To Be Better – My Vow of Constructive Silence

I am a hypocrite.

Yesterday, I failed to live the morals and ideals I espouse. In a spectacular show of self-righteousness I responded gracelessly to a family member’s comment on one of my Facebook posts. Based on my own prejudice against that side of my family, I assumed the worst about his meaning and intention. Instead of engage him in constructive, compassionate dialogue, I assumed I was smarter, more critical, more compassionate than him and asserted my voice over his.

In the Facebook thread I did apologize to him, but only on the heels of him calling me out. I’m glad he called me out. I needed and deserved it. I want to take this one more opportunity to unequivocably apologize. Steven, I am sorry for the way I treated you. It was inexcusable. You deserve better.

I want to do better. I want to be better.

I am both embarrassed and incredibly disappointed in myself. I realized that I’ve become self-righteous. I have not practiced the critical thought and compassion that I preach are essential to improving the world. I did not assume benevolent intent, a central tenant of my faith in humanity.

So, as penance and to strive to be better I am taking a one-month vow of constructive silence. I’m just making this up. Basically I will not insert my voice into conversations or discussions other than to ask questions of genuine curiosity and interest as I seek to engage more deeply with people. I will remain silent about my opinions, point of view, and feelings unless I am explicitly asked to share.

I will fail at this. I will try everyday, though. And, after a month, my hope is that the effort will have developed a habit of compassionate, curious dialogue.


False Equivalence: the Fool’s Empty Quiver

This is no revelation: people on social media are incredibly polarized when debating social and political issues. Many debates on my feed begin when someone posts a meme. I often wonder how much thought people put into re-sharing these vaguely evocative images overlayed with simple rhetoric in block text. Once it hits their feed, though, comments follow in one of two modes: vehement disagreement or unwavering support.

In my own feed, I’ve been noticing a particular–and awful–type of rhetoric in these memes: the false equivalence. These are typically expressed as support for some social construct or idea, with the unstated implication being that any criticism of that construct is tantamount to a denouncement. Thus the false equivalence: Continue reading

Criteria for a Facebook Response

Someone I respect commented on an article I posted on Facebook. I disagreed with some of his points. He also offered a point of clarification. The conversation I wanted to have was then derailed by my own defensiveness. I let my disagreement with a couple of his points overflow onto his whole post. Reflecting on the conversation, I really wish I had engaged with his points. I could have learned much more and the conversation could have been worth following.

I don’t really know why I responded the way I did. I’ve since apologized to him, after he called me out in the course of the comment thread. It made me realize, though, that I’m not living up to my ideals when it comes to discourse. Many of the conversations that I want to have are happening via Facebook now. And I’ve let myself slip into the same entrenchment that I claim to abhor.

I value argument, discussion, conversation, and learning. It is important to me that my point of view and position on issues are malleable. So, I’m making a change. I’ve decided to create some criteria for responding to posts and comments on Facebook (and other social media).

My criteria for a Facebook response: Continue reading

Killing Facebook

Blah, blah, blah, all the reasons people need to abandon Facebook.

What would it take to kill Facebook without something that is just as bad (go away G+)? Continue reading

Facebookers, Stop It. Stop It. No!

Here’s something I don’t do very often: a pet-peeve blog. Let’s do this.

You know what really grinds my gears? Those math polls on Facebook. You know the ones like

1+1+1+1*0+1 =

  • 6
  • 5
  • 0
  • 1

Continue reading

The Social Media Garden and How I Make a Salad I Want to Eat

We’re bringing our relationships, no matter how minor or inconsequential, online.  The struggle, though, is how to translate our analog relationships to the digital paradigm.  When I accept a friend request from a cousin I only see at family holidays or a classmate from high school that I had one class with, they are automatically given the same status within the social network as say my wife or a friend I see every couple of days.  Twitter and Facebook and the like have tools available that allow me to treat these connections differently within the network, but everything is still so new, there is no existing etiquette and protocol.  We’re still learning how all of this is supposed to work.  How do I make sure the people I want to hear from, the people with whom I have real connections, are given priority in my feed?  More importantly, how do I filter out the noise of the over-sharers, the people that don’t realize everything they post is shouted at such a volume that everyone they are connected to can hear it?  What does it mean to friend someone and to be someone’s friend? Continue reading

Our private selves are cyber selves

Internet privacy has been in the news a lot lately, mostly thanks to Facebook. Last night I happened upon the lecture by Eben Moglen on that very topic.

Continue reading