I feel like I've been talking to so many people lately who feel like they have some sort of bad experience on Facebook because they got caught in some sort of argument with another person. Most of the time, I enjoy Facebook and view it as something akin to free TV, and yet I do have some rules to govern my interactions on Facebook.
I believe you could adopt these, your own experiences might improve.
What is the likely outcome?
One of the questions I often ask myself is what is the likely outcome if I interact with this person/post/idea. There are things we see all of the time that we disagree with, and many people just keep strolling on. In my home town, there is a group of people who stand on a street corner with signs yelling something every Wednesday in the summers. Most people drive on by.
But when those same people see something on Facebook, they seem incapable of not engaging. Often, because they focus on the disagreement, not on the fact that the likely outcome is just them being upset or irritated.
Am I wasting my time? Does this take me off task/mission?
Following the likely outcome question, I will ask myself if this interaction will or did take me off task or mission. Did it waste my time?
At one point, this past summer I was engaged with a man and a woman in a group for counselors. The man had just recently found the group and "was trying to wrap his mind around both its existence and its purpose." He then started expounding on what he believed to be true about private practice and the agency work he had found. Most of what he said, I believe, was inaccurate. I asked some clarifying questions. I told him I disagreed. Someone else (the woman who had a previous professional relationship with him) started explaining how I was wrong. All in all, I thought the disagreement was fine. At some point, the guy decided he was uncomfortable with the interaction and stopped.
Not only did I stop, but I also left the group. Why? Because it was a waste of my time. It took me off the task of cutting my grass and yard work for that day. More importantly, it took me off the task of what I wanted to get done with my life.
Life is so short. I refuse to spend it arguing with people on issues that don't matter for what I want to get done with my life. I know people who have been hired to work where this guy was recruiting for, and they disagreed with him and called me to tell me. But so what? I knew I was right because I could do simple math. I knew that the guy I was disagreeing with wasn't lying, but he wasn't accurate. His own words were, "I'm fairly confident...."
He really believed (probably still does) what he was saying. Apply the first question here. How likely is that I was going to change his mind? Not very likely. How likely was he to change my mind? Not very likely.
But that doesn't mean he was lying. It merely means he believed something that I think to not be accurate. There is a difference between inaccurate and lying.
Does this add value to my life? As I was evaluating the interaction, I had to ask myself some questions. Why did it fire me up so much? I think it is because I felt he was spreading information that was going to make my job and life more difficult. I also thought that it takes zero courage but some huptza to make salary claims on a board like that and not have hard cold numbers to back them up.
But that's his choice.
Which brings me to this question. The interaction didn't add value to my life. I learned that someone else in this field values her worth at a higher amount than anyone is actually willing to pay her. Which again, is her choice. Engaging her was a waste of my time that did not add value to my life.
In fact, I came to the conclusion that being in the group didn't add value to my life or help me to add value to other's lives, so I left the group. Which doesn't mean that the group can't bring value to other people, but it doesn't for me; therefore, engaging in it doesn't seem to make sense.
That's it. That's how many minutes you get in every day. For me, wasting them in arguments on Facebook that doesn't improve or add value to those minutes seems like a complete waste of time to me. So I disengage so that I can spend my time in other places where I find more value.
To be clear, I like the guy in this story. If the opportunity to have lunch with him came up, I'd probably do it. But life is complicated and messy. I realized in this interaction that I have very little time for people who tried private practice and walked away from it, telling me how it works. What I do with that is one hundred percent on me.
I also like Facebook. I will engage in discussions and debates with friends as I am fortunate to have friends from many walks of life. We don't agree on every issue, and typically we are good at navigating those disagreements. A general rule of thumb that I have is that I will not engage with someone virtually who I would not engage with in real life. If the last 2 or 3 interactions have gone poorly, I'll just stay out of it.
Very few minds have ever been changed on Facebook. That's unlikely to change any time soon. Facebook is a great tool to connect with people to see pictures of people's lives, and it can help friends cover many miles.
It's a tool. We have to be wise in how we utilize it.
Author's Note: I wrote this post quite a few months ago. In this current time of quarantine and the previously unexperienced situations around the world, I think the ideas behind it are as salient today as they have ever been.
I'm still not a part of that group, and to be honest, I'm glad. I know people that are and there it remains something that I am not interested in engaging in at the expense of the things that I need/want to get done for my life.
And the woman I was interacting with? She's out of private practice. I share that not to gloat, but to illustrate how I would have been wasting my time if I had continued to go back and forth with her.
One last thought: You don't have to attend every argument that you invited to join. No one makes you fight. You choose every single time.