I’ve been quietly following my Facebook feed for the last few weeks, scrolling through angry posts, as I watched friends and colleagues seeking answers, understanding, solutions, and peace. I’ve watched friends on both sides of the aisle express their feelings with vitriol, and have wondered…where does all of the social media arguing all lead? What’s the point?
Dialogue is Necessary.
On the one hand, dialogue is necessary. Our world faces enormous threats and pressures. When I look at our history, I’ll admit, I’m not entirely sure that I believe the tension now is significantly worse than it has been at times in the past, but it does feel somehow different, if not only because I am now an adult, where before I was a child, and therefore able to live at least somewhat blissfully unaware.
The dialogue is necessary and the debate healthy, even when it’s ugly. People need to feel heard…we are all seeking answers. We’re all looking for solutions to the problems that face our world.
Social Media Provides an Outlet
Before we had the easy outlet of social media, people talked to each other. They wrote letters to Congressmen and newspapers. Today, being able to vent your opinion is just a few clicks away. Nevermind that no one in power is reading your Facebook page. Nevermind that the venting on social media rarely achieves its intended target.
The Problem: Nobody Agrees on Anything
The challenge, however, is that while we all can agree on the symptoms, the signs of the problems we face, I’m not sure we all agree on what the problems actually are. Each of us defines the world differently – some by extremes, some by shades and nuances – so the search for common ground in terms of the problems themselves continue to elude us. We most certainly struggle to find any semblance of commonality in terms of solutions.
The World Is Bigger Than The Problems
I’ve left the debate alone, content to post lighter content that tends toward the uplifting and humorous. It’s partly that it’s my personality, but it’s also by design: I simply believe that the world needs a bit of levity away from the madness. The world is bigger than just the problems that ail it. And perhaps more profoundly, my beliefs are mine alone, and it’s not necessary for me to share them.
But I am listening – always. I see many sides to the current debates at hand and I do not believe that I personally have discovered the answers. I do not believe that I hold the “truths” to solving any of our world crises.
Further, while I understand the depth and breadth of the fear that many people experience, our media and smart marketing by politicians and corporate interests on all sides have heightened that fear to extremes.
People Need to Feel Heard.
Most people are sincerely searching for a sense of safety and peace in the world, wishing they could relax and rest, instead of becoming ever more vigilant and ever more afraid. We need to feel heard in our fears. We need to feel heard in our frustrations.
Still, I would ask: does change ever occur as a result of Facebook debate? Doubtful. Have you ever heard anyone say that they thought one way, but then had an argument via social media and changed their minds? Unlikely.
What Else Could You Do?
If you have the time to spend arguing on Facebook, why don’t you have the time to go to the gym? Why don’t you have time to spend with your family? Why don’t you talk to your neighbors?
I know many of you believe you have all the answers. I encourage you to look beyond the rhetoric of politics and ask yourselves if you really know enough about the intricacies of cultures and religions different from your own that you truly feel comfortable making bold statements about how they should be treated. Ask yourself where you got your information – did you get it from a news channel? A biased web site? From whence do your ideas come?
If I Wanted to Debate…And Win
If I wanted to debate you, I could. It’s not just that I’ve read the same articles and seen the same news stories as you, and am more than capable of arguing points. It’s that these days, almost anything can be “true.” I say this as an experienced marketer – marketing is a tool that can be used for good, but most often is used for profit, and frequently for evil. Marketing is a powerful mechanism by which one can fan any spark into a bonfire, by which one can promote lies as truth and be believed.
Most articles today are just opinions – like this one. But if I wanted to impress you and make you believe in something, I would create an “Institute” or a “Center for” that sounded impressive. It’s but a few clicks away – one domain name, one registered LLC, and one WordPress web site, and I could create an Institute for Whatever The Heck I Want and create instant credibility that you’d believe in. I could have a team write informed-sounding articles with references, conduct “research”…and then all I’d have to do is write articles (and encourage others to write) referencing those studies and articles, and you’d likely never know the difference.
Think that sounds terrible? So do I – but it’s being done all the time. Are you so sure you know who you can trust? These days, all we have to do is develop the facade of credibility to garner the attention and belief of the public, and that’s one of the biggest dangers we face.
So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been proclaiming my political and religious beliefs from the rooftops, now you know. I don’t claim to have all the answers, so I’m not putting any forth. I’m not sure what the truth is or where to find it anymore. And when I look back into history, I’m not sure that we ever knew what the truth was. Until I feel that I have enough honest and reliable data to rest an opinion on, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.