2017-10-01 / O'Pinions

Your chance to convince me

I’m not sure how we went about getting attention for ourselves before social media offered us the perfect platform. Oh, I know we managed – people always have, I suppose. There is something in most of us that needs affirmation and praise. That failing, we’ll even settle for criticism and negativity -- anything to be noticed, to be reassured that our thoughts and feelings and opinions are being taken into account and eliciting response.

I get it. It’s part of life, but life was more pleasant for many of us, I imagine, when we were not being bombarded with outraged “Look at me!” demands, in word or picture, posted by someone who feels he or she has a right to be offended. Yet, it happens almost every time we open one of those gadgets that immediately connect us to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, only a few of those Internet messages are worth paying attention to, yet they reel us in with an almost irresistible tug to see what all the fuss is about – rather like an awards show on TV that we watch in constantly depleted hope of finding a feel-good message or interesting bit of information not entirely crowded out by political opinion.

Of course, I am always prepared to defend a friend or commiserate with an acquaintance or stick up for a family member who has been wronged in some way. But those people seeking my response to their situations can have it from me freely, anyway. And privately. We don’t have to take it into the public arena and invite the world to get involved.

If we do, however, we should be prepared for blowback from people who are either in disagreement – sometimes violent disagreement -- with what we write or who feel compelled to argue in hopes of scoring points for their side or who need to vent their own frustrations that actually may have nothing to do with the original point raised.

After all, online posts – in whatever format we choose to express ourselves -- are invitations for hi-jacking by their very public nature.

It’s not that I spend a lot of time scanning such interchanges. In fact, as soon as I realize I am in the midst of one, I tend to retreat and get on with real life issues that really do need my attention. So, I can’t count myself the final authority here.

Still, I think many people can agree with me when I say that I have yet to read one of these online strings in which a participant who opted to get involved with an opposing viewpoint ending up writing a response like this one: “Good gracious. I had never thought of it like that. Thank you for bringing it to my attention that I might be wrong about this issue and you might be correct. You have done me and the world an invaluable service.”

Show me just one such response to an issue raised online and I’ll reevaluate my opinion of such exchanges.

Until someone does, however, please understand that I prefer to keep my discussions – whether I agree or disagree with you -- personal and private. And I sincerely wish you did, as well.

Maybe then we would all find time and energy and resources to get on with really solving some problems instead of just arguing about them. And maybe, just maybe, we would quit wearing out the caps locks and symbols on our keyboards in hopes of scoring points for weak arguments.

It’s just a thought. You’re free to disagree. But if you want my attention to your perspective, you should know you won’t get it online. That’s simply an invitation to score points for your side and no venue for changing my mind.

Let’s meet for coffee, instead. People who can sip caffeine together just might have their eyes really opened.

Return to top