Responding to Social Media Posts
I do not have to scroll down my Facebook feed for very long before I find a post that disappoints me. I doubt many do. There is a slew of misguided, ill-informed, and otherwise angry acquaintances who fail to conduct the slightest fact-checking before spreading “faux news.”
Yes, it does not take long before we are disappointed with our acquaintances and their seemingly narrow view. Perhaps that is why some of us feel so compelled to express our disappointment in a comment, knowing full well that if anything, we are only making the now defensive poster more stalwart. I know I am not immune to either count. I am sure my posts have disappointed many, and I have responded to comments and posts despite knowing that doing so was as counterproductive. Deep down, I knew my response would not change their opinion, and yet I unloaded anyway. I told myself that they needed a voice outside of their narrow echo chamber. Their post or comment had angered me, and it was important that I immediately make them feel equally dismayed.
I needed that person not just to feel uncomfortable about the post or comment but regret publishing it on a social media site. Perhaps some of their maladjusted views are most bothersome because I remember when I held such narrow views. More likely, I wanted my friends to confront their prejudice, their dissonance, and ascend to a higher level of thinking. I wanted my friends to address the arrogance of the post without confronting the hypocrisy of my shortcomings, my ego.
I read what they had written, and as if I were designated the Facebook teacher, I wanted to take a red pen to their post and correct their narrow view. How frustrating it was then when my reluctant Facebook students seemed not only to ignore my free lessons but respond with vitriol.
Carl Rogers said, “A person cannot teach another person directly; a person can only facilitate another’s learning” (Rogers, 1951). The humanist approach teaches us to address the individual’s behavior without judgment so that they may come to understand themselves better. One may conclude that a person who knows themselves well enough to recognize and want to change that which leaves them unsatisfied will indirectly be creating a better citizen for all of society. However, ignoring what seems a troubling post is difficult when their opinion seems so offensive. Even so, there are three reasons why we should try to ignore their post.
The first reason you should scroll past that annoying post is that you are letting your ego lead criticism of another person’s experience. That’s great; you’ve lived in five different countries and have two master’s degrees, but being an expert does not make one an excellent teacher, and I can imagine no environment more unfavorable for instruction. You may be right as rain, but how you teach in what kind of situation is how well others will learn. Social Media is a platform, not a classroom because while it is okay for making a statement, it is not the right place for a healthy discussion. More likely than teaching a reluctant student, a fantastic life lesson is a probability that you will momentarily threaten an already fragile ego.
The second reason is that it is more likely you will only encourage them to rationalize their mistake; to dig in their proverbial heels. Justifying one’s error is equivalent to placing a medicine on the wounded ego. The individual’s fundamental goal is not going to be to correct the error, change the behavior or ill-conceived opinion, but rather protect the wounded ego by putting a bandage over the wound. Being wrong doesn’t hurt, but being insulted does. The priority will be to heal their hurt ego. The affronted will frequently find solace within echo chambers of others with similar and often misguided viewpoints. Think of how you might address a concern without judging or belittling the individual, and you will garner more positive results.
Another reason you may want just to keep scrolling is that anger begets anger. Not only are you often implying that the individual is heartless or too stupid to know better, but you are corrupting your thoughts with anger and malcontent. Most people will come around to the right side of thinking if given a healthy environment to learn, but that can seem slow when we want them to align with our thinking immediately. We are happier when we uplift others and less content when we are critical. Be happy and keep scrolling, knowing that you are not the reason your uncle John became more radicalized.