Listen first, comment later: A guide to Facebook politics

Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Copy Editor

This past October, in the heat of election season, I did something that I will probably regret for as long as I live: I commented on a politically charged Facebook post. 

I personally did not think that my comment was rude or disrespectful; I was simply stating an opinion. But the Facebook universe begged to differ. In a short time, I was insulted multiple times and informed that people like me are what is wrong with this country. All of these attacks came from a complete stranger. 

My feelings weren’t hurt, I simply rolled my eyes at their poor usage of the English language (we really need to work on our online grammar and spelling, people, but that’s an issue for another time) and didn’t respond. But the underlying concern is this: I was verbally attacked for simply sharing my opinion, and much worse incidents than this are far from uncommon.

We are living in a divisive time. Anyone from any walk of life can agree with that simple statement. Every day, I see more and more people going head to head in arguments over one topic or another. People are fighting for their rights. People are fighting for what they believe in. People are fighting for lots of things, and while we cannot agree on a desired outcome, we can all acknowledge that people are fighting. 

These fights occur in a myriad of places. They occur online. They occur in the government. They occur in the streets during protests. They occur at family dinners or over coffee with friends. They occur because we all have our opinions and we all like to voice them. But how many of these fights end in a productive solution or agreement being reached?

If you said none or very few, I would tend to agree with you. We continue fighting because we cannot listen to the other side long enough to hear what they have to say. 

I’ve been in many situations where someone made a comment that I or others found offensive. The things that this person said may not have been meant to be hurtful, but that doesn’t mean that they were not taken that way. 

I have reacted in multiple ways to these situations. Sometimes, in response, I voice my own beliefs. The positive reactions amaze me in these situations. If I calmly discuss my personal opinions with someone while also taking time to listen to what they have to say, they are less likely to insult me or get angry that we disagreed. I don’t know if anyone’s mind was changed in these situations, but at least we all get to say what we want to say without jumping down each other’s throats. 

Too often, we are so caught up in our own response to a differing opinion that we don’t even think about what the other person is saying. Most issues that are being debated currently have been debated for years, so we tend to formulate responses before the person we disagree with is even finished speaking. In this social media age, comment sections explode with empty insults and angry emojis because we all have our go-to responses to just about every common argument out there. 

I am guilty of this. There are certain issues that I feel very strongly about. When I see someone speak out against my beliefs, I tend to write them off as ignorant without truly hearing what they have to say. But wouldn’t I want that person to allow me the courtesy of speaking out about what I believe in? 

Nowadays, it is more important than ever for each of us to take a moment before we attack someone that disagrees with us. It is so important for us to defend what we believe in, but doing so in a respectful way will ultimately lead to more productive conversation about the things that matter. 

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