Humans by nature like to assess other human beings. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but we make judgments about other people from a young age based on outer appearance, or the clothing they wear, the cars they drive, or the things they say. Young children are taught to identify a police officer by their uniform, or doctors and nurses by labcoats and stethoscopes.
As we become older, we sometimes make snap judgments. A clean-cut man in a suit who drives a fancy car is perceived as wealthy and educated, whereas a person in worn clothing, workboots, driving a pickup truck is perceived as less educated and less wealthy. Some people assume a person with tatoos and piercings is rough around the edges. Other people hurl their judgments at people who wear a lot of makeup and nice clothing, assuming those people are shallow and materialist.
I find myself judging people far more often than I should. Lately, it’s been creeping up on me and really taking hold. I judge people based on their politics and make assumptions about their morality. I’ve been seeing this happening more and more often lately – people accusing each other of lacking morals based on how they vote or how they feel about one particular topic. While I certainly understand how it’s possible to make this leap (I’ve done the same), I think we all need to take a step back and remember that it is impossible to know what’s in someone’s heart based on one Facebook post, or one angry comment, or how they voted in one election – or even based on how they plan to vote in this election.
My husband and I were talking about this today. We asked each other, “How do we have a real non-confrontational conversation with someone about issues of race or politics or religion when that person sees things in a completely different way? How do we end divisiveness and have a peaceful conversation?”
Well, one thing is for sure: You don’t get someone to listen to you by judging them and deeming their views immoral. You don’t change hearts and minds by insulting the other person’s intelligence, religion, or way of life. Conversation is a two-way street. Both parties have to listen. Questions have to be asked and answered. And listened to. Really, really listened to.
Look, I’m not going to lie. I’ve spent the past few months being a Facebook Fighter. I’ve argued with friends and strangers alike. I’ve blocked and unfriended and unfollowed. I’ve posted snarky memes in the hopes of angering some of my “less enlightened” Facebook friends who have posted their own snarky memes. I’ve called people out for being racist, questioned their intelligence, corrected their grammar, and accused them of having poor understanding of their religion. And to what end? All it did was waste my time and make me angry. No hearts and minds were changed. No real conversation happened. No exchange of information occurred that would have enlighted either one of us.
Everyone needs to do what’s right for them when it comes to social media. For some, that means blocking out anything negative – including toxic people. For others, that means fighting for their cause. But, one of these days, the election is going to be over and we’re either going to be dealing with four years of Biden or four more years of Trump. Half the country will be gloating and the other half will be desperately unhappy. Either way, we will still be dealing with a severely divided country, and at some point we’re going to have to find a way to get along.
The next time I’m tempted to argue with a stranger, I’m going to try to summon some self-control and move along because it just isn’t worth arguing with someone I don’t know. The next time I’m tempted to argue with a friend or family member over politics, I’m going to try to understand them instead of judging them. I’m going to ask questions and try to get to the heart of what makes them believe the way they do. Are they getting their information from a different source than I am? Are they afraid? Are they missing some information, or am I? I’d like to make time for an exchange of ideas instead of exchanging combative comments.
What about you? How do you handle social media during this stressful and divisive election cycle? How do you handle argumentative friends and family members on Facebook?