I’m not going to try and pretend like everything is normal.
I know a lot of people are struggling right now. It feels as if the Covid-19 cloud is lifting oh so slightly, but the rain and mist from it keeps dampening so much around us. Some people vow to not watch the news. Others are obsessed by it. Some have had their entire businesses destroyed. Others are having an amazing year. Some are wondering if will retain current clients, some are investing in their growth, some are in fear and some are angry.
And some people are all of those at the same time.
Personally, I’ve had some amazing conversations about the madness that has occurred in the past two months. I’ve also had some lively disagreements. From the title of our business, Total Life Freedom, and the podcast by the same name, freedom is something that I hold as extremely valuable. Others have told me flat out that they will sacrifice freedom from safety. So, obviously, our values do not align.
So how do we navigate this powder keg of a situation?
I can tell you first hand how not to do it.
I’d like to think that I’m grown up enough to not get into social media arguments. I don’t think I’ve ever changed anyones mind like that, and I don’t think I’ve ever had my mind changed that way either. But just like slowing down while driving past a car wreck, I still can be guilty at times.
That happened this weekend. I started it, and I contributed to it. I posted an article that I believed was important to share. Would it ruffle some feathers? Most likely. Could it open some eyes? Quite possibly. I’d like to think before this craziness began, that I would not have thought to post it. In a perfect world, I’ll share the article, we’ll have lots of lively, healthy debates, we’ll respect each other, and we will all be better for it.
We do not live in a perfect world.
I pressed the button. And instead of moving on to do something that was important. I waited.
Was I looking for an argument? Looking back, it’s hard to argue against that thought. I was frustrated. The days have blended together. As much as I’d say to avoid the news, I hadn’t been doing it myself. It’s like a the ultimate thriller novel, with never ending twists and turns on the bottomless internet. It got the best of me.
I should have known what would happen next. The first few comments backed up what I had posted. But the detractors quickly followed. I don’t post many things that would be ‘controversial’, but when I do, it seems like the same names from my friends list are waiting to pounce. The good natured ribbing we give each other comes from years of debate. It’s never personal.
Until it is.
Once that line is crossed, it’s on display for your world to see. What started as a way to share a certain bit of information is now a battle between two (or more) hard-headed individuals. Do you stand your ground? Back down? Tell a joke to lighten the mood? I know I’ve hit that point when my heart starts racing as I see the someone is typing…flash on the screen.
The next thing I know, it’s gone too far. A semi-fun debate is now a heated battle of wills. And every one of my friends might be watching. It’s a wild west duel, with the threat of losing respect but not the physical harm.
At this point, I know there will be no winners. Nobody is changing minds. Some of my friends find my snappy little comebacks witty, yet others might find it disrespectful. If I said it in person, my in-the-moment nemesis might chuckle along. Online, is comes across way too serious.
I realize once again- but in a little more urgency- that this petty little battle is happening in front of people I respect, people I like, people who like me but still might disagree with me, and my pride and ego just may be digging the hole just a bit deeper. There is a saying that says when you find your self in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.
It’s at this moment- whether I think I’m right or not- I realize that I’ve lost the battle. The initial intentions truly were good. But nothing good has come from this. I take a deep breath. My frustration turned to embarrassment. I ask myself why I even started it. Why did I respond like I did? Could I have approached it differently?
To end the tension, I took the post down the following day. I felt the relief immediately, even while feeling a sense that I ‘gave in’.
What was interesting, though, is that I sent a few private messages to my combatants. We went back and forth, made our points, listened respectfully to other points of view, and it was civil and fun. I even wound up having a few great phone conversations from it.
My friend Josh Brown said it to me a few weeks ago. “If 90% of these facebook conversations occurred face to face across a picnic table, the responses would be 180% different.”
So I came away with a bruised ego, a few damaged social media friendships and a big lesson relearned. There is going to be debate. There is going to be disagreement. I also won’t hide from possible criticism.
But I hope, once and for all, that I’ve learned to respond to comments online the way I would across from a picnic table.