I’ll be 63 this year and so, my use of the Internet is not as vast and constant as my kids and their peers. I was introduced to the world of computers in my senior year of high school when I convinced my dad to let me skip physics and take the newly offered computer programming class. We learned WatFor, a kind of FORTRAN. Since the school had no computer, the teacher had arranged for us to use the computer lab at Rutgers. That was it, my sole education into computer language but it was enough to demystify the brave new world of cyberspace.
My kids got me to open a Facebook account and I now manage 4 other pages besides my own. They also had me open a Twitter account and I have never used it, believing that 140 characters just is NOT communication. I recently signed up for Instagram and have received a notice that I have 17 followers but I have not posted anything. I wonder at that.
But let’s go back to Facebook since that is the bulk of my “talking” experience, beyond this and a few other blogs.
I have used Facebook to help market various activities. For example, when I lived in Huntington, West Virginia I was very much involved in the establishment of The Wild Ramp. I wrote a blog for the market and also posted on Facebook whenever I worked in the shop to inform consumers about yummies that were available. I lot of people responded to the things I wrote about and for The Wild Ramp. They were farmers, city dwellers, people who appreciated the effort made to grow healthy food and people who strove to improve their eating habits. The people who responded were from all walks of life and all aspects of the political spectrum.
By the time I moved to Oregon I had a lot of Facebook friends. Some in each place where I had lived: New Jersey, Connecticut, Tennessee, West Virginia, Colorado and Oregon. Many in other nations around the world. People with a myriad of educational backgrounds, living styles and financial comfort. We all had SOMETHING in common and celebrated that commonality, happy to have people to discuss things from different viewpoints.
But something changed when George W. Bush was running for President. When I made a statement that I knew I could not handle the job and wanted a President who was smarter than me, a woman who had been friends for over 10 years and called me her sister, unfriended me.
It certainly got worse this election cycle. One by one most of my conservative friends chose to block me. They did not unfriend me; I know this because I received no message. I can’t say it was because they wanted to avoid confrontation; our earlier conversations included other friends of theirs who got downright rude. I was careful to post FACTS, not say anything like “you stupid idiots, why can’t you understand this?”. They said stuff like that but I didn’t.
But one woman told me that I often came across as better than them, because when they posted something I often posted something about the subject from a major and reputable news source. She said I was “preaching to them.” I countered I was sharing, just like they were. They preferred not to hear anything other than what fit their agenda, though.
So, I have fewer Facebook friends now….and the argument can be made that they were never friends but I have a problem with that.
Yes, they are not friends like someone I can trust will come help if I need a hand. But the people I have known on the Internet have often helped me through bad times with emotional support.
Yes, they are not friends like someone who has the same background as I do. Few people meet that level of requirement, and even the ones who grew up in New Jersey so we had similar factors in our formative years have different views on life.
I suggest they are different in one main regard. I believe they might not feel as sure about their concepts, their passions, their ability to explain themselves as I do and so they get angry and their word choices are full of that anger. Perhaps my 8th grade English teacher who made us give a series of speeches did me and my classmates a wonderful service; we learned to explain ourselves to others. Maybe the skill of conversation has been lost (hey! why talk to your neighbor over the backyard fence when you can send 140 characters out into the world) and certainly the ability to present a persuasive argument was never learned by most people.
I believe we ALL need diversity in our lives. Different races. Different religions. Different nationalities. Different educational levels. Different IQ levels. Different physical ability levels. And yes, different political views.
However, as challenging as it is, it is discussion of those views that makes us better friends. Running away and cutting off difference of opinion results in people NOT knowing their neighbors. NOT understanding there is another way. Understanding there are other ways is not the same as changing your way, just hearing and considering.
Restricting your world to people who agree with you may be more calm, but it is not a world within reality.
Come back. Don’t be afraid of differences. Sometimes you “score” a point. Sometimes I do. And we move to the middle. A place we all can be better friends.