Politics and Religion
There are two things that you’re never supposed to talk about socially: politics and religion. You’ve probably made the mistake of sharing your view on politics before and found yourself unfriended, unfollowed or embroiled in a public argument that’s just sitting out there for the world to see.
Social media has become a Walmart parking lot: everybody jostling for the best position, noise, shouting and fights. Every man for himself. Survival of the fittest. Jungle rules. And the worst of it, the Black Friday of Walmart parking lot situations, is around the topic of politics.
On the other hand, there are issues of great moral importance that are happening, which are part of the current political debate. Matters of justice and equity and humanitarianism need your advocacy!
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Internally you know that you need to speak up for what you believe, and social media is one of the most accessible places for you to do that and yet it’s also the least well-received. This has left you frustrated, angry and torn about what to do because you know that if you do what you feel spiritually compelled to do, it won’t go over well and may actually be counterproductive.
What can be done? There are three things to know before posting your position. Today we’ll explore the first.
The problem isn’t just what people think, it’s that they don’t think.
That sounds really cynical, but I don’t mean that people don’t think at all, I mean that they don’t come to social media to think. Generally speaking, people aren’t there to think, they’re there to feel. That’s one of the reasons that, given the choice to discuss and reason, or debate and react, they’ll choose the latter. It’s more sensational and, on an base level, enjoyable.
But the problem is bigger than that. It’s not just that people don’t think when on social media, the problem is also that people seem to be losing the ability to think. People generally stick with whatever predispositions confirm their experience. When they get to take a position on a subject, they often decide based on confirmation bias. When a good point is made to the contrary of their position, cognitive dissonance is there to help them dismiss it. This makes the “discussion” of social media often no discussion at all, but rather an exchange of predispositions, which is a waste of time, energy and emotional equity.
Sure, there are people who don’t lose friends and followers, but actually gain them based on their comments, but that’s because they’ve joined the brand of one side or the other and they preach to the converted. That’s just turning the volume up on radio static. Lots of noise, little impact.
So what should I do?
The first of three things to know before posting your position on social media is that you need to adjust your expectations about the receptivity of your audience: low to open-minded interaction about politics, high to open-hearted impressions about personal matters. Don’t be discouraged, use that!
People are much more likely to think with their real friends than their social media friends. With people they trust, even the most vitriolic critic will ask questions, reason together and change their minds. Be honest, how many of your social media “friends” are actual friends? When is the last time that you hung out socially? An old and timeless saying is that people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care. Don’t think that people will give your opinion on a divisive issue a second thought if you haven’t first done what it takes to show them that you care about them as a person. You can share your opinions on social media without losing friends, but you will only change the minds of people who you’ve made a relational investment in and have earned their consideration and trust.
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Here’s a practical tip!
Here’s a tip for how to get people to actually think on social media: ASK QUESTIONS. You probably aren’t going to change somebody’s mind, but you may help them use it. The place where we may actually make a difference isn’t in people’s ideology, but in their epistemology.
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Ask, “What do you think? Why do you think that? Where did you hear that from? What are your sources? Why do you agree with them?” Don’t ask in a snarky, leading way. Ask because you want to love people well and we can’t love people if we don’t learn about people. Anger makes accusations, love listens. Anger alienates, love leads. And guess what? When people feel loved and listened to, they’ll eventually love and listen to you.
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