountain-topper or a coffee-shopper or a whisperer.
And that starts with listening.
Above all, love one another deeply… [1 Peter 4:8]
How can I hear you today? What would you like to say?