I made a comment on a friend’s facebook post. It was interpreted in an entirely different way than how it was intended. I responded with a poorly worded defense. 4 comments later and someone I thought was a friend was publicly shaming me and calling into question my discipleship to Christ.
I was not mature about it. I unfriended her. After all, anyone who could hit me with a verbal sucker punch like that probably doesn’t think well enough of me to WANT to be my friend. At least, that’s what I told myself.
I couldn’t sleep. I cried. I was deeply hurt. I once respected this person. How could she treat me like that? But, after a few days to calm down and cope, I’m a better person, albeit admittedly embarrassed.
In the future, I will be more careful in my comments. I’ll try to think more about how my words affect other people. She called into question that which is most sacred to me, and although it hurt, I’ll be a better disciple because of it.
Someday, I’ll tell my kids about it. Hopefully, they can learn from my experience. Social media is a place where we have to be extremely careful in our words. Without the physical cues of real interaction, we often become social idiots. People will say things online that they would never say in person. Even the best of people will allow themselves to get into online arguments. Human pride really really loves itself when we enter the online arena.
With that being said, here are a few things I want to teach myself and my kids about online discussion.
- If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
- If you wish to stand up for an argument, first make sure that those you are discussing it with will actually listen. Even the soundest logic does no good when those engaging are more interested in what they will write next as opposed to what you have to say.
- Listen when you read. Just like listening in-person, it’s an awesome idea to think about what another person is saying and find understanding where it’s possible.
- Sometimes, people will argue strongly about something that is illogical or false according to your world view. They could be arguing vehemently that dihydrogen monoxide (water) is a toxic chemical that should be removed from all food sources. In cases like this, a response is useless, dihydrogen monoxide sounds scary, and that blog post said it was scary, and it’s scary darn it! Allow others their opinions, no matter how much you disagree.
- You don’t have to have the last word.(I’m really bad at this one.) Others are reading this. Some will side with you, some won’t, but having the last word doesn’t actually strengthen your argument.
- No personal attacks. End of story.
I’ll do my best to teach my kids to be kind and respectful online, but I’m sure, to some extent they will have to learn the hard way, and when that happens I’ll be there to wipe the tears. Just as my daughter was there for me. She saw I was crying and went and made me “a collection” of some of her favorite trinkets to put on my dresser. I should look to her example of compassion before I type (or swipe) another word online.