Sunday, October 14, 2012


I'm going to start this off with a disclaimer: this isn't directed at any one specific person.  As is the case for just about anything I blog about, there have been several instances with a variety of people in these regards; recent occurrences were simply the most recent events, so I decided to blog about the general theme behind them, but not a specific incident.  I guess they could be considered the "straws that broke the camel's back" or just the most recent "incidents".

Facebook and social networking in general have been remarkable inventions in the last few years that have really revolutionized how we interact with each other and even how we express ourselves.  With very simple acts, we can share opinions, news, memories, etc. with all sorts of connections in our lives, some very close connections and some not-so-close.  But with that ease of communication comes the ease of passing less-than-accurate and sometimes mean-spirited information along too.  I've often said that this could easily be called the "Mis-information Age" as much as it can be called the "Information Age".  But it could be called the "Disrespect Age" too.

Everyone has their personal beliefs and preferences.  I get that and respect it.  I have tons of friends who do not share my political, ideological, and/or religious beliefs.  Even with that I'm still friends because we share the same basic values even if we don't have the same beliefs anywhere else.  Growing up in Kent, I was very much the ideological minority as a conservative and as a Latter-day Saint, so it's natural I made friends with many people who see the world in very different ways than I do.  That is not a problem.  I don't mind at all when we have disagreements or even spirited discussions, but I'm always somewhat surprised and disappointed when I see friends via Facebook expressing their views in such a way that it insults someone else's views.  I'm glad I know lots of people with different viewpoints and experiences because it helps me understand them better and not be so quick to lump those that disagree with me on various issues into the "us and them" categories.  I can put actual faces with the various viewpoints and I've found it's much easier to be respectful and patient that way in disagreements.  It also helps me know when to break off an argument and "agree to disagree". 

Now, I'll be the first to say that as a collective society we are offended way too easily.  Brigham Young, likely quoting Confucius, said "He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool."  So to clarify, when I see something that comes across as deliberately insulting or demeaning, it's not so much that I no longer wish to be associated with the person (unless it's directed solely at me) or that I'm offended so much as I'm disappointed.  Usually it's in the form of sharing an article or a status that has some type of commentary about a group, movement, idea, or belief system that is done in a way to not only show disagreement, but outright disdain.  I always wonder if they realize that they have friends who actually believe that way and with good reason or if they really care.  Sometimes we get that way in actual conversation; you know how you think those around you share the same beliefs so you let your guard down and say things (usually generalizations) about something and then realize that person is part of that. Most of us are horrified and want to apologize for making that person uncomfortable or offended in some way.  Does being sorry for doing that mean you now agree with that person's views?  Hardly.  It just means you realize that disagreeing doesn't have to be so negative and that some things (like a relationship) are more important than expressing our opinion.

One of the biggest downsides of electronic communication versus live communication is that it's much easier to say things online behind our computer screens that would we'd think twice about in person.  Would we be so quick to bash Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members, Liberals, Progressives, Conservatives, Mormons, Catholics, or whoever in person if we knew someone was in the room (especially if we were speaking to a friend who was one) the way so many do online?  I doubt it.  I'm not really sure why we feel that sensitivity, good manners, and simple politeness don't apply online, but far too many people clearly believe that.  It's to the point with some of my friends that I just filter out their updates.  I still want to be connected to them and touch base when I can, but not see their angry, demeaning, or otherwise insulting commentary on a regular basis.  And no, it's not simply a case of seeing stuff I disagree with; it's a matter of it being presented in a condescending or otherwise insulting way.

I try very hard to present my views without insulting or belittling those who disagree or share the opposing viewpoint, by making it sound like those who disagree with me are merely stubborn or less educated.  I also always include logical reasons for why I believe as I do, not just spouting baseless opinions.  I'm obviously not perfect and have definitely been guilty of getting caught up in the emotion, but I am usually very careful about that. Those of you who know me know that I take it seriously. It IS possible to do all of that.  You CAN even show that you disagree or don't like something without having it come across as insulting to someone who holds the opposite view.  And no, I don't mean we need to "play nice" and pretend we like something we don't or never have an opinion, even a strong opinion.  It's a matter of HOW we express our opinions not that we have them.  That's why I have generally stayed away from saying much of anything political lately on Facebook either as a status update or post or even commenting on others' posts (I will occasionally).   It just surprises me that people would say some of the things they do on Facebook or any type of social media and not care how it may be perceived.  I highly doubt any of them would ever say that in person to anyone, especially someone they consider a friend. And really, how effective is it when you are told you're "less educated" or "narrow minded", etc?  Does it really make you want to listen to that person?  How "educated" or "tolerant" are they if they cannot even express their views without insulting and belittling those that disagree?

It disappoints me the most when I see members of the church using the same mentality on other groups they disagree with or have a bad opinion of that anti-Mormons use in that they speak badly about the church and its doctrine without ever bothering to attend a meeting, discuss it with an actual member, or make any real attempt to understand it.  They go on "what they've read" or "what they've heard." Again, doing any of those things doesn't necessarily mean that you'll agree with whatever group you have a negative impression, but it does mean you'll have a far more realistic and fuller view of them, what they believe, and why.  It just seems like many people behave in such a manner that they believe if you aren't completely hostile to the opposing viewpoint, you will be considered sympathetic to that view.  Yes, it IS possible to be respectful without agreeing in any way with the opposition.  Why is respectful and civil discourse so seemingly difficult?