Social Media Manifesto

 

Many people are unhappy. They feel anxious. Sad. Betrayed. Defiant.

Many people are happy. They feel safe. Exuberant. Vindicated. Heard.

 

I’ve lost a fair number of friends during this election cycle. Folks who held their allegiance to an idea or a party higher than their allegiance to me personally. They clicked ‘unfriend,’ shut the door, and closed the blinds. We haven’t spoken since.

People are tribal, they want to protect their idea of themselves, their projection of their identity. Sometimes people feel that if you disagree with their belief, you disagree with who they are. I understand that. It still sucks. But I understand.

I have unfollowed people too, muting their voices from my daily life. I’ve whittled down my media menu and unsubscribed from sources whose perspectives I disagree with because I’m like everyone else. It’s easier to listen to people who agree with me than those who don’t.

We like our silos of like-minded people. It’s safe in there. When we speak, it’s in harmony; the music reverberates off of walls that are too thick for dissonance to penetrate. The answers to life’s questions are agreed upon, understood, and taken for granted. It’s fun to demonize the other side, to set up straw men and knock them over gleefully. It’s comfortable and friendly and safe.

 

But it’s also dangerous.

Holing up in an echo chamber stifles creativity in problem solving. We cease to be pragmatic. We choose dogma over solutions. We set up defensive ramparts against our enemies and purge heretics from our ranks with a self-righteous fire that emits a lot of heat, but very little light. We close our minds to potential solutions because of their sources rather than their merits. We identify with our tribe over our friends or our country. We pull in opposite directions.

Most people can’t comprehend the ‘opposing side’ on a given issue because they’ve never had a meaningful discussion with someone who disagrees with them.

While understandable, this attitude is ultimately to our detriment. We should support whatever ideas are in the best interest of our country and of humanity, rather than the best interest a political party or an ideological camp.

I know a lot of people who have taken a break from social media in light of the election and inauguration. Some have quit all together. I don’t blame them. It’s hostile out there. It’s no fun.

 

But I want to do the opposite. I want to lean-in instead. I want to try. It’s likely futile, but I think it’s worth the effort, at least as an experiment. I want to have a serious discussion with anyone who wants to have it. I want to ground my positions in facts based on good science and quality journalism. I want my ethics to be rooted in love for my neighbor. I think everyone else should too.

 

So here is what I’ve decided.

  1. I am re-following everyone on Facebook regardless of their views. My news feed will be a panoply of contradiction.
  1. I will brook no nonsense when it comes to spreading unsubstantiated claims. Verify the source or I will sick Snopes on you whether I agree with you or not. If you don’t like Snopes we can have a talk about epistemology instead.
  1. I want to have the discussion. If you have a position I do not agree with or do not understand, I want to ask questions and try to see your perspective.
  1. If you don’t want me to play devil’s advocate on your political posts, just let me know, and I’ll leave you alone.
  1. Message me if you’d rather discuss things privately.
  1. If I post something that ends up being refuted I will update the post and issue a ‘retraction.’
  1. I will do my best to stay away from name-calling, ad hominem attacks, hyperbole, and melodrama. I’d ask that you do the same.

 

I am a registered as an independent voter, and am not a member of a political party, but I have a perspective. I’m not pretending to be impartial. If something is wrong, I will say so. If something is unjust I will do whatever I can to resist it. Just like you, I think my position on a given issue is the best one. The choice I’ve decided to make, though, and the reason I’ve written this manifesto, is that I want to be willing to be persuaded if you provide compelling-enough evidence.

Bickering and demonizing, while fun, won’t solve anything. But maybe listening will.

I don’t know. We’ll see.

 

 

About 

Joshua Rigsby is a freelance writer, tea drinker, and full-time father based in Los Angeles, California.

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