Most of us have noticed, by now, that there is a whole lot of hatin’ goin’ on in the online world and in real life. People are feeling hot-headed and divided and what were once quiet disagreements about politics or the way they see the world have become screaming voids between loved ones and leaves every one of us with a sense of sad wonder. What is happening to our world? What is the future going to look like with this kind of hate seething in our midst?
I’m not an expert by any means, but I have found some healthy ways to cope with the negativity and opposition. I promised myself I wouldn’t get political on this blog unless I felt a particularly strong call to action, so these tips are going to be vague in their examples. No matter what side of the argument you are on, you should be able to read this and feel better equipped to handle situations both online and in real life that make it uncomfortable or outright unbearable for us to function sometimes.
Facebook and other online forums:
We’ve all got the handful of friends that, in light of the recent political climate, we may have realized have REALLY different views than we thought they did. This can cause a few different emotions to crop up. I personally, have found myself feeling hurt and angry that these people I thought I knew could have the kinds of opinions and feelings they’re expressing. It can be really alarming and jarring to have this window opened, sometimes even painful if they are someone you were close to or trusted.
So that’s where my first tip comes in to play: start a calm dialogue. This only works if both you and the person you are approaching are willing to stay calm and talk openly and honestly about things, but sometimes, people may not realize that the memes they are sharing or the opinions they are shouting are hurtful to you. Maybe what they are sharing is outright false and they didn’t know that when they shared it.
When talking to them, be sure to use phrases like “when you shared this particular thing, it made me feel this certain way.” Using statements with “I feel” allows you to take ownership of your feelings without casting blame on the other person. Avoid statements that do cast blame (“you don’t know what you’re talking about”, “you’re wrong”). Try to calmly explain what you felt when you saw the offending post or opinion and ask them why it is they feel that way. Understand that it is okay to disagree, but disagree respectfully. No name calling, no taunting, no questioning the other person’s intelligence. The end result of the conversation might not be that they suddenly change their minds and believe what you believe. It might not make any difference at all (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it might give them pause the next time they’re about to share a harmful meme or encourage them to fact check before they post that article.
Unfortunately, there are some people who will not be willing to talk. You might even have a handful of people where its a better idea to avoid bringing it up. If your crazy uncle is sharing violent or unsupportive things to his page, that is his right, but it might make it a little awkward at the next family gathering at which you see him if you confront him. In cases like that, sometimes simply unfollowing the person so that you don’t have to see the things that are offending you is the best option.
My last resort is unfriending or blocking someone. I’ve reached this point personally several times. If someone is being just plain hateful, its okay to cut ties. No matter how long you’ve known them or what kind of relationship you have with them, it is okay to cut toxic people out of your life. I found myself in this position just before the election with a family member and, after a few failed attempts at trying to talk things out with him, I took the step to protect myself by unfriending him and blocking him so that I couldn’t see what he was posting. It’s never an easy step to take, so think carefully about it before you take it.
Comments sections of anything (articles, memes,etc.)? Just avoid them. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Don’t feed the trolls. No good, sane, rational, or positive conversation has ever come out of a comments section.
In Person/Real Life
This is way harder than online because its easier to forget that, when talking to someone online, you’re talking to a real person. I’ll keep this part pretty short and sweet by breaking down the three most common situations you might find yourself in.
1.) Overhearing Hateful/Opposing Views
Ignore it if you can. If people at the table next to you at your favorite restaurant are talking about something you don’t agree with, that’s their business, not yours. Just ignore it. If it’s really upsetting to you, ask to move to a different table so that you don’t have to hear it anymore.
If you see someone being harassed or attacked, get help. There are guides aplenty online explaining ways that you can help get someone out of that situation in a way that is safe for both you and them. Most of them revolve around the goal of ignoring the harasser and engaging the victim in conversation. If the situation is violent, call for help and don’t try to be a hero.
2.) Someone You Don’t Know is Harassing You
Try not to engage. It can be really hard to resist, but ignoring them is the best possible way to avoid escalating the situation. Get yourself into a safe place, call a friend, or ask for help from someone nearby. Again, do not engage the person harassing you.
3.) Someone You Know is Debating/Harassing/Upsetting You
This one is the hardest to deal with emotionally, in my opinion, but has the simplest answer. Tell the person in a firm and calm tone “I do not agree with what you are saying and I do not want to participate in this conversation.” That’s it. Walk away, engage someone else in a conversation you do want to have, anything. The other person may try to pull you back into conversation with them, at which point you just tell them again until they either give up or you realize that you need help in getting this person away from you.
That’s all I’ve got to offer. If you have anything you think is helpful to you, feel free to share it in the comments. If you choose to share, be respectful! No hate!