I got into a discussion this morning about head covering. My older brother shared an article. I would have ignored it, because the Lord knows he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on this subject, but there were comments. A few comments expressing agreement, but one from another friend said that God loved her whether she covered her head or not, and another responded that it wasn’t a matter of God’s love, but of obedience. I didn’t have to say anything, but it’s a subject in which I’m well-versed and somewhat passionate, so you know…I did.
This isn’t a post about head covering by any means, so I won’t share here what I shared there. (Though if anybody ever wants to talk head covering, my door is always open). My comment was deleted pretty quickly, anyway. (To be fair, so was the comment about obedience). My brother mentioned that he thought it was a good article, and that’s why he had posted it; he didn’t mind people disagreeing, but he wasn’t going to have debate and contention over it on his status. That is entirely his prerogative.
Regardless, the whole thing got me thinking about discussions on social media.
First of all, not everything that everyone posts is meant to provoke discussion. I have to be more mindful of this. A lot of people tend to post things that sound good to them on a basic level, and they’re not looking for an intellectual challenge, they’re looking for confirmation. Me? I love a good discussion, and when I post, especially here on my blog or on Facebook, that’s what I’m looking for. What did my post make you think of? What did this post make me think of?
Secondly, discussion (for those genuinely interested in discussion) doesn’t have to get ugly if we embrace these opportunities to get to know other people through the presentation of different viewpoints and talking/listening through them, instead of amassing likes and shares and confirmation of what we think. Even with my love of discussion, for the most part, I don’t go around hijacking random posts by expressing my thoughts on what their posts made me think of; usually, I just scroll on by. If there’s something I feel that strongly about, I tend to be passive and say it in my own space, with very little exception. Why? People tend to accuse me of being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative, when really, I’m just being me – thinking out loud. All too often, saying anything besides “Amen” on social media is to draw fire.
Thirdly, there tends to be a hierarchy in online discussions. If someone has a certain education, or holds a certain position in the church, they tend to be held up as the authority on any given subject, as if everyone else needs to be told what and how to think.
In the publishing world, we talk a lot about engagement on social media. Engagement on social media is measured by the number of likes, shares, or comments a post receives. Hypothetically, the posts that accumulate that kind of engagement are gaining the most attention, the types of posts you should be posting more often. To me, though, engagement means something entirely different: it means someone is thinking about what I’ve posted, or I’m thinking about what someone else posted. Of course, a thoughtful comment can express that, but more often than not, it can’t actually be measured. That’s the kind of engagement I care about, publishing world or no. I want to have a conversation, on going, about all sorts of things.
I started this journey of wanting to have a conversation on social media over two years ago, when I started talking about sexuality, specifically broken sexuality and how it can be redeemed. Instead of a conversation, rumors started circulating about my sexuality, which is admittedly and undoubtedly broken and being redeemed, as if I couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. It sucked, and ended up being so far from what I intended it to be, that I stopped posting about it altogether.
I started avoiding all sensitive subjects, anything where I had a strong opinion, until my #GetOutoftheField posts, and even though I tried to be sensitive about the sensitivity of these topics, I lost followers across all platforms. (It was not sensitive enough for some, and too sensitive for others).
It all makes me wonder: Can we even have productive conversations on social media? Can we even get to a place where we can think out loud…together? Can we disagree and still maintain an atmosphere of respect?
Honestly, I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to try again. And this time, you can say whatever you want about me, label me however you want. I’m going to speak up more, and you’re welcome to comment your thoughts or questions. Let’s try to get a discussion going. (Because of spammers, I close comments after two weeks, but feel free to post a visitor comment on my Facebook page with a link to the post you’d like to discuss with your thoughts. I really, truly love hearing from you, even if you disagree.)
Let’s start today. What did this post make you think about?