A few weeks ago, Chris wrote about being a jerk online. My guess is that if you have been on any sort of social media in the last few days, you have probably seen a bit of this going on.
My friend Phil recently shared an article with me about why this has become such a problem. The article cites that distance from the person in conflict, anonymity and the ability to be much meaner in print than in person have formed to make a perfect storm for online issues.
They also found that not only does being a jerk online create hostility, it is addictive. Once we get in the habit of spewing hate all over the internet, we begin to enjoy it and continue to go back and back and back. The conversation that used to only take place between you and the shower wall is now displayed for all to see. And eventually that kind of unchecked aggression spills out into real life.
But I found their solutions to all of this fascinating:
For their part, people should seek out actual human beings to converse with, Markman said — and we should make a point of including a few people in our social circles who think differently from us. “You’ll develop a healthy respect for people whose opinions differ from your own,” he said.
Working out solutions to the kinds of hard problems that tend to garner the most comments online requires lengthy discussion and compromise. “The back-and-forth negotiation that goes on in having a conversation with someone you don’t agree with is a skill,” Markman said. And this skill is languishing, both among members of the public and our leaders.
We need to learn the skill of disagreeing. It is an art form. And it is one that is being lost. When I take away face to face interactions from those different from me, I am robbing myself of something beautiful.
Because the moment I take away a face from an issue, I begin to demonize. I dig into my position a little bit deeper, and am a little less willing to hear what others have to say.
Which can morph into grand, public battles over chicken. Lines in the sand are drawn and you better be in the right side (no matter which side of that you land on).
Is this really the life God intended?
Perhaps this is why Jesus says that at the first sign of conflict we are to go to people face to face. We look them in the eye. We practice the art of back-and-forth negotiation.
My prayer is that we always have difficult people in life. I told a good friend tonight, that as we make a move to a new city, I pray that I will always have people in my life I disagree with. It is a source of beauty I cannot get anywhere else.
…If I am willing to sit down with a person who disagrees and look them in the eye. We need our difficult people up close and personal.
Wouldn’t you agree?