Variations of this post have been in my drafts folder for a while. I’ve started and stopped it, only to later start and stop it, again. Google Docs has seriously been the real M.V.P in that it’s able to hold so many of my drafts, but I digress.
In the society we live in today, disagreements are bound to happen from time to time. It’s impossible for everyone to agree with us all of the time because we’re all uniquely made, with varying opinions, and experiences.
However, it seems I can’t log onto social media without seeing someone arguing with someone else about something – spewing out insults and labels like it’s nobody’s business.
Except it is because it’s on social media and filling up our newsfeeds.
“You’re an idiot.”
“People like you should disappear.”
I could go on and on and I’m sure you could, too, with examples of these.
I am all for healthy discussion and debate. I am all for shedding light on injustices in a way that’s productive and suggestions solutions. In fact, I’ve learned a lot of things from having conversations with people from different backgrounds and who have differing opinions than my own. I am not policing anyone’s right to share their opinion or express their emotions. That’s not my place at all to do that and I would never want to do so.
I also acknowledge that it can be hard to not want to lash out when you see or hear something that is insulting to you, your background, experiences, and is in opposition with what you feel so passionately about. For me, it’s hearing people joke about assault and minimize it that tends to upset me.
However, I think that when faced with these difficult conversations, we are presented with a choice that while might not lessen the amount of mean interactions that occur out there, can help us preserve our peace.
My solution is less of a solution to the question and more so a response to how we can keep our sanity in the midst of the name calling, insult throwing, threatening discussions that we’re sometimes presented with or see on social media:
Approach them, privately, or ignore it.My advice for dealing with disagreements online: Approach them, privately or ignore it. Click To Tweet
If I’m being honest, sometimes this is hard for me, but I think it is one of the ways we can refuse to participate in the hate being thrown around, while also (if the opportunity presents itself) respectfully sharing our viewpoint.
In my opinion, arguing with people is a waste of time. Arguing and spewing insults will never change anyone’s opinion or make them consider yours. It just makes them angry, makes them feel justified in spewing insults your way, and keeps the cyclical argument going on for hours. We’re just wasting our time engaging in and assuming that it’ll heed positive results.
“I will definitely change my viewpoint because you said I’m a crybaby and that I’m a waste of space for disagreeing with you!” Said no one, ever.
But imagine if instead of responding to someone’s statement or viewpoint that you disagree with an insult, that you contact them private trying to understand why they feel the way they do?
If someone posted something that offends you or is offensive to others, why not privately message them to let them know?
We might be surprised how differently people respond to correction when it’s presented in a way that isn’t public and isn’t judgemental where labels are thrown around without seeking to understand why they feel the way they do.Why not privately message them to let them know? Click To Tweet
The same things goes for us as believers who are sharing our faith. The Word of God tells us to refrain from foolish arguments with people.
“But avoid foolish and ignorant questions, knowing that they do produce strifes.” – 2 Timothy 2:23
I don’t think this is saying that we’ll never get into disagreements with others and that constructive, respectful disagreements are sinful. However, I think when we engage in yelling matches where we begin insulting each other or arguing just for the sake of arguing, I think that’s when it becomes foolish because it’s purposeless.But foolish and ignorant questions avoid, knowing that they do produce strifes - (2 Timothy 2:23) Click To Tweet
Another thing I’ve seen online is arguments that arise from people who are believers, are arguing with people and insulting others who don’t believe in God. I’ve seen tweets where individuals are condemning other individuals and posts where they’re calling them crude names.
In no way should it ever be appropriate to try to convince someone to follow Christ by belittling them, shaming them, or condemning them. Nope. No. Never.
Share the gospel and let God do the saving. Share the good news and how Christ has transformed your heart and given you hope. Share how your life has changed since coming to know Christ and trust that God will finish what He’s starting in them. Be a witness to someone by living for Christ and letting your life be a testimony of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and mercy. Disrespecting someone is not the way to go about it, friends.
There are exceptions to the unofficial “message them privately rule” way of handling these conversations.
If someone is being blatantly racist, sexist, or seeking to argue with those around them, it’s clear that they’re not a safe person to have this conversation with. No amount of approaching them respectfully will change their minds because they are set in their ways. The only thing we can do in that case or try to do is pray for them or ignore it.
I’ve had people respond to my tweets before with some offensive things. I remember asking a question to my TL about what they think are some things that perpetuate rape culture and there was a response from some guy who wasn’t even following me saying something that was quite offensive. I took a glance at his TL and noticed that 95% of what he tweeted were posts trying to discredit rape culture and say that it’s perpetuated by the fact that it exists.
Uh, no. Rape culture wouldn’t exist if people weren’t perpetuating it and assaulting people, but that’s another post for another time.
Do you know how I responded?
I said, “boy, bye” and went along my merry ol’ way, while responding with a GIF of someone turning away, whimsically on the heels of their feet. I also went on a tirade, subtweeting him and using GIFs of cats fighting.
Just kidding, I actually didn’t do or say that.
I said nothing.
It certainly wasn’t by my own strength because if it’s one topic that gets me fired up, it’s assault, but by God’s strength, I let it go.
I ignored him and kept it moving, because I knew that having a mature conversation with him probably wouldn’t be happening any time soon.
Did I want to respond? Sure.
Was I super confused as to why someone who didn’t follow me, felt the need to respond so negatively to a tweet I was hoping would create a positive conversation on my Twitter timeline about some of the things that perpetuate it and how we can band together to not do so.
Could I have brewed up a snarky, public response? Probably.
But what good would it have done? It would’ve only created an argument that would’ve consisted of my Twitter avatar being insulted and memes about me being labeled as a crybaby. He wouldn’t have changed his viewpoint nor would he have been willing to understand why that’s offensive, but we both would’ve wasted or time that could’ve been spent doing something productive or watching reruns of 90’s sitcoms on Netflix.
If they won’t relent, block them. Report them. Breathe, pray, and keep on moving, friend.
As tempted as we might be to engage in these arguments, seeking to defend our viewpoints and express why it’s wrong, sometimes it’s not worth it.
As the saying goes, we have to choose our battles because we could spend hours arguing and trading insults with someone who was never trying to hear you out in the first place. That time could be spent investing in causes we support, helping out in the community, and finding more tangible ways to productively contribute to change.Choose your battles wisely, friend. Click To Tweet
If someone seems far too impassioned by what they’re sharing and you feel they’re not willing to hear you out, ignore them.
Be a light, share the gospel, and speak out about injustices as led. However, if it’s clear that a conversation is not going to be a productive one, keep it moving.
How do you deal with difficult conversations on the internet? Have you ever had one before? How did you handle it?