Keyboard warriors, clicktivism and overvaluing our own opinions

Sometimes you think a friend needs saving via your passive aggressive posts. Sometimes you think callout culture will change hearts and minds. Here's why they don't work.

Q:

A friend is in an online relationship with a person in Europe. This friend has been lonely for years and has been taken advantage of in the past. Now they plan to move the European to the States and get married. Obviously, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. 

My friend tunes out detractors, so we have taken to Facebook, covertly peppering his feed with posts, memes and articles about online hoaxes and foreign strangers. Hopefully, he’ll get the subliminal messages while scrolling through his phone, because nothing else is working. 

What else we can do to stop this train wreck?

Q:

The straight owner of a pizza place recently tweeted a video calling his gay guy friend “girl” and making a “limp-wristed” gesture. We put the owner on social media blast, tagging him in our comments and posting on his business page.

The boycott vengeance was swift. For days, it was both exhilerating and nerve-racking to jump on and see the latest comments. He finally posted an apology, saying that he didn’t know and regrets it, but it rings hollow. He even wrangled his gay friend to appear in a new video post, and they actually defended him!

The posts are dwindling now, and it seems like the Twitterverse is moving on. I think it’s disgusting to let slights like this just vanish.

Dear Overestimated & Clicktivist:

There was a time when people’s decisions were made before a limited audience. Opinions were personal as well, and it was considered rude to offer our own without being asked. If shared at all, it was only with those closest to us.

Strong opinions were made with sharp instincts and informed judgments. They were honed with expert advice and capable of change. Most didn’t assume our word was the last one on any topic, and we certainly didn’t expect others to accept our beliefs as facts.

Welcome to Facebook in 2019. 

We’re directly in the line of other people’s personal decisions, and our approval or disapproval is expected, too, by way of reactions and comments. But it’s the Big Facebook Lie that your opinion and approval on others’ lives matters.

Is a friend making a mistake in love? Do you think you can tell from Facebook? You can’t. Do you think the friend can’t see through “subliminal” posts? They can. 

Worse than potential heartache for the friend is not giving it a chance and never knowing. You don’t know their relationship. Talk to them respectfully instead of passive-aggressively posting. Then butt out.

Daily opinion updates are expected on Facebook too, and they’re often presented as facts. People are so convinced that their random thoughts are important, we are more likely to dig in our heels than open our hearts. We’d rather defend our opinion than listen to information that might enlighten us or change our minds. Vengeance is quick and forgiveness is slow.

With “likes” and “amens,” people who share our ideas convince us we’re right. The mob mentality makes people surer than ever that there is an “us” and opposing “them” that needs a wakeup call.

Don’t buy the hype. Basing decisions on what other people think is the road to ruin, and forcing your opinions on others is ugly and potentially dangerous. Social media banks on us not realizing this.

Callout culture and mass shaming leaves no room for evolution on difficult topics. Clicktivism makes us feel like we helped, but we didn’t actually do anything. 

It’s like a pack of hungry wolves sits ready to pounce on snubs from our sofas, then tap out our anger and ennui at convenient villains. Instead, let’s create communication paths for them to become allies. Invite an offline conversation, not an online fight.

You know the old adage, “Opinions are like assholes — everybody has one.” Here’s an expansion on the comparison: Like assholes, precious few if any people want to see yours, much less have you rub it in their face claiming it's the last meal on Earth. Let's pull up our pants and remove our own private parts from the asshole parade.

The Q is intended for entertainment purposes and not as professional counseling. Send your burning Qs to [email protected]

Illustration by Brad Gibson

This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:

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