I’ve been reading a book called You are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in the IT industry who is very alarmed at the way social media has negatively impacted our culture. He talks about the way that structurally it tends to make us behave like trolls to one another. Even when I’m not completely anonymous, having interactions with people whom I don’t have to encounter face to face gives me much greater freedom to be a jerk and not take responsibility for exuding Christ in how I speak. Well, my friend Osheta wrote something really beautiful in our Despised Ones facebook group that I wanted to put on a virtual sticky note for myself and anyone else to read as a reminder whenever we’re feeling trollish.
Connecting with the other emphatically has helped me keep a Christ-like tone and posture in dialogue—especially when we’re clearly on opposing sides of a topic. Also, stopping and reminding myself that we are all image-bearers, processing these issues the best we can, and that we as Despised Ones are basically all on the same page, helps relieve some frustrations and dispels a sinful desire in me to “make my point” and use rhetoric for the “shock value”. What I’m trying to remember when I engage in dialogue, especially online dialogue where the person on the other end loses their humanity and becomes a bunch of ideas and rhetoric, is to affirm the person on the other end as someone worthy of respect with an ear to hear the best in them and a gracious tone when I disagree. And I’m a big fan of “tabling” the thread. If a particular thread gets me all riled, but I walk away, do something life-giving, and then come back. Usually what I’m all worked up over has resolved itself either through someone else who isn’t as emotionally involved in that topic or in my heart, in the grand scheme of things, guys, without love and respect, all our theological posturing are just resounding gongs and clanging cymbals. Cacophony and discord.
Yup! Check out Osheta’s blog by the way. She’s got some good stuff there too.