Facebook can be deceiving. I’m not talking about the business of Facebook and how it manipulates our news feeds. I’m talking more about how the connections we make on Facebook manipulate our perceptions of people and the world.
You see, I’ve used Facebook to connect with far flung family, close and distant friends, Freedom Writers and Freedom Writer Teachers and even some of my yoga colleagues. And for a long time, I’ve shied away from sharing more controversial content concerning social issues because I was afraid of offending people. Still, I have always used social media as a broadcasting tool, mostly sharing content about technology, business and economics.
More recently though, I’ve been compelled to share content about police brutality, particularly against people of color. My interest in this issue is not new and anyone who knows my history as a Freedom Writer would be aware of my passion for socio-cultural and diversity issues. But something happened yesterday that reminded me that I’m connected to a lot of people who don’t know me and with whom my beliefs might not be in alignment.
I shared a political cartoon that made a point that resonated with me. One of my yoga colleagues took issue and threatened to unfollow me. It wasn’t the first time he took issue, and I wasn’t bothered by his disagreement. In fact, I think disagreement is important in working through some of the more nuanced issues. I don’t want to be caught in an echo chamber of people who only agree with everything I believe and say. I have friends who are libertarian, atheist, socialist, Christian, apathetic and everything in between.
This morning I discovered that the colleague had indeed unfollowed and I feel ambivalent in the truest sense of the word. I wished more people cared enough to comment and engage in discussions, even when walking into disagreement. On the other hand, I have no interest in catering to anyone’s fragility, particularly when they jump into a discussion assuming others lack the intelligence to discuss an issue with substance.
His unfollowing also reflected the reality that he didn’t know me or what I stood for. We had a shallow connection based on being in the same YTT class, but the reality is that we have very different perspectives on social issues and disagreed enough that he didn’t want to receive my broadcasts anymore. Good for him. And good for me.
You see, I have grown tired of being afraid to share content and talk about cultural issues. I have lots of friends with whom I don’t always agree and most of the time, we just don’t talk about politics and related social issues. But the friends with whom I can have a discussion about nuanced issues like police brutality, socio-economic stratification, racism, and spirituality — without ending the friendship — those are the friendships most likely to go the distance.
Why? Because I won’t be suppressed. I won’t sit in my living room pondering these issues and hiding the reality that I care from the people I choose to associate with. Every time I hold back, I feel the betrayal of my own heart and what I believe in. I am the child of activists and a Freedom Writer; I was taught to stand for what I believe, and I won’t hold back anymore.
So I’ll continue to share my heart and soul, here and on my social channels. We can discuss or not, agree or disagree, and I’m sure the colleague who unfollowed won’t be the last. My intent is to share content and open space for discussion. But if someone is offended, I encourage them to be authentic to themselves, as I will always do what’s authentic for me.