I remember being shocked when Barrack Obama won his first term as president, fully believing that the Republican nominee would win (just as I was shocked when the Republican won in our most recent Presidential election). My pastor at the time suggested my surprise was a result of having only friends, and reading/listening only to commentators, whose views aligned only with my own political perspective. In the months following that epiphany I began to expand the friends I followed on social media and joined more discussion groups outside of what had previously been comfortable for me. This new endeavor was not just in the area of politics but also theology and social justice. The result was my gaining a better understanding of the “other side” while being able to enter into conversations which sometimes caused me to adjust my view of things and other times helped me to sharpen my existing view.
While much of what I have experienced in this widening exposure has been positive, along with the good has come a realization of the nasty. While I have tried to remain respectful when discussing hot issues with others, I’ve seen many who just discount the person along with their opinion. Replies are often rude and demeaning while many are so dogmatic about their opinions that anyone who holds a different view is branded a heretic or just stupid. The possibility that perhaps there could be differing views on issues, while holding to a Christian ethic, seems to be a foreign thought to many. Sadly, some of the worst offenders are those who on another thread will sound compassionate and loving. I’m baffled by how a so-called Christian can be so holy in one post and so nasty in another, as though it is as simple as flipping a switch.
In recent weeks, it seems like the nasty has been overwhelming the good, not to mention some of the frightening views held by some people, to the point that whenever I spend much time on social media, I walk away discouraged or stressed, often fearful for the future of my denomination and country as I see the disrespect (not difference of opinion) exhibited by Christians and ministers toward the POTUS, the United States, my denomination and just about anybody with a differing view from theirs. From memes to posts to comments, I often don’t see Christ in them. This is sad.
Serving in the military in a secular world, alongside soldiers and chaplains of all stripes, I’m sufficiently exposed to differing views in the areas of politics, theology and social justice, so I am realizing that I don’t need as much input from virtual friends and online communities who on one hand tout living a Christ-like life while on the other act more like the Devil. My real life is stressful enough, I don’t need to be bombarded on the web with what has become a daily -sometimes hourly- attack on my values, religion and politics, all of which are just as sincerely held and biblically based as those launching the attacks. Don’t get me wrong, I can take it and I can engage with the best of them, but why should I?
With this in mind, I have decided to unplug a bit. I am going to leave groups whose posts are more critical than helpful; unfriend FB friends who are consistently disrespectful rather than uplifting; unfollow organizations that have values that are in conflict with mine; and spend less time online reading and listening to people, groups and organizations that I have little in common with. In doing this I think I’ll not only be fine, but will have a less stressful life and may even thrive in more of a face-to-face environment rather than one existing only online.
Let me finish by saying that I share this not to make a big deal about a personal decision or to get in a last “jab” on those who I disagree with, but rather that my reasoning for becoming more distant from social media may help others who may also be feeling the pain of an anti-[everything] Internet to make some helpful and wholesome changes.
So for some of you this will be “goodbye!” for others, please be kind.