I have been a member of Facebook for more than 10 years. For the most part, it’s been an enjoyable experience. I like being able to gather my friends and relatives into a special “room” where we can all interact with each other. 

Facebook in some ways reminds me of the old TV show Cheers. The show was about a local bar, where the same crowd gathered every night to have a few beers and converse with or about each other. Those who frequented the bar participated in a lot of crazy and occasionally hostile discussions.

Facebook is a lot like that.

When it comes to keeping in touch, sharing photos and day-to-day experiences with family and friends, Facebook is a wonderful medium. Before I joined the computer age, I wrote letters by hand. It took a lot of time, and the conversations with my friends moved very slowly. Email made that process so much faster and easier. We could communicate back and forth several times a day if we wished. But it was only possible to interact with one person at a time. 

Facebook allows me to have continuous contact with all of my friends at the same time. I have also managed to reconnect with several long lost friends and bring them into my own little group. 

But like Cheers, those interactions are not always pleasant. Especially when the conversation turns to politics. Each person in my group of friends has their own opinion of what is right and wrong, and which politicians are or aren’t doing a good job. My conservative friends blast those with liberal views. My liberal friends in turn, attack those with conservative views. 

Both sides constantly post links to news sources, which are supposed to prove that their statements and beliefs are the absolute truth. That information is posted and reposted and shared all over Facebook. Some of it is informative, some posts are funny and others are insulting and offensive. 

Searching the Internet, you can find a site that will support or refute any subject. Each one claims to be an authority with the undisputed truth.  If you find a site that says water is wet, you will likely find one that will provide evidence to prove that it is dry. It’s difficult to know what to believe. Often times the information we post and repost is eventually proven untrue or only partly true.

But that never stops people from sharing it. Most make no effort to validate the information before posting it. Some seem to believe that if it is on the Internet, it must be true.

The information we post to support our viewpoint often results in arguments, hard feelings, and even hatred. Facebook was meant to be a fun place, not a bloody battlefield.

We will never agree on everything. If you put two people in a room, they are going to have a difference of opinion over something. But arguing and treating each other hatefully and with disrespect only makes things worse.

As children, we were taught to play nice with each other. We learned to share our toys, and we weren’t allowed to hit others, or call each other names. We were taught to respect each other, and be kind.

But somehow, as adults we seem to have forgotten these basic rules of behavior. If someone doesn’t agree with us, we’re going to lash out at them. Facebook makes that so easy, we can say anything we want, and be as hateful as we want. I doubt we would be as bold if we had to have those discussions face to face. 

Our world, our nation, faces many serious issues, and it is difficult at times to separate right and wrong.  The real tragedy comes when we allow those problems to divide us as a nation, and keep us from working together toward a solution. Those divisions weaken us, and if allowed to grow, will destroy us. Somewhere, somehow, there must be a place in the middle where we can meet.

 We may not agree with each other, but perhaps we could at least listen to other points of view, and try to understand where they are coming from. Our opinion of a situation may not change, but we can communicate in a way that doesn’t threaten or destroy each other’s dignity. 

I’ve been as guilty as anyone else. I have expressed my beliefs by posting cartoons and other things I considered humorous. Often times those posts were unkind and insulting to the beliefs of others. Stubbornly clinging to the belief that my opinions were the only right way, I have at times  made comments that were insulting or unkind.

I’m working to change that.

I believe in open discussion, and I believe we should express our opinions about the important issues that concern us. Facebook provides an excellent forum for those conversations. But as we engage in those conversations, let’s strive to communicate rather than insult, discuss instead of argue. 

I won’t agree with everything you stand for, and you will take exception to some of my beliefs. I’m fine with that. We’re humans, and we’re going to disagree. But I’m still going to be your friend, and I hope you’ll be mine. 

Now that we have that settled, let me tell you about the cute thing my dog did today…

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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