The advent of social media has provided a sounding board for people behind the comfort, and sometimes anonymity, of a computer screen. It’s kind of nice to have something on your mind, shoot it off on Facebook or Twitter, maybe it lands, maybe it doesn’t. Life goes on, right? Well, I have noticed a disturbing trend on these formats that highlights the cons of an open platform. Apparently, some people don’t like it when other people disagree with them. We actually have new verbs that have entered our lexicon: Unfriend and Unfollow. And the old and newly abused verb, Block. Now I certainly don’t think that people should ever put up with any sort of verbal abuse on social media, and I think that’s why unfriend, unfollow and block exist. But what I see now is people doing this to each other just for DISAGREEING about one topic or another. Hello! We are all different; who knows what combination of genetics, personal experiences, worldview, trials and difficulties have worked together to form the opinions we hold. Last I checked, clones have not fully integrated our society, and so we continue to be unique individuals; isn’t diversity supposed to be the point?
This issue really came into focus when @antitheistangie live-tweeted her abortion on Twitter. People who know me and read my stuff, know that I am pro-life. It’s not a secret, and yet I don’t make a habit of bashing people over the head with it. Because, uh, that sort of defeats the purpose…unfortunately, there are many pro-life head-bashers who I think really end up disservicing the whole movement, giving all of us a bad name and making people think we are all hateful, judgemental accusers. While I think it is appalling to live-tweet an abortion, I would NEVER berate, accuse, castigate, name-call or attempt to guilt-trip someone who did so. In fact, I tweeted to @antitheistangie that I was praying for her and her family (which I was and did) and left it at that. Do those people who sent her hatemail really think they were doing something positive? It seems to me, all it would do would be to further cement her position that pro-lifers are mean nutjobs who disdain her. Their disturbing behavior is a poor reflection of those loving, heartfelt, passionate people who believe in perserving the sanctity of life. Another dear woman is going through a traumatic experience and was discussing her torment online about whether to seek a termination for her child’s severe medical condition. Instead of information and support, what she has been getting is hatefulness, rudeness, and judgement, adding monumental stress and angst to an already horribly difficult situation.
Apparently, if you associate yourself with a particular movement or ideology (breastfeeding, birth activism, granola), you have to sign a petition that you will believe THIS way about each individual issue to be accepted within said movement. I read one woman’s blog who actually said that pro-life women have NO RIGHT to be birth advocates because they do not support abortion….oookkkaaayyy….that makes zero sense to me, beyond the sheer arrogance that this person’s point of view was the only acceptable one. Seems somewhat narrow-minded to me. But again, members of a movement who say and do stupid and insulting things, give the whole movement a bad name. I know some people who won’t follow, friend or “like” someone or a blog or page because of some particular belief that person has with which they don’t agree, even if they have other things in common. So if someone isn’t exactly like you in every thought and deed, you can’t learn anything from them? Hogwash. It’s called common ground people, and we could all learn from one another if we would set aside differences and agree on those things we can, well, “agree” on.
I had one friend who threatened to stop being my friend over an email about abortion that I had widely sent out to a group of people. Instead of her saying, hey we disagree on this one, don’t send me any more emails about this subject and we’ll just agree to disagree, she actually was willing to totally sacrifice our friendship for this ONE issue. WOW! I can understand it if there was some kind of personal attack taking place…but I’m sorry, it would take A LOT for me to stop being friends with someone over a ideological, political, spiritual or social position. To me, I am secure enough in my own positions that I can listen to other’s points-of-view without feeling personally outraged or threatened by their disagreement. This is one of the reasons I blog: I was complaining to my mentor, Lauren Plante, about some issue within the birthing community, and she said, “Well, why don’t you just blog about it?” Lauren and I disagree on lots of stuff, but we are the best of friends; she knows how I feel, I respect her viewpoint and we meet in the middle on those things on which we do agree. The point is, if it’s someone’s blog or Facebook page or Twitterfeed, it is their opinion, which even if I disagree with them, I will “defend to the death their right to say it.” Free speech is quickly going out of style, just ask Lierre Keith. When her book, “The Vegetarian Myth,” came out, she was physically attacked by some vegans-gone-wild. Do I think these deranged individuals represent vegans at large? Of course not, but as Tom Naughton blogs, you have to wonder why people would react so violently to a different point of view.
When I come across a status update with which I disagree or don’t like, I read it and move on. So what if I don’t agree with some statement or other? That does not nullify that a person may have other valuable things to say. I think political correctness HAS run amuk in many public forums, with the most disturbing trend to try to silence or shut down people who are saying “controversial” things. Grow up people! Be an adult, instead of a rude, immature hater! I had a woman “Unlike” my Facebook page because I posted something about a medical benefit of circumcision, stating she could no longer “like” me if I advocated “cutting up little boys’ penises.” Well, OK then, move on, if you don’t like it, then only be friends with people who are uncircumcised, life goes on!
I also see that within the birthing community, some people’s bad experiences with the medical establishment has shifted them so far in the other direction that they can’t seem to be positive about ANY aspect of mainstream medicine and won’t support a woman who has a hospital birth, C-section, AROM or an epidural. Danielle Elwood just posted an excellent blog about this topic. Every woman is not going to have the same belief systems, expectations, education or understanding as someone else that has led to their own personal birth philosophy. And that’s OK! I heard some women ridiculing a birth center birth video because the mom had her membranes artifically ruptured. But when you compare this birth to most hospital births, it was beautiful, affirming and the mother was obviously very happy! Please, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Appreciate those things which are positive, even if YOU would have done this, that or another a different way. We all have reasons for doing things the way we do them. Maybe if we took the time to understand why a person arrives at their particular decision, it would help us to problem-solve and network together in a more positive way. In reading @antitheistangie’s backstory, she had a very difficult upbringing with, ironically, a grandmother who did homebirths and had some very bizarre religious beliefs. So I can understand why she may have certain viewpoints, even if I don’t personally believe that way. I think ultimately, we would all get more accomplished if we don’t bash, accuse or ridicule someone with a different opinion. I hope that the online community will start to demonstrate more maturity, dignity and respect so we can all continue to learn from one another.