I am a somewhat regular user of Facebook. I post things on my wall and comment on other peoples’ posts. I post a wide variety of things covering diverse interests such as music, aviation, education, political philosophy, religion, activism, family, travel, and so on. Even though there is significant diversity in my interests, much of what I post tends to revolve around the political philosophy (and related activism) and religion parts of that list. In other words, I play it safe and stick to controversy. At least I’m predictable, right?
I do tend to promote my own ideas. Who doesn’t? But that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome other viewpoints. And I instinctively think others do, too. Often that seems to be true, but I’ve encountered a handful of cases where my comments on other peoples’ posts has been poorly received. I don’t mean so much that the content I’ve provided has been unhelpful or discredited, but that its very presence has been unwelcome. This isn’t because my words were profane or my tone was aggressively offensive, but because the ideas I spoke were opposed to (or different than) the ideas in they promoted.
If we drew a Venn diagram of political and religious ideas, I would fit in the small overlap between libertarian and Christian. The overwhelming majority of my Facebook friends fit into one of those two circles (and several share the overlap with me). I sometimes discuss religion with my non-Christian libertarian friends or vice versa. And then there are the minority of my friends who don’t fit either circle. For the most part, the discussion and even disagreements are quite civil. Kudos to most of you for engaging in life’s most important debates without cyber-killing each other.
But a handful of people have made it clear that my commentary is unwelcome, specifically on their wall. I don’t post things (i.e. new posts) to other peoples’ walls unless I’m quite certain it’s welcome, but I do comment on other peoples’ posts and I’m not afraid to make controversial comments, including direct disagreements. The people who I’ve received the most negative feedback from would probably best be described as modern liberals or progressives (typically economically socialist, usually partisan Democrats). Some have not just disagreed with me but shooed me off their walls. While this doesn’t happen often, it has happened more than once. They have remarked that they don’t come to my wall and promote their views, so they don’t want me coming to their wall to discuss mine.
That leads me to this invitation. Come to my wall. Disagree with me. Really. Your wall is your wall, so I’m happy to try to remember which of you don’t want to hear my opposing viewpoint (I hope I remember and I apologize in advance if I mess up). And my wall is my wall. I welcome you and actually desire the dialog, provided it remains respectful. I don’t buy the notion that disagreement means disrespect, so as long as you’re ready to remain respectful, disagree away! And if I get uppity about your opinions, just point me back to this blog. I asked for it so that’s entirely fair.
Does that mean no rules, no holds barred? No, not quite. Please don’t use profanity on my wall, including in comments. And please don’t attack people, call names, etc. That includes me or my friends with whom you’re likely to find disagreement. Also, it’s probably good to have a bit of thick skin. I expect civility and have had to provide reminders about that from time to time. There are some strongly opposed opinions among my friends and it seems easy to get worked up.
For example, I have friends who are police officers and friends who think all police officers are evil. I have friends who are chemtrail conspiracy theorists, and friends who think such theories (and the people who hold them) are completely irrational. I have friends who work in government to protect us from the enemies of freedom, and friends who think government is the enemy of freedom. I have friends who think Christianity has brought forth the world’s greatest advances in civilization and knowledge, and friends who think Christianity has been the world’s greatest threat to civilization and knowledge. If you bump into each other, keep in mind you’re both friends and I expect you to treat each other with respect even if you don’t feel it’s been earned.
But bring on the disagreements. If you don’t want me mucking up your wall with my ideas, then come muck up mine with your ideas. Just keep it respectful and we might have a nice discussion. We might even discover we agree about things we never would have realized. And hopefully we’ll learn to practice respect for each other even in the face of disagreement. It seems respect is something we could all use to practice.