Thinking Out Loud

July 13, 2020

Social Media Debaters Often Lack Social Intelligence

Filed under: blogging, Christianity — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:45 am

We’ve been friends for a long, long time, and since the advent of the internet, he occasionally weaves in and out of my life. While we opted 30 years ago to start a family in a smaller town, he stayed single in the busy-ness of the city and connected to a variety of churches, causes and concerns that having children or plugging in to local church ministry or owning a business doesn’t always permit.

The events of the past few months meant that for his part, he had a lot more time on his hands, but for us, that did not necessarily follow.

He has been aggressively texting me about the issues of the day, and I have to pause here and say that while new forms of media usually bring with them new ways of sending messages and chats; to my way of thinking, anything over 100 words should be an email, not a text. It keeps it more searchable and easier to isolate individual sentences to which to write replies.

Some of these issues I grasp. Particularly in this debate about critical race theory, I know that we, the Church of Jesus Christ, need to think about the implications of everything we do. As I get older, I know I need to be careful how I frame what I say, and what jokes should be considered off the table. It’s not that political correctness is making these things wrong now, rather it’s a dawning that many of these things were wrong then, but the culture, even the Christian culture didn’t see it that way.

Hence talk of tearing down statues and re-naming streets. There are even people for whom their last name, their family name, has now, in the last few weeks, become a liability.

Think about how that would impact you.

Anyway, my friend texts me about these things and about the intellectual, scholarly and academic debates being waged by experts in the field. It’s hard to tell the players without a program, but I try to note the names and theories. Some of which are above my pay grade.

Because I don’t want to appear indifferent, I will reply, but my ratio of replies to his texts is approximately 1-to-8.

I will also occasionally send him the video links and article links to things he might be interested in. I do this with a entire basket of people. When I was producing Wednesday Connect weekly, I was online for a large number of hours and always saw things I knew would interest key people in my network.

He listens to these — a part of our relationship I cannot say is fully reciprocal, especially when some of his open on-screen showing a time of 1:44:00 — but admits to listening to many at double speed at 2:00 AM. In that case, I worry about his health.

By sending them, I’m feeding the beast, or more politely, perpetuating the conversation.

Two weeks ago, I explained that we had some friends dropping by at 7:00 that we hadn’t seen in person for a long time. While waiting for me to get back to him, he sent me seventeen texts, some of which were quite lengthy.

But then this exchange last week really did it for me. I broke silence and wrote to him.

“…My employee’s husband had to go to the hospital this morning so the day has been turned somewhat upside down…”

And he wrote back.

“I appreciate your concerns of the day, but I’m wondering if the church will survive the next 5 years…”

continuing on.

Couldn’t even leave the first part as its own sentence without launching back into the one-sided debate. (Key word in that sentence is, ‘but.’)

I think he would do well on Reddit. It strikes me as the best place to engage people on certain topics where there is equal passion. Plus you’re interacting with people who want responses.

I suggested this and he wrote,

“Ha! I can’t even convince you. Why should I start a blog?”

Apparently I’m a project.

I need to be converted.

I just don’t understand how someone can discuss the intricasies of Critical Race Theory and yet be indifferent — or even tone deaf — as to where this is landing. He claims he’s the proverbial voice in the wilderness screaming, “Paul, run! The house is on fire;” and my response consists of “Oh, that’s interesting.”

I’m sorry. These issues matter. Especially right now. And I do watch some of the videos and just completed the 6-part sermon series at The Meeting House with some diversions to Greg Boyd’s church, since it’s located in Minneapolis, where the whole George Floyd thing happened. Boyd’s sermons immediately following were extremely powerful.

But my friend would probably find things in them with which to disagree.

How people respond to these events is going to be somewhat personal; somewhat subjective. As long as they are aiming for a Jesus-focused response, we need to give them space in which to do just that.


1 Comment »

  1. I read this with a heavy heart. Social media debates have become the norm and it’s disheartening, especially when the debates get out of hand with people we’ve considered to be part of our circle of friends. And when debates get out of hand, we can start to view one another as clumps of “ideas” rather than as humans – and treat each other as a project who needs to be “fixed”. And when a person becomes a project, we’ve lost sight of love. God’s love transforms us, but we don’t have the ability to change one another. Only God can do that. Why? We’re sporting giant sticks in our eyes that prevent us from seeing clearly. And when we’ve put ourselves on pedestals, regardless of the reasons, it’s even harder to look at someone else in the eye and see their pain, joy, and all the other things we need to see reflected in our fellow humans eyes to remind us that we are all equally in need of God’s grace, forgiveness, and love.

    All that is to say… good post. Thanks for sharing. :)

    Comment by Donna Earnhardt — July 14, 2020 @ 9:14 am

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