Is Social Networking a Viable Platform for Advocacy?

Hello, all! I hope you’re doing splendid. I’ve got a short post today…just something I’ve been pondering a lot lately. And really, it all comes down to one question: How do you use social networking? We’ve covered this topic briefly in a recent podcast episode. Quite honestly, I’ve been struggling with it on a personal level for quite some time.

Facebook is intended to be a pleasant experience. We know that’s not always true. People still manage to grate on our nerves from time to time, whether it’s face-to-face, or via the screens we now use on a daily basis. Most of the time, decent human beings can find a way to coexist peacefully, both on and offline. But when it comes to LGBT advocacy, it can be a touchy subject. If you’re like me, you post about things because you’re passionate about it. You’re happy to discuss it, and you may even hope someone approaches you about your point of view. But you never post something with the purpose of ruffling someone else’s feathers. But sometimes, people interpret your good intentions into bad ones. (You may be able to tell by now, this has happened to me in the past.)

I have many faults. One of them is—and has always been—caring way too much about what people think of me. Once someone becomes truly offended by something I’ve said, my mind goes into analytical mode. I spend the next several days (and sometimes weeks), wondering what I could have done differently. Then, I begin to imagine the worst: that they have grown to dislike me on a fundamental level. What if they’re telling everyone they know that I’m a terrible person? What if they’re shaking their heads, wondering what’s happened to me?

Before you say it, I know: If people really are going to be that way, I don’t need them in my life. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and if they can’t listen to mine, then I’m better off without them. But I just don’t work that way. I want to have peaceful, loving relationships with everyone I know. I don’t want drama; I just want to speak out about the things that matter to me.

But I’m beginning to wonder: Should I leave the advocacy to the straight allies? Are LGBT rights simply too close to home for me? Do I take things personally when I otherwise wouldn’t? I’m torn: part of me thinks I should press on… use Facebook as a means for expression on the issues that are dear to my heart. The other part of me thinks I would save myself a lot of unnecessary stress if I could limit my Facebook activity to check-ins and photos of my cute little fur babies.

How do you handle social networking? Is Facebook a place for advocacy? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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9 responses to “Is Social Networking a Viable Platform for Advocacy?

  1. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this. She had been deeply hurt by a response to something she had posted on Facebook. I told her that my personal strategy was to never post anything very serious or close to my heart of hearts on Facebook, because someone will inevitably say something snarky or downright hateful. And I just don’t need that. I use Facebook to keep up with people I wouldn’t ordinarily see in person that often (like you :) ), and share the hilarious things my son says and does. But the stuff that I deal with on a very personal level is not for Facebook. For me, that is :)

    • Thanks for your insight, Kate. What you said makes total sense. I’m far more interested in celebrating what my friends and I all have in common, and not the things that drive us apart.

      It’s important to be honest about my struggles, so that if someone else is going through the same thing, they know they’re not alone. The problem with Facebook, however, is that it’s mixed company. And frankly, some people simply don’t care. So perhaps it’s best to know my audience when it comes to these things. I only hope I haven’t made any enemies. I want to be a light in the world, and I worry that I’ve had the opposite affect on some people.

  2. Mandy – Life is way too short to stress over Facebook. You have a powerful voice for change with this blog, and it’s a safer forum for you, so – if I were you – I would be inclined to limit advocacy pieces to your blog.

    • Thanks, Erin. You’re exactly right. Some people were made for this… but not all of us can be like Matthew Vines or Kathy Baldock. :) It’s just not who I am. If I can’t stop worrying about how things will affect me, then I should just remove myself from it entirely, and make FB fun again. :)

  3. I gave up facebook entirely just because of the stress it was causing me, and I never even posted controversial things except for blog posts that my wife and I wrote. For me, facebook was a way for my extremely fundamentalist family to reach me and their treatment toward me and my wife has been so hurtful that I couldn’t find a way to make facebook fun even when blocking them! My wife enjoys facebook with no problems though as her family and friends are super supportive and loving, so I really think it depends on the level of “persecution” one is facing at the hands of those who hide behind the ease of attacking through facebook! Honestly, I feel like people, deep down, aren’t wired to deal with difficult subjects and life in general through things like social media because social media isn’t a good replacement for relationship. I feel like, in general, facebook might be good for looking at pictures and spreading information, but I feel like the real advocacy work that people like Matthew Vines and Kathy Baldock are doing is happening in the real relationships they form and the real face to face conversations they have, and the speaking engagements they do. Several of my own family members quarreled online with Kathy when I first came out (as she wrote several times to them defending me), and they only discounted her, but I know for a fact that if they got to know her or even sat down and had a meal with her that they would say very different things about her! I think being cautious with facebook is so wise. :) I think we have to be careful to not be exhausting ourselves emotionally online because then we use up strength we need for participating in what’s really, tangibly in front of us!

    Many blessings on you Mandy. :)

    • Thank you for that, Stephanie. I recall your story of coming out, and how painful it was for you regarding your family. I think you’re exactly right about Kathy… if your family had only gotten to know her, they would see her quite differently.

      I think you have very wise advice regarding Facebook use. I really am going to completely change the way I utilize it… because it really DOES exhaust me emotionally when I use it to defend my personal beliefs. It seems to me there are some people who ONLY use Facebook for that sort of thing, and I honestly don’t know how they function. It’s as though they are just looking for a debate or an argument… and the last thing I want is for people to assume that about me.

      I’ve really enjoyed this discussion. It’s so helpful for me to get the input of everyone here. I’m so thankful for this little community! :)

  4. Stephanie – thank you for sharing that – wise words.

  5. Hi Mandy, I do occasionally dip my toes into controversial conversations on Facebook. Generally it’s when my FB friends jump on the bandwagon of some buffoon like Phil Robertson and start high-fiving one another with who can say the snarkiest things. I try to gently point out how un-Christ like the behavior is and I usually get attacked for the effort but it does open up a dialog. As a straight ally and an evangelical Christian, I feel that it is important for me to speak up and let my FB friends know that we don’t all think alike. I had one particularly nasty private conversation about two years ago with a friend of a friend who works at my church. We agreed to disagree and left it at that. She sent me a friend request, I’m sure to monitor my heretical ways. I pondered it for a while and then accepted. Occasionally, she or I would “like” a post or a picture but no further conversation until about a week ago when out of the blue she contacted me and said how thankful she was that we had that conversation. She said that God has really been working in her heart and she is finally beginning to see and understand the things I was trying to tell her. I learned that she had very serious cancer last year, a loved one is struggling (I assume with SSA) and she is open in a way that I never would have thought from our previous dialog. So I would say that yes, the Holy Spirit can and does work through FaceBook!

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