Offensive & Insensitive Posts on Social Media: What to Do When You Have Family or Friends Who Aren't Socially Aware by Dawn Taylor
Recently I was scrolling through Instagram when I received a private message from a friend I made in grad school. A friend who had sat with me through many classes about social justice, ethics, race and inequities in our society.
Her father had recently followed me on Instagram and I followed him back. My friend's message went something like this:
"I am so sorry for my dad's posts. You can unfollow him if you want, I won't be insulted."
She included his most recent post, and it was definitely distasteful and extreme. I quickly said that I also have family and friends who litter my social media feeds with things I disagree with, and often go beyond just distasteful. She told me she silences his feed so she doesn't have to see his posts anymore. I told her I did the same with people in my life who are radical or enjoy posting things that don't just post their opinion, but insult and tear down other's point of view.
I explained to her that I have taught myself to pick my battles and ignore as much as I can. Of course, I like to advocate when I feel the need to, but usually with people who have these strong opinions an argument is not worth it. They aren't going to change just because someone challenged them. Especially on social media it is easy to be attacked and challenged, so it is not always the best place to engage in a battle about important things.
My friend, who loves her dad dearly, is embarrassed by what she sees as offensive and insensitive posts on Instagram, but it doesn't reflect on her. I told her I don't judge others based on their family's beliefs. I assured her that I have the same experience with my family, but I am careful how of approach it.
Growing up, my dad sometimes said things that were racist. I always stopped him and said, "You cannot say that." I would never make excuses for my dad, and I always called him out, swiftly and gently. He thinks for himself, but I can stand up and tell him when his words were hurtful and dangerous. Then I moved on and I know that when I was around he was much more careful about what he said, and I don't know if that awareness changed the core of how he thought, but I like to think it did.
Social media takes away the personal connection to real conversation, so it is far easier to become angry and argumentative when you see a post about something offensive. There is no barrier to protect you. While we all know that families and friends can also engage in some bitter arguments face to face (think about why they say we should never talk politics or religion), but it doesn't have to be that way.
My favorite way to talk about difficult conversations is to ask for uninterupted time to talk about why I feel the way I do and then give the other person their chance to talk. If I don't agree with them, I say, "We can agree to disagree," and move on.
The truth is, we can love others and still dislike their core beliefs. It is OK. It is far too difficult to try to force our own opinions on them, than to gently and calmly take any opportunity to express your reasons for disagreeing with them and hope that maybe you sparked change.
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