Thursday, January 26, 2017

Maintaining friendships in a virtual world

     Friendships come, and friendships go. No. Wait. That’s not how relationships are supposed to work.
     I am going to point the finger in Facebook’s direction.
     Social media has tried to get you to redefine friendship by “helping” you make your lists of close friends, acquaintances and people who got on your list because you grew up in the same hometown.

     Jim Morrison stated that a friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.
     That’s not how it is playing out on Facebook from what I read.   
     To be perfectly honest, Facebook isn’t the culprit, though. It’s only the tool.  How people use Facebook is the problem.
     One of my FB friends wrote, “ post about my concern [political] began to create division between many people I care about. The friends I have on FB all mean very much to me. I hope the divide we are all seeing, even on FB, doesn't erupt into something greater.”
     Those who go on a virtual rant day after day turn folks off. Rather than pay rapt attention, others scroll right past getting slightly agitated to say the least. Too often thoughts are accompanied by links to articles that are uncensored, unreliable or simply fake news.
    Sure, every once in awhile you have to let off steam, and what better place than with your FB friends. Everyone understands. You’ve retrieved your phone from being water logged and you need a virtual shoulder to cry on. Someone took up two parking spaces. Rant over.

     Facebook has become a forum or platform for anyone and his brother who has a point to make whether based on fact or hearsay. Perhaps, the person is more concerned with how many “likes” his post gets, and that is interpreted in his mind that he is “loved” and valued. You wonder if he is self-centered, lonely or known as the complainer in every crowd. Sometimes the language gets vulgar, too. Nobody needs to wake up to that on his computer screen.
      Frankly, there are people on Facebook that have surprised me with their eloquent prose, and I wish that they would put it to better use advocating for causes.
     I have been watching, and in some cases put my two cents in, when someone states their opinion on a political issue, and subsequently, he gets demolished literally by others who strongly disagree. It is brutal. Our country was established on the principles of controversy.
     Words in print on Facebook can be so easily misconstrued. Why, even those of us who are professional writers get misinterpreted in print at times, and later, when we look back at our pieces and see it through a different lens, we shake our heads.
     Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in our First Amendment right to speak out.

     I am also one who favors a fair debate between two people face-to-face when both sides are armed with facts and agree to disagree for the sake of presenting their points. Debate was one of my favorite activities in college, and it has served me well throughout my lifetime gleaning information before making intelligent decisions.
     And thirdly, I believe that there is a time to stand up for one’s beliefs on social justice issues, which will have far reaching implications for future generations. Rolling back hard won victories for women’s rights would be disastrous in my opinion.
     Impassioned rhetoric is one thing. Hurtful and degrading another human being as being ignorant, or implying such, is wrong, wrong. Assuming by where someone lives, or his lifestyle, that he is of one party affiliation or the other is not the proper way to welcome angels unaware into your life.

     So to be on Facebook this year, you either have to have a tough skin or shy away from reading what makes you feel uncomfortable. A lot of folks took a break over the holidays and came back in January refreshed…well, they thought so, until verbal tirades started right back up.
     I observed people “unfriending” others of different political bents, and in one case, telling someone to unfriend him if by doing so it would make his life more comfortable.

     As in any society there are those right out there with their beliefs with no holes barred. Then there are the people sitting on the fence. There are the peacemakers. We need all kinds and a variety of opinions to live in a democratic society. Our citizens need to be proud AND critical simultaneously.
     Those of you that are familiar with Japanese culture know that one of the main attributes of the Japanese people is “group think.” Their reverence for their leaders, teachers and those in charge is honored with submission. The Japanese people simply don’t question. Those with creative minds live with their thoughts and ideas without making a fuss, and work underground so to speak.

     It is so opposite of our independent mindset in the United States. We don’t buy into “group think.” Our travel group in Japan learned that young children are not encouraged to ask questions in their learning process, and we realized that as much as we loved the serenity, beauty and efficiency of the country, we could not live there. We value our freedoms way too much.
     Facebook is still an important part of my life. The best advice I have is to don’t let the dialogue get to you.  Maintain the high road.