I found the following post on Facebook this weekend, and it got me thinking about burning bridges.
“Your Facebook activism probably won’t change the world or even anyone’s mind, but it very well might make or break a relationship. You might very well solidify your position as someone’s friend or someone’s enemy. So, before you share your outrage about whatever issue might come up today, you might want to ask yourself this question, am I building bridges or burning them?” – Wes McAdams, blogger at radicallyChristian.com
While we all hate seeing opposing political positions on social media, when I read this I was overcome with the question, what’s so wrong with burning bridges?
I agree that posting inflammatory, often false or at the least misleading memes doesn’t change anyone’s mind. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I mean sharing events and articles and info that I care about. It’s my Facebook page! Its purpose is for me to share the things I care about. If those things are so contradictory to a “friend’s” principles that the relationship cannot stand if it is out in the open, then perhaps that relationship should end.
Look, I don’t know Wes McAdams. I briefly looked at his blog, which seemed like typical Church of Christ preacher stuff. Have I ever mentioned I was a Church of Christ preacher’s kid? Yeah, well, before I get off on that tangent, let me be clear that I don’t have anything for or against Mr. McAdams.
Moreover, I’m not even knocking this quote. To the extent he is saying think about controversial content before you spouting off on social media, I agree that’s solid advice.
However, to the extent that one might be tempted to temper the content they share for the sake of not ruffling feathers, I have to say, some bridges should be burned. We women, especially, have been taught that we must act or look a certain way to be acceptable to others, and I say fuck that.
As a woman who is still trying to unlearn the lessons that said, be this so people like you, I want to stand up for burning bridges. If what sets my soul on fire is too much or too little or too liberal or too opinionated or too feminist for you to handle, here’s a match.
I don’t have to be your type of person, but for my peace and mental wellness, I do need to be me. If something that’s important to me sours the relationship, that’s ok. We needn’t try to pretend we are something we aren’t in order to keep people happy.
Likewise, if what you are all about is unacceptable to me and not just something I can scroll past or hide, then we aren’t meant for each other’s lives. And that’s ok.
Everyone is not your cup of tea, and you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m passionate about this water crisis going on in my backyard (read about it here), if you can’t handle that, here’s the match.
Moreover, there’s the old adage, you can’t please every one all of the time. Someone is going to not like something you post even if you never share your political leanings or favorite sports team. You’re going to post too many selfies or not enough animal rescues or your kid will be at a party to which theirs wasn’t invited or you won’t share their blog post *cough* *hint* *hint*!
No matter how delicately you try to walk on the social media eggshells, you’re going to piss someone off at some point. Some of us are just a bit better at it than others.
One that I’ve been told pisses people off is my gym check-ins. Guess what, though? I love my gym, my trainers, and posting silly hashtags about my workouts. If you can’t take one more of my check-ins, here’s the match.
Recently, I’ve been gut struck by the story of a fellow alumnus from Harding University, Bothem Shem Jean, who was shot in his home by a police officer (read more here). I will continue to follow the story and post stories about what’s going on because too many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand. If you are incensed by the suggestion that not all cops are good or are good at their jobs, then here’s the match.
Look, if you want to light your shoes on fire because you can’t stand Colin Kaepernick, we can still have a relationship. But if you think it’s ok for people to be treated differently by law enforcement because of the color of their skin, then we have no business being in any sort of relationship together.
We’re not meant to be in relationship with everyone. There are over 7 billion people in the world, I don’t need to water down who I am to be palatable to one person.
Some things are differences of opinions. Some things are differences in viewpoints or life experiences, and that’s the natural diversity that makes the world go around. That’s the stuff that makes us all unique and interesting and makes life a vibrant bouquet of personality shades.
Some things, however, tap into our core beliefs and are bridge burning worthy. Heck, what’s a deal breaker for me and what’s a deal breaker for you are likely different. And that’s ok!
What’s not ok is me asking you to modify yourself so that I never really know you and am never confronted with an idea contrary to my own. What’s not ok is you expecting me to pretend like I don’t see injustices and feel the sting of them intensely. Because I do, and that’s me. If I have to be milquetoast to be acceptable to you, then here’s the match.
Yes, I think some bridges should be burned. Not because the other person thinks differently or posts obnoxious political memes or, God forbid, likes Tom Brady, but because some relationships aren’t healthy.
Trying to make everyone happy is not healthy.
Being in a relationship with someone who expects you to quiet down who you are so that he doesn’t have to accept you as a unique being is not healthy.
Trying to live as malleable clay that reshapes itself based on the audience is not healthy.
Sure, think before you post. That’s great advice. Do some research before you share something you don’t know to be true is good advice too.
Can I get an amen?
Bottom line, don’t be afraid to be all that you are in real life and on social media. Don’t be afraid that someone’s going to see the real you and not like it. So, what? There are still over 7 billion other people with whom you might click.
Be you, and when people walk away because you are you, say thank you.
Be you, and when people ask that you be a little less you so that they don’t have to walk away, then you walk away.
Be you, and when a bridge is covered in warning signs and caution tape, break out the matches.
How to manage social media without burning bridges
Now, for the other side of the coin: when you’re the audience to someone’s “Facebook activism.” Personally, I try not to burn bridges.
That’s right, I just explained why burning bridges isn’t always bad, but that doesn’t mean I’m quick to ignite everyone who posts something obnoxious to me.
For starters, my FB friends list is composed of a wide variety of relationships. I suspect it’s the same for most of you.
I don’t need to vote the same as the FB friend who is a fellow PTA mom. We can follow each other and help wade through parenting together without sharing much else in common.
Most of us aren’t tight with everyone on our friends list, but rather have one common bond that makes a social media relationship advantageous.
For that reason, I don’t expect to agree with everything people post. It’s not a deal breaker for me, and I would encourage some patience before taking a match to every friend who shares disagreeable content.
I prefer to use the hide, snooze, and unfollow options on FB before the unfriend, which is I guess the FB version of burning a bridge. Just because one topic a person posts about boils my blood doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have a place on my list.
We all have our breaking point, though. We all have our lines in the sand, which require a good bon fire.
Ultimately, I go back to ‘this is my account.’ If content I see is bringing in more negativity than benefit, I need to take action to protect my serenity. Hiding or unfollowing people are my way of protecting myself and nurturing an atmosphere that builds me up rather than tears me down.
It may sound contradictory to say when it comes to content you share, don’t worry if it causes a burning bridge, but when you react to others’ content be slow to burn bridges. However, my underlying goal with both is to make my social media a soul satisfying space as opposed to a soul sucking one.
“You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people.” – Glennon Doyle