Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You don't owe anyone a debate

I'm big on self care.

Probably because I work with a lot of social workers and I am reminded of the concept continuously.

At first it sounded a little "touchy-feely" and weird to me. But the more I grow, the more I know that in order to do good work, to keep up on personal activism, and to affect positive social change, self care is a must. There's just too many negative experiences you will have in this realm to NOT engage in self care along the way. With out it, you will burn out. WITH it sometimes you'll still burn out. (Which is why I take periodic breaks from Tumblr.)

Part of self care is 1) knowing that you NEVER owe anyone else a debate and 2) not engaging in one when you don't want to or just can't.

I've had to remind myself of this. The Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision has set off a shit storm on almost every social media site, but in my particular case, Facebook is the worst. I actually haven't said much about the topic myself, but I shared a couple of things from Planned Parenthood and RH Reality Check and got a few negative comments in response...mostly people trying to imply I'm uninformed on the issue or that Hobby Lobby has a right to their religious beliefs. (Yes, some people go to bat for corporations to have religious beliefs.)

I deleted the comments and moved on with my life. I'm a big proponent of the idea that you can say what you want on your Facebook page but my statuses and shared items are not the place for it. One of the people I deleted sent me a message and said they just wanted to debate the issue.

Here's the thing...if you want to debate and someone else wants to debate and everyone's having a merry old time productively debating, FANTASTIC. Or if you have the opportunity and energy to genuinely engage with someone and educate them and (even better) change their views, AMAZING.

But in my experience that rarely happens over Facebook. And it rarely happens when the two people are extreme polar opposites and both feel very passionately about a highly personal topic.

So I draw a boundary about it. I don't owe anyone the opportunity or space to debate anything when they please. I try to respect when other people draw this boundary and I expect the same courtesy extended for me. Online debating experiences sometimes make me incredibly anxious and stressed out, especially when they are with people that I do care about, such as friends or family. For my own well being, I need to and DO often shut them down.

I'm trying not to feel bad about doing so. I'm trying to allow myself this.

Shutting down such discussions could easily be viewed as an unwillingness to listen to differing perspectives, or as an inability to defend one's views. If people want to chalk it up to that, that's fine. But the truth is much more complicated. I do read full and comprehensive coverage of most issues close to my heart, but I am unable to effectively learn or talk about them when it's in one of these heated debates with someone I know. I worry about if the relationship is at stake, if they're mad at me, etc.

I know that's on me, but that's exactly why I shut them down. It's not productive or healthy for me.

I should be allowed this. You should be allowed this.

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  1. Very true and it's good advice. Particularly the part about setting boundaries (whatever they might be) on one's own Facebook page.

  2. I know what you mean. While I have long believed it is actually healthy to expose yourself to ideas which challenge your own, I have gotten dragged into many online debates which and up more soul-sucking than stimulating. The problem is that the ability to rationally pick apart ideas and thoughtfully defend one's own without devolving into personal attacks and name-calling is a rare skill - and it doesn't matter where on the political spectrum one is or which "isms" one subscribes to.


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