Standard Facebook Answers

I don’t spend a ton of time inside the world of Facebook and other social media, and lately I’m less inclined to than ever. Being a big political year in my country, sensationalistic issues and vehement reactions are sprouting fast. Lots of yelling, not a lot of listening. It’s really tiresome.

I don’t think there’s much point in responding to any of it, and I mostly try to ignore what I happen to see. Getting into arguments online doesn’t really do anybody any good, and there’s always someone wrong on the internet. But I’m human, and I see stuff that makes me mad, and then I want to respond, even when I don’t.

Instead of actually responding individually to all of the situations where I could, I’m doing this: writing out a set of standard answers that roll up most of my general reactions when people talk about sensational stuff. I’m just going to write them down and get them out of my system, and then I can refer to them as appropriate. I may add to the list later.

Even better, writing these out is a reminder to myself first. Self, all standard answers apply to you, all the time. Don’t forget that.

Standard Answer 1

I have a question for anyone who posts stuff about “them” and what “they” do and how wrong “they” are about what they believe. How many of “them” do you actually know? Seriously, how many of “them” do you count as good friends? If the answer is “none” or “one,” here’s a further suggestion. Stop saying inflammatory things about people you don’t even know, and go meet some of them. Make some of “them” into real friends, people with real names and faces, people you care about. Ask those real people about what they do and what they believe, and why. Until you really know “them” and “their” lives, how do you know what you’re talking about?

Standard Answer 2

Do you know ________ personally? Are you personally involved in or acquainted with _________ situation? If not, may I suggest you consider what your opinion about it is actually based on? Because it seems to me that you are perhaps lacking in facts and context, and maybe your opinion is actually about something else.

Standard Answer 3

So I know it’s emotionally satisfying to share a clever, pointed graphic about an issue, but you understand it doesn’t actually change anything, right? Doesn’t change the reality, doesn’t change anyone’s mind who doesn’t already agree with you. I think you probably already know that, but just in case.

Standard Answer 4

Whatever thing you say, I have a friend who believes the exact opposite. They are a smart person, just like you are, and they have good reasons for what they believe. So as you go on vilifying the people who disagree with you, just know this: that’s my friend you’re talking about. Someone who I know and respect. Just like I know and respect you.

Standard Answer 5

(Added 3/21/2012)
In general terms, I am much more interested in hearing about what you are for, than what you are against. “For” has a better chance of opening space for discussion and connection. “Against” tends to close ears and cause arguments.

Food for Thought

I didn’t write this one, actually, it comes from Merlin Mann of the awesome “Back to Work” podcast, with co-host Dan Benjamin. Quoting from episode 57: “How many times in the last month did you change your mind because somebody yelled at you? When’s the last time you were persuaded by somebody with a bullhorn?” (Listen to the entire episode, it’s well worth it, but the bit I’m quoting is about 20 minutes from the end.)


If you are reading any of this and saying “right on!” let me stop you for a second and say this very seriously: assume I am talking here to you. You specifically. Maybe, just maybe someone who reads these words never falls down in any of these areas. But I have to say I’m skeptical.

Except about myself. Not in the least skeptical there, I know I screw all of them up. (Except maybe for #3, I don’t repost a lot of pictures.)

On the other hand, If I’ve linked you to any of these answers, it’s because you’re in my list of friends, and I think of you as a friend and someone I respect. It’s my intention to maybe provoke a bit of thought, not argue or call anyone out as wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong.

So in the end, the primary thing I wish is that folks would perhaps yell a little less, and listen a little more. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible, and it changes things for the better. I’m not much good at it yet, but I’ve seen enough to know that much is true.

Happy posting, kids :)