Private Conversations Can Bring More Grace

The team at Gracefully wants everyone to live more at ease. As we work to navigate the digital world, we’ll occasionally share tips for how to live more gracefully. #LiveGracefully  

By Brian Wesolowski

Just before the 2016 election, an old friend from my high-school days - we’ll call her Barb - posted a graphic on Facebook suggesting that a meteorite striking the earth would be better than having to vote for either candidate. I strongly disagreed and said so in a comment on the post - so yes, I had it coming. What I didn’t realize while posting was that the majority of her Facebook friends were conservative and did not support my liberal leanings. The replies to my comment came fast and furious - I was a liberal elite, I was stupid, I didn’t support the military, and I wanted to take all their money away with taxes. Yikes.

I quickly disengaged from the online conversation, but continued to passively monitor Barb’s posts. After the election, it was clear she had voted for Donald Trump (no, he does not practice digital grace). This was tough for me to process. Like many people in that election, regardless of whom you voted for, I couldn’t understand how one person could vote for the other candidate. I thought about posting a comment on her wall, but this time didn’t; instead I contacted her on Messenger.

Our conversations on Messenger were so different than the interactions that took place on the more public Facebook wall. Barb and I talked politics, but went beyond the superficial and inflammatory talking points. We tackled gun rights, unions, welfare, and gay rights. We also talked about our families, our experiences, and reflected on growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo. We agreed on some things, agreed to disagree on others, and always signed off with hearts. I know I learned a lot and I suspect it was mutual.

The lesson about grace I took from this was the importance of one-on-one dialogue and private conversation. Social media makes everything public and often invites the mob mentality to take over a conversation. It tends to favor short, non-nuanced points and the goal is to win. It’s hard to be graceful in that setting.

At the same time though, the internet was the only reason Barb and I were still somewhat in touch and without it, it’s unlikely we would have ever had the conversations we did. Empathy and understanding the perspective of others is essential to living gracefully, so technology clearly can help.

As you think about engaging on social media, whether it’s commenting on someone’s post or publishing your own, first think about grace. Is this an instance where a public post will add to a conversation or drive a positive outcome, or is what you’re trying to achieve better done in a private conversation? I suspect you’ll find the latter is generally more productive and it will bring you a greater sense of fulfillment. So pause, take a deep breath, and send a private message, text, or even find a time to connect in person. Yes, it might take longer, but it’s more likely to be time well spent.