By Brenda Brissette Mata
There was a time (usually an intro that reflects on my advanced age) that I didn’t necessarily know the political leanings of my friends. And I certainly never knew the political leanings of acquaintances.
But these days I not only know the politics of people I barely know, in many circumstances I know the politics of folks I haven’t even met; the blessing or curse of social media.
Good thing or bad? I’m not sure. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to know a friend’s politics, but I feel like we’ve lost a lot of the respect that should come with sharing political views.
I’m not fond of living in an echo chamber, I encourage and even seek out opinions that differ from mine. I love political arguments, but lately it’s been information overload.
A couple of months ago, a woman I know (I wouldn’t call her a “friend” – but she was the kindergarten teacher for one of my sons decades ago, I guess we are “social media” friends) posted her decision to exit the world of social media.
It made me sad because I love reading her posts, little bits about her family and photos of gorgeous places where she has traveled, and the occasional philosophical quote.
Pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her at the side of the road, but I seek her out on social media and I’m rarely disappointed.
I sent her a private message and told her, that while I understood her decision, I wanted her to know how much I enjoyed following her. I confessed that without social media I would have no reason to stay in touch. I admitted that I wouldn’t know her if I saw her in the grocery store, but my life is better seeing her positive and uplifting posts.
She decided to stay – not because of me – I’m sure plenty of similar notes were sent her way. So now, I continue to see sweet pictures of her grandchildren and sunset from places I’ll never visit.
The problem is I’m starting to feel the way she did. I’m just getting so tired of the anger and the disrespectful way people speak to each other. It’s exhausting and that’s coming from someone who loves political argument – it just seems, between the crisis in Flint and Michigan and the presidential primaries, it’s never ending. These are serious issues and deserve serious, contemplative discussion and consideration.
But it seems like we are an angry bunch. Political viewpoints are screamed and argued in 140 characters or less – or in some cases in multi-paragraph diatribes.
I don’t want to be a Pollyanna, but I’ve always believed that if we can see the way in which we are more similar than different, it builds a greater foundation of civility and community.
Some days I think about getting away from it all – disconnecting and calming my brain. But then I see a family at a birthday party or congratulations for completing chemo or a silly pet and then I remember that there is civility. I just have to look for it.
Brenda’s column appears at noon every Monday.