Facebook And Public Opinions

It is in the news a lot now, Facebook.

Facebook (etc) is an interesting medium. Whenever something very public or big happens (like today’s Supreme Court decisions), I often want to talk about it, but I almost never feel comfortable participating in a social media discussion. It’s difficult to discuss anything nuanced in that kind of public space (and I believe there are important nuances to every one of these hot button topics), so the airwaves get taken up by people who have firm, settled opinions with no gray area. I feel like I should stand up for what I think – I often feel like staying out of the discussion is still a statement, interpreted differently by different people – but most of the time I just can’t bring myself to do it on that sort of forum. For anyone who knows me, I really enjoy the back-and-forth of in-person discussion on important topics. Just not there.

I think one of the big issues is one of audience. As anyone who is trying to be an effective communicator should do, I tailor my approach to any discussion based on who I’m talking to. When I’m addressing every single one of my very different Facebook friends at the same time, there’s no way to do that. I have a very, very divided Facebook feed – my friends list is full of people who are suuuper conservative and also people who are suuuuper liberal. I like all of them and there are things I agree with from all of them – just not the same things. I know who I can trust to discuss sensitive subjects in sensitive ways, and who I can’t (and some of them, it depends on the topic). My friends are all great, but hold many different beliefs. It’s impossible to address them all at once and have a positive outcome, at least when it comes to taking sides on a big issue.

Another is the issue of permanence. I’m not ashamed of my opinions, but sometimes they change! Especially when it’s a big issue. I don’t love having them preserved forever as they are TODAY, except for myself and maybe a few trusted people (who can understand my own nuances). I think it’s good to preserve them, but for a select audience. I reserve the right to change my mind, and immortalizing today’s opinions that may not be settled yet just doesn’t fit into that.

I wish more people could be more apt to love first and judge later. That’s another issue; in the public, social media space, people forget to put people first. They would often rather drive an agenda or hit a point home than consider that they’re talking to a human person. So only the people who don’t mind coming out fists-first get to talk. I wish that would change.

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