Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Internet Blues

My good friend, who I respect and care about, posted a political joke on her Facebook page by 'liking' it. As a result, I saw it in my news feed. It clearly wasn't an invitation to a discussion, it was simply a hurtful thing said by folks from one political party about folks from another political party. 

I had feelings in all sorts of different directions when I read this; anger, sadness, and disgust to name a few. But my first coherent thought was "That's not funny".  My second thought was, "Do you really feel that way about me?"

After my friend posted this, I started to let it get to me. I thought, I won't forget this for a long time. I'll remember this when I see her at the grocery store, when her kids are at the school recital and I when we see each other at trick-or-treating or other local events. 

That's horrible! She made one statement online and suddenly the reasons I like and respect her go out the window. That's not a strong friendship, I thought, if it can be destroyed by one image. 

But then I had a different thought. I didn't choose to be friends with her because of her political affiliation, her religion or her stance on abortion law. I choose a person as a friend because we treated each other kindly, and respected each other. So what was really going on here?


When I first joined social media o-so-many years ago I made a joke at someone's expense. What I didn't realize was, that they also were able to see it. I never forgot that moment when I talked to the person later, in-real-life, and she asked me that same question, "Do you really feel that way about me?"

Of course it wasn't just a joke, right? It was an expression of a feeling I was having at one moment, based on the understanding that only certain people (people who understood how I felt, and agreed with me) were reading it. It was me saying something mean that I would never, never have said to her face.

I've seen a lot of this lately; this vitriol thrown about so that nobody can ignore it. It's as if we're going to work or school or bars or restaurants wearing our political parties on neon green t-shirts or tattooed to our foreheads. It feels like a very quiet act, when I like or share a post. But I know that to the person reading it the message has the volume turned all the way up. 


I wish I could go back in time and take back every re-tweet, share, like or comment on political stories in social media. But I can't undo what's been done.

What I can do is choose to try to have empathy for her. I'd rather assume she's just quietly saying "Hey, I like this". That maybe, just maybe, she didn't mean to shout at me.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So insightful and true! I've been avoiding reading posts this endless political season b/c i'm afraid I'll see a friend post something that will effect our friendship. As you wrote above, if we choose our friends based on treating each other kindly and respecting each other, seeing a post that we feel strongly against from someone can really change that last part, and then we have to decide if we can look past it, or not. It must be so hard if there's division within a family, too. Thanks for sharing your insights!