I always find it distressing when a Facebook friend of mine posts something appallingly stupid. It’s one thing when someone you don’t know does it. A total stranger who you’ll never meet is quickly forgotten. Someone you know isn’t so easy to dismiss.
It’s the same sort of unsettling feeling I get when I try to imagine the sort of people who buy those tacky commemorative plates they advertise in TV Guide. I realize there are people out there who have no sense of taste whatsoever. But I’m perfectly happy to remain in comfortable ignorance, knowing that I’ll probably never have to experience the creepiness of walking into someone’s living room and seeing a Prince William Royal Wedding plate adorning the mantelpiece.
On the other hand, when someone I know makes an attempt to inflate a weak premise by providing a link to some ridiculous article fraught with tortured logic and perverse moral equivalence, I’m no longer dealing with a nameless anybody. Gone is that element of anonymity that makes it easy to jump on faceless idiotic bloggers struggling for coherency. Instead, familiarity instantly inserts reality into the dialogue. And it forces me to acknowledge that everyone doesn’t think like I do.
The complexion of the conversation changes completely once you’re in an online exchange with someone you know. I feel obligated to tolerate my friends on things for which I normally have such a low tolerance otherwise. And much as I try to be polite about it, I’m not always so diplomatic.
I suppose there’s a bottom line to my dilemma. I’ll occasionally follow the advice of the late American philosopher, Rodney King, who asked us, “Can we all get along?” It’s a nice sentiment, but one I don’t always subscribe to. The iconoclast in me prefers to challenge the orthodoxies of others. It’s an effort that hardly ever brings about a good result.
There’s another saying which comes to mind, and it might be the best advice of all. It comes from Linus, from the Peanuts comic strip. “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” If I were really smart, I’d probably stick with that.