Facebook is totally different than it was when I started using it back in high school. It used to be like this: I would log on to the site to talk to friends, send Mafia Wars requests (remember those?) and swap history homework with my classmates. It’s changed now, largely due to the fact that most of the people I used to cheat off of, and play video games with, are now racist, sexist, homophobic...or at least that’s what they appear to be when looking at their Facebook pages.
Not gonna lie, I’ve unfriended or unfollowed plenty of people in the past year. Anytime there’s a particularly polarizing story in the news or being shared through the internet, I take it as an opportunity to clean house, and I have to say, it’s definitely made me a calmer, happier person. I can scroll through my feeds without calling up my girlfriend and yelling, “hold up, wait till you see THIS SHIT by THIS KID we went to high school with,” into the phone as I furiously screenshot and cmd+v links to her.
While I don’t advocate their position or think they’re right, I can empathize with those kinds of people. In the past few weeks, they’ve have had their entire worldview flipped upside-down. Everything they knew as fact no longer applies. Although we might think their views make no sense, their anger and confusion is understandable – for your run of the mill Facebook conservative, this is worse than finding out Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real.
In our discussion group at the Wantagh Warped Tour, Buddy Nielsen from Senses Fail said that when responding to intolerant or hateful people, “you do it in a way that is not condescending, [but] with compassion. Anyone who’s upset is afraid.” Since then, I’ve really tried to follow Nielsen's way of thinking, and I think it’s going pretty well so far - I’m certainly more relaxed, and I think that my points are clearer and they’re sticking in people’s heads more.
Am I saying not to call out problematic, sexist/racist/homophobic posts on the internet? Absolutely not. I’d be a hypocrite. What I’m getting at, though, is this: If you’re eloquent, well-informed, and courteous in your arguments, it gets your message across a lot more loudly and clearly than a “fuck you, you sexist/racist/homophobic douche.”
Is it hard? Yeah, absolutely, but c’mon. You’re better than the average Facebook user.
Here’s a real life example, but it still applies: In our discussion group, a group member told us about her experience working at a Lush Cosmetics store. The chain had recently run a campaign called “Gay is OK” in support of the LGBTQ+ movement, and the storefronts were decorated to promote the campaign. A group of teenagers walked by, with some of them yelling things like, “Gay isn’t OK!,” and refusing to come into the store while their friends shopped.
When she told this story, my initial thought was, “Oh man, I hope she stomped these kids out.” It’s so easy to fall into that line of thinking, but what she actually ended up doing was pretty great. She responded, “Well, it doesn't matter what you think, it’s legal now,” since it was the day after the Supreme Court ruling.
No matter how hard we might try, there will always be people who don’t see eye to eye with us, whether they’re in-person or online. My gut instinct is probably always going to be to react with the same amount of vitriol that’s being thrown at me, but going forward, I’m making an effort to be less “on-edge.”
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.