To unfollow, or not to unfollow?

The most tempting button on Facebook – for me, anyway – isn’t the trusty thumbs-up, a sign of celebration and solidarity. In this election cycle, in this climate of increasingly divisive and belittling rhetoric, my less-dominant hand often has to restrain my clicking hand from lunging for the “unfollow” option.

While the majority of my Facebook friends share my political and theological leanings, I know and care about a lot of people – highly intelligent, deeply compassionate people – who think differently than I do. It would be easy enough to boot their impassioned statuses and their links to opinion pieces out of my newsfeed. I wouldn’t be going so far as to unfriend them, after all. They’d never know they hadn’t made the cut, so I wouldn’t be hurting their feelings. I could then go about my day with fewer inclinations to comfort-eat…and without the occasional pause to listen for apocalyptic hoof beats.

But the unwillingness to consider others’ points of view is how we devolved into divisiveness and belittlement, isn’t it?

It’s the age-old myth of scarcity at work, in this case with regards to airtime. If I don’t shout the loudest, I won’t get the chance to share my side. I can’t afford to use my debate platform to ask clarifying questions. I’ve got to spend it all on advocacy.

Truth be told, those on the opposite end of the spectrum are unlikely to change my approach to the issues with their Facebook activity. It would be arrogant of me to think I would have any more success persuading them. But I believe I have a responsibility to try to understand why others feel the way they do, to note how policy intersects with the lived reality of another human being. Because when I get the history, the reasoning, the pastoral care pieces behind the position – and when I share my own hopes and fears – I can still be in relationship with someone who comes at complicated matters from a different angle. (The exception here is when the way someone speaks sends me into a mental health spiral. Then self-care does need to kick in, so that I can tend to the parts of my soul that allow me to be in community with those who aren’t abusive.) Relationship leaves the door open for collaboration, or at least for compromise, in view of the common good. Even if we can’t work together, we still retain the ability to see one another as children of God.

If I can’t do something so simple as read a status update that challenges me, then I really should be listening for hoof beats…and it will be my need to be right hastening them.

Creative Commons image “Conversation pit” by refreshment_66 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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