The Social Media Challenge for Disagreeing Well

four-no-threePerhaps you have noticed over the last few weeks: People like to share their opinions on Facebook.

Social media has created an odd way of having opinions about things. We see an issue, and we feel we need to take a stand (in 140 characters or less). Then we fill our feeds with pictures, memes, quotes, and articles about why we are right about this particular subject.

Or, we troll through our feeds trying to find people of the opposite view-point and tell them how stupid they are.

First of all, what are we hoping to accomplish here? Do we really think it is impressive that someone else with a computer has the same opinion as we do? And for those who are posting their opinions, do we really think our snarky comment will change their minds?

Or maybe you know are know people who post 20 times a day on a subject but refuse to disagree with someone at all in person.

And perhaps if you feel the need to post five or six times a day about how wrong someone else is, there are some deeper heart issues at work.

All of this has influenced how we disagree with other people. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram has taught us that we have to take a decisive, yet succinct, stand and take it quickly so we make sure we know which side we are on.

So I scour my Facebook feed for the people who agree with me. I look only for the articles and post that confirms my position and makes the other side sound evil.

This keeps my assumptions from being challenged in any way, and it deepens negative feelings towards those who think differently than I do. I find more and more data to affirm my way of thinking and demonize those on the other side.

This process is actually not new at all, but I wonder what toll social media is taking, and how it even further entrenches us in poor assumptions.
Social media slowly erodes at the human capacity to disagree, and makes it very challenging to disagree well.

Because when it comes to learning to disagree well – we need bodies.

There is something important that happens when you disagree with someone in flesh and blood.

I recently heard the story of Catholic theologians who were spending weeks together disagreeing and wrestling with theology. But every morning, the group went to Mass together.

Before they disagreed, they rooted themselves at the Table. The had a physical, bodily act which reminded them they were all on the same team and no matter what their disagreements might be, they sat at the same Table and were equally loved by God.

The group even commented, “I don’t know how people do this kind of work without first experiencing the Eucharist.”

The Table reminds us that disagreeing well can be done, and that it is a central part of fellowship with God and each other. There is no need for a uniting ritual if we all agree on everything.

So here is a practice I suggest: For one week, only click on articles you disagree with.

(Immediate caveat – there are a lot of article filled with hate and vitriol and mudslinging – don’t read these no matter what side you are on. They do you no good. But occasionally, you will find articles and blogs which are intelligent and thoughtful – stick with those. Thanks for reading by the way :-).)

Here’s why:

1. You can realize there are smart, thoughtful people who love Jesus with all their heart, but they still disagree with you. Often we assume people on the opposite side of an issue are heathens and have that opinion because they don’t like Jesus. But what you’ll quickly find is there are people who are just as committed and thoughtful as you who land on the other side.

2. You can understand where other people are coming from. The primary goal of this experiment is relational. We tend to demonize people because of their opinions. When I read thoughtful perspectives from someone I disagree with, my mind may not be changed but I am able to see where they are coming from. So the next time you disagree with a physical human, you can appreciate their perspective rather than immediately writing them off as a heretic.

3. You might learn something. Sometimes we are wrong about things. Sometimes we have an opinion but it is not founded on much. Sometimes we have an opinion because we have never challenged it. Listening to other voices helps with all of this. We may change our minds. We may see where there is a deeper reason for why we have an opinion. Either way, we grow.

We would love to hear how this experiment goes, so comment below or on our Facebook or Twitter, and let us know the ways your assumptions are challenged, you grow, and you learn to see people rather than issues.

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