I have a small number of FaceBook friends and like most of us, I enjoy reading about important family events and the interesting, fulfilling things in life that each of us find pleasurable. But there is one thing that I see with increasing regularity on FaceBook and other online platforms that grieves me and gives pause for deeper thought. What has happened to honor and respect in our interaction with others?
As I scroll though FaceBook each day (I still plan to delete my account, but I don’t yet think it’s the right time), I see posts by friends and acquaintances that discuss political or social issues. On some occasions, controversy will ensue with a highly charged argument, but with a tone of great disrespect.
I have seen adult children chastise their parents for maintaining a political or social perspective they disagree with and it’s really quite ugly. Where is the honor? Those who are friends sometimes tangle over various issues that lead to hard feelings, damaging their relationship. Where is the respect? I also see this among brethren and by this I mean fellow Christian believers. The statements made and the insults given are unnecessary, disheartening, and sad.
This general lack of respect is often seen in online platforms among strangers as well. Read the comments that often follow news stories presented by national and local news outlets. Most of these comments are not worth even the slightest bit of attention. The goal is to antagonize and stir up emotions – to get a reaction. But could we have some genuine debate where people earnestly discuss the merits of an issue and present opinions that might bring about mutual understanding? Eh – I guess that’s just too idealistic!
It’s no sin to have an honest disagreement about important topics. However, what I often see, particularly on FaceBook is disrespectful arguments that degenerate into spiteful name-calling and unproductive attacks on character.
If one has an opinion on any matter of importance, it takes some time and some thought before they can articulate the point in an intelligent manner. But too often in our present day, people are willing to be told what to think and they put very little effort into personal research. Instead, many people spitefully spout insults with no thought, or they rely on their favorite media outlet for their ‘facts’. Worse, they discover a so-called ‘Fact Checker.’ This is especially true for FaceBook itself. So-called Fact Checkers pop up anytime someone posts an article or comments about a controversial topic.
“The ‘fact checker’ said so and they must be right.” Who the heck is the fact checker? Is there anyone who actually does the work of fact checking? I’ve never met one and I’ve never seen anyone who claims to be a fact checker. Face it, there’s no such thing, so people who rely on fact checkers are simply being told what to think by an algorithm. It’s laughable, but really not funny! You and I must be our own fact checkers! It’s that simple.
So if one wants to argue a point, at least do some personal fact checking, or it might be called research… some honest-to-goodness digging for real facts – in context – that can be presented with actual evidence to reinforce the perspective. Then, look at Graham’s Hierarchy below and frame your argument using the top three levels. This is how one argues (debates) successfully.
Considering the above illustration – Graham’s Hierarchy – let us try to move up and away from the base level, that of name-calling and ad hominem attacks on a person’s character. Instead, we should move to the upper levels of skilled debate. This is where you or I will encourage people to deeply consider a different perspective and perhaps even change minds. However, the base levels depicted in the hierarchy will never convince anyone of anything, except that the one doing the name-calling truly is the “ass hat.”
So then, for goodness’ sake, when you feel strongly about an issue, do some research, think about your perspective, carefully formulate an opinion, and then articulate your position. Also, in fairness, genuinely listen to the other person’s opinion, give thought, and then respond (but don’t react!). And keep the discussion focused on the issue, not the opposing person.
Let’s not allow the important and controversial issues of our day to damage or destroy relationships. Instead, may it be that we learn to discuss these matters thoughtfully, in a way that informs and inspires, while maintaining the great principles of honor and respect for others.
© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2021
(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)
Hierarchy illustration by Paul Graham. 2008.
How to disagree well: 7 of the best and worst ways to argue. Paul Ratner. bigthink.com. March 16, 2018.