Despite the fact that I have been a long-time blogger on my own websites, I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon of social media as a platform to advocate for my points of view. Instead, I prefer the passive nature of a blog like this, where people have control over whether they want to read what I have to say or not.
For me, social media is a far too intrusive and in-your-face platform for unwanted public discord. This is especially true in community forums like Nextdoor.com (which I launched in my neighborhood of Quail Creek) or a neighborhood Facebook group specifically designed to help connect one another.
Of course, some social media groups are specifically established for political, philosophical, and or ideological discourse, where like-minded individuals can come together to discuss and sometimes argue points of view. Again, those who become members of groups like these are doing so for a specific purpose, which often includes some level of discord that is intended to bolster the group’s purpose, not fracture it.
The problem with any social media group is when those who are not-at-all aligned with the group’s purpose join to inject their unwelcome opinions in an effort to stir the proverbial pot.
It’s natural to want to respond when instigators pull out their proverbial poison pen, but doing so only feeds their desire to cause trouble and actually amplifies their points of view. It’s like mud wrestling a pig; you both get dirty but the pig likes it.
Shortly after I began my tenure as mayor, I would read postings on social media community sites around the city that were fraught with inaccuracies, or flat-out untruths, about actions we were taking on the Council, which, if they were true, would have outraged me as a conservative.
This was especially true when someone expressed “concern” about facts that were false or misleading, which prompted me to take time to respond with the true facts, not in an attempt to create controversy but to put it to rest.
Yet reality struck me when my response to one woman’s erroneous posting went unacknowledged as she levied another unrelated accusation at me, which was as unfounded and untrue as the first. Clarifying the facts on her second “concern” again received not the slightest recognition, as she jumped to another completely different subject tied to more unfounded expressions of “concern.”
It was the classic case of hoping that if she slung enough mud, something would finally stick.
I came to discover that often when false or misleading information is posted as expressions of “concern,” it’s usually just a ruse by someone with an agenda to gin up hostility in others and create a proverbial tempest in a teapot controversy.
In hindsight, I was truly naive to believe that anyone that posts scurrilous gossip might actually care about what’s true.
Concerned Citizen’s Don’t Spread Gossip, They Go to the Source for Answers
I’ve come to understand that when a citizen is truly concerned about an issue, they will contact City Hall or reach out to me directly. As Mayor, I have never refused to meet with a constituent who makes the request of me, even those with which I have substantial disagreements.
I have also come to recognize a common characteristic in those who covet truth is that they expect verifiable facts before adding their voice or support to any public discord.
They also listen.
On the other hand, a gossip has not a scintilla of regard for facts and even less respect for the truth. They like to titillate readers with dainty morsels of half-truths, obfuscated facts, doctored data, and outright lies that are all crisply packaged in unfounded innuendo.
One of the primary tactics that Carl Marx employed to take power was in dividing communities, which is what many on social media are doing when they perpetuate information that they either know is untrue or have not taken time to verify for themselves. Though a professed agnostic, he proved what Jesus said in Matthew 12:25; “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand (see also Mark 3:25 & Luke 11:17).
These unelected, self-appointed demagogues of social media are part of the fringe of a vocal minority and they know it, but by quashing any alternative points of view through mockery & ridicule they create the misperception that they speak for the majority. That’s why they so often report that “everyone agrees” with them when the truth is that no one dares express opposition.
After all, who really has the time, energy, or emotional fortitude to engage an angry neighbor whose vitriolic diatribes make it clear that their’s is the only opinion that matters?
Soon the only voices left on these sites become the tyrants who have turned the group away from community cohesion through information and into a platform of bitterly divided ideologues.
It’s a sad reality around the nation that these hijackers of social media turn their community group forums, which was once a bright and spirited place to share, inform, and draw closer to your neighbor, into a dank cesspool of ideological bitterness and contempt.
So What’s Behind The Meanness?
Community social media websites continue to be hijacked by people who are downright mean.
I was bullied in middle school and the kid that did it seemed to take great joy from it. Bullies derive great pleasure in inflicting pain upon others. It’s the same thing — except they are grown up now and hiding like sissies behind smartphones and tablets. Was that mean?
Perhaps they lash out because, to borrow from Thoreau, they lead lives of quiet desperation, pining for positions of power & authority. They simply cannot stand to see others lead, so they effort to undermine the authority of others at every opportunity.
I think that the reality of why most do it is even sadder because “hurt people, hurt people.”
Ironically, the kid that bullied me would later become a co-worker of mine…then a close friend. He actually asked my forgiveness for how he had treated me in school and shared with me about the physical abuse he suffered at home from his father and regretfully confessed how he used me to unleash some of that pent-up hurt. He actually turned out to be one of the gentlest people that I’ve ever known and is a man that I have deeply admired and respected for more than thirty years.
It’s why I pray for those by name who are taking shots at me and the council members because I recognize that there is probably a lot of personal hurts, even anguish, behind the computer screen. My prayer is not that they see things my way, or even that we become friends, but simply that whatever pain is in their life that prompts them to take out their hurt on others might be overcome by Christ’s love for them.
Mark Twain Was On To Something
Mark Twain said that “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
Not only have I stopped responding, I stopped paying attention to much of what’s written about me on social media and I’ve learned that I’m not alone. More and more of those in the community who support my efforts to limit the size and scope of our city government are also tuning out.
I won’t be pushing my posts in anyone’s face but will continue to contribute on this and my other blog sites as a continued demonstration of my respect for those who have no interest in hearing what I have to say. I only wish that others would follow suit and give social media back to the people in our city’s neighborhoods and communities that simply want to enjoy being neighborly.