“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.”
Shannon L. Adler
Lose any friendships over a spat on social media? Get so angry with someone or them with you over a political or religious issue that you are no longer on speaking terms with him or her? Regret any Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts or emails? Well – I have been there – done that. And I can now accept responsibility for my actions. But I am learning – slowly I am learning.
I love Shannon Adler’s take on “a page.” I could easily have used Kenny Roger’s famous lyric on “know when to fold ‘em,” but alas I can’t sing. Each of Shannon’s three options is our choice to make. The trick is in knowing which one is the preferred option at the time. Over the past year, ever since I began writing in this space I have been at loggerheads with one friend I will name Jacob. Jake, like some of my other friends from my recent past have taken issue with my evolved approach to the world, to politics and to religion – I have indeed changed in countless ways and was much more aligned to them and their views than I am now. Many of the social media exchanges between Jake and I became rather acrimonious – and a couple of weeks ago it happened again. To me this one was particularly awkward and uncomfortable, and I did not feel good during the give-and-take. I am sure many of you have been there too. We get caught up in the debate, can’t for the life of us understand someone, least of all a friend, who can become so irrational on a point that seems to us immensely sensible and even objective. And of course, I become the same illogical bloke to him. So the question we face almost on a daily basis it would seem, is what to do about it? Do we fight? Shall we turn the other cheek? Do we focus on “one-upmanship?” Let’s delve into that latter one at bit.
When I fall victim to my ego on social media encounters I believe it is because of time. Time to think. Time to come up with that ever so clever, “I’ll show you” ridiculing statement that not only is directed towards my opponent but to everyone else who may be reading my brilliantly eloquent, irrefutable rejoinder to that outlandish, inane and dense comment I just read “of yours.” But what if we remove time and audience from the mix? I turned to private messaging and suggested to Jacob that we meet to discuss. He quite cheerily and swiftly accepted. The social media exchange – on this topic – ended there.
Sometimes the divisions we face are purely ideological, sometimes they are personal, oftentimes they are centered however, on ego. The distance and sometimes anonymity of social media has many downsides towards human understanding. In fact, we tout the wonderful benefits of social media to shrinking the world and opening doors to common understanding amongst a diverse audience but too often the opposite occurs. What we are witnessing now is that due to the reliance on social media to communicate, we are slowly losing the ability to speak and share ideas one on one.
Though Jake and I disagree on many matters today, we had no issues at all face to face. In fact, meeting over dinner, for the first ninety minutes we discussed everything but our disputes. We talked about his retirement plans and business matters, about women and the dating scene (we are both now single and middle-aged), and we also discussed – no, that was it, just business and women for the first hour and a half. We finally did get around to talking very specifically about the online issue we had. There was no acrimony and in fact the discussion was perfectly respectful. There was no yelling. We both listened attentively to the other. Speaking for myself I learned to better understand his perspective.
Though I am grateful to Jake and I feel emboldened by the actions we took together, I can’t say that it always works out that way.
I had another exchange where it went badly and again I reached out on private messaging to attempt reconciliation to the dilemma. My approach was rebuffed. His public pronouncement against me was condescending and exceptionally judgemental. Upholding hollow religious rituals were once again front and centre in my life but this time it was reminiscent of me looking into a mirror from the past.
We are entering unprecedented times. What is going on south of the Canadian border is to say the least, unbelievable. Though as Canadians we have no horse in the race for the White House, the moral dilemma our America friends face is powerfully drawing us in. Let’s hope that we remember how to properly and respectfully communicate with friends and family. It won’t be easy. And sometimes you’ll have to “fold ‘em.”