In 2014, my relationship with friends on social media changed. Events happened here in the United States and people took to their Facebook pages, declaring loyalty to one side or another. This is also around the point with Facebook introduced the “hide friends” feature, meaning you could stay friends but just not see their posts.
In some ways, this feature saved many of my online friendships. As people became more and more outspoken, I began seeing them only in relation to their stance on certain issues, rather than as a holistic person with nuances and layers of opinions.
The majority of my friends on social media don’t live near me. We can’t meet for coffee or dinner and our interactions are fairly limited to the filter we choose to present to the world. And, I’d say a lot of my friends have somehow managed to keep social media what it was meant to be: social. They stay away from politics and keep my feed filled with babies and daily life.
I struggle to find this balance. Life hasn’t gotten less complex in the past few years and I know my friends’ opinions on the role of law enforcement, of the conflict in Syria, of the recent elections, and so much more. I know that if I could just invite them to dinner, we either wouldn’t talk about any of this at all or we’d have a stimulating conversation. Maybe we still wouldn’t agree but we’d talk over dinner and our discussion would be infused with our kids and our daily lives.
I’m wondering what the role of justice and activism look like in this age of social media. To stay quiet is to take a stand. To say something can be polarizing. I’m learning to choose my words carefully, to defer to those who have more knowledge and experience, and to use the “hide friend” button as a way of preserving good intention toward my friends.
How do you balance real life friendships with online images? When it’s impossible to sit down face-to-face, how do you remember the nuances of opinion?
Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “invite.”
This post is Day 13 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.
14 thoughts on “Preserving Good Intention”
All of this! It’s so hard but necessary. There is something so holy when we can love a person holistically. I gave to remember yo be cautious of what I say on social media. Too often words are hurtful. But I also have to fund a balance because I want justice to prevail and sometimes I need to speak words.
I know, it’s such a delicate balance… I’m learning to share my values graciously. (Easier said than done!)
I’ve used that hide friends feature more than once too, though not usually for political reasons. It’s tricky to navigate. Will my silence be seen as wanting to be the right kind of peacekeeper or as being apathetic? Especially for those friends whose relationships are mostly through social media. I wish I knew a perfect balance but more often, I’m left wondering if there is one.
I always feel guilty doing it but I want to preserve our friendship. Sometimes, if they cross my mind I’ll check in on them. 😉
i like your post today annie. i have had to keep some of my political views quiet over the years in my position as pastor’s wife b/c i didn’t want to have a polarizing effect on those who were struggling in other areas and my personal political view might keep them from the gospel. but these days it is difficult to sort out what is political.
are my views toward race only political? or do they relate to the Gospel?
are my views re abortion political or do they have to do with GOD’s view of the sanctity of life? and if i have strong views re the sanctity of life, how do they play out in terms of the care of a child after birth? foster care, day care for single moms? assisting them in getting job skills….it gets much more complicated than one single issue and babies! it also related to the whole spectrum of life including end of life issues. personally, i don’t think it is a political issue at all! it is a moral one that we all have to deal with but it isn’t an easy issue to talk about in sound bytes on social media for sure!
these issues are never as neat and tidy as they are when stated politically…or even when some state them morally. the abortion issue involves a woman and a man. there is a pregnancy that isn’t convenient or wanted by at least one party. the other one may want this child very much and the decision to about seems to be the only answer. often the pro-life side cheapens her decision by making her out to be someone who decides based on one dimension when the decision was not an easy one.
the pro-abortion side makes this look like the only sane decision given the set of circumstances this woman is in. Unfortunately, they don’t account for the guilt that follows…and often physical after-effects as well. Side effects of abortions are minimalized and educated consent is not made. there are other options if a person takes the time to think them through
It is the same way for all issues that are devisive.
Such truth, Martha! Is it political or moral? Is what we’re sharing bringing people to the gospel? I feel like if we really asked ourselves those questions honestly, we’d be posting differently. Thank you for adding to this – you’ve given me a lot to ponder!
Thank you, Annie. You have hit a hot spot with many of us who struggle with online relationships. I tend to stay out of conflict, but like you said, that is taking a stand. Boy, couldn’t we do a whole series of posts on this? I appreciate your courage to ask these hard questions. Have a blessed weekend, Julie, your FMF friend
We could… There’s so much to think about! Thanks for stopping by and adding your voice!
We don’t need to hide behind what divides us; we have to embrace the vulnerability of that which unites us.
Right? It’s all about remembering what does unite us, which is far more than what divides.
Oh wow! Annie you are asking relevant questions. I, too, struggle here. I don’t often post controversial things but I also share about convictions as well as topics to get get people to think. Mostly, it’s been peaceful but recently I had an intense dialogue happen that resulted in misunderstanding. I ended up stating that it’s easy to type out of our emotion and fail to realize the different narratives at play which receive our words. I probably will refrain in the future from such controversy. But breaking bread together enters into holy space. Have you ever watched “Breaking Borders?” It’s on travel channel. Amazing. I’m #54 this week.
Yes! It’s so hard to express and opinion on emotional issues online. But I don’t think we should stop…. It’s such a hard balance! I haven’t watched “Breaking Borders” – will have to check it out! Thanks!
This is a hard one. One thing that has changed in the last few years is that I am a little more selective in who I accept- as in “Friend Requests” – I really enjoy staying in touch with family and or friends (Close Friends), but I have become wary of “friending” old accountancies or friends of friends, even within my church. If I do accept an individual that seems to post or re-post random political commentary constantly I will actually unfriend. I enjoy reading and listening to many points of view. However, I draw a line when the point of view is hard line and seems to capture visceral from others and descends into negativity. I try to combine Grace and Truth when sharing. Often times I see heavy “Truth” and less Grace in this area. It is a hard balance to be sure. I have stopped watching the cable news as well, for this very reason.
I hope I have made sense of my thoughts on this one.
Yes–we need to remember to infuse grace into “truth,” right? I’ve gotten pickier, too. 😉