On my personal Facebook page I have nearly 600 friends, many of whom I actually interact with pretty regularly, even if only online. Occasionally I’ll notice someone has unfriended me (I don’t have that masochistic app that sends you messages when you’re unfriended, but sometimes I do notice).
I can usually pinpoint the defection to a specific debate I started on FB. Whether I took on the Operation Christmas Child’s shoeboxes, home birth or working moms, my Facebook wall is often littered with 50+ comment discussions.
Case in point. I recently posted a link to Candace Alper’s exceptionally well-written blog about sending cupcakes to school for a kids birthday. I remarked that I enjoyed the post, but disagreed with the author. With more than 40 comments so far, there are people on both sides of the issue.
In those comments, many more important points were brought up that weren’t addressed in the blog article (What Candace, you didn’t want to write a 4,000 word blog post?). How parents deal with disappointed kids, where are all these allergies coming from these days anyway, moral issues with sending home dollar store junk, and even the Pinterest-inspired pressure for moms to perform Cake Boss-worthy feats of culinary excellence.
As a result of this debate, I saw the issue in a different light. I’ve decided that I still believe in sending treats, but I will look into how to make them more inclusive. I still think any children whose parents will not let them partake for whatever reason will be left out—but see, I’m ok with kids getting left out. I’m ok with my kids being left out of things too. “One kid left out is too many” isn’t a sentiment I agree with. Which is another blog topic entirely.
In her post, Mothers shouldn’t have opinions, Annie from PhD in Parenting writes, “To those commenters who do not think I should share my opinion with the world, I will say the same thing I say to those who don’t think women should breastfeed in public: It is your problem, not my problem. If you don’t like what you see, look away. Because I’m going to keep on exercising my rights. That said, feel free to disagree with me. I’m happy to debate and discuss as long as it is done civilly.”
Ay, there’s the rub.
Debate and discuss as long as it is done civilly. Unfortunately, many people seem incapable of this. It’s not that we’ve lost the skill of reasoned debate—most people have never had it. Socrates and many other great minds were persecuted and killed by those intolerant of debate.
In my humble opinion (and feel free to debate it), mothers are the worst perpetrators. Many can’t participate in a reasoned debate without taking someone else’s comments as a personal attack on them. And frankly, sometimes in a debate another person has debated poorly and said or written something that really is intended as a personal attack. Either way, the problem lies in our society’s bizarre fixation with caring what every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks about us. We’re obsessed with having everyone in our sphere of influence approve of our every choice. When we encounter people who think we’re wrong, misguided or complete idiots, we’re devastated. It’s absurd.
I found a quote from a Montessori school website that stated that “Students who have studied debate show stronger analytical, interpersonal communication, and critical thinking skills. They have higher GPAs, face disappointment and defeat with greater resilience, are more effective and confident public speakers, are better able to evaluate information, and are less likely to engage in physical fights.”
Another study proved that debate is the best way to understand concepts, reevaluation of one’s position and the most attitude change.
With this in mind, I’ll continue to foster a spirit of debate online and in my life, despite it clearly upsetting some friends and acquaintances. It has made me more open-minded and has developed in me a higher tolerance for the viewpoints of others, and it continues to do so.
So go ahead, disagree with me. It's good for us both.