Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Facebook "Spiritual" Groups: Training Ground for Factions at War?


How many times have we fallen into facebook debates that quickly escalate into ego battles?  The subject of discussion is never the actual issue, whether the talk is on spirituality, religion, or the right way to raise a child.   When the exchanges get heated and nasty, we're left with a vague uneasiness and or even embarrassment at our reactions.  Worse, our posts are immortalized for future onlookers to sit in judgement of our poor self control, lack of self esteem, or bullying behavior. 

A lot of times after engaging in these "talks" we end up exiting our browser in disgust, vowing to never EVER participate in the group again. 

Until next time. 

There's more than good reason why on and off the internet talks turn into debate, and debate into arguments or even physical altercations.  It's the exact same dynamic at work as conflict escalates into war and collective reaction results in destruction so large that we appeal to the entire human race to never. ever. let it happen again.

And then it happens again.   

Just take a good look at the symbol for this dynamic which has stood the test of both time and place.  In it, is both war and peace.  Your position for or against any given idea is there.  So is mine.  And so is our enemy's.

In taking a meta view of conflict in general from trading insults to full out war, we can start small and use the social media example introduced above, because the dynamic is the same.  It's just a matter of scale. Lucy Cargill has written a long and thoughtful post about the mess that are spiritual facebook groups.  And despite so many of us wanting to make them work, newly created groups eventually fall into one of two states:

Explosive Endings
Withering Death

The factors in the cause of both is the same.  When people see eye to eye on an issue, there's really nothing to talk about and the group discussion collapses in on itself. On the other hand, disagreement, when left unchecked, leads to an explosive crash and burn with members either leaving abruptly, and in worst cases, dissolution of the group.  We're left with the death of another community and several splinter groups being formed by members who believe they are "like-minded".

We're not like minded.  Not for long. It's just a reprieve because opposing viewpoints are necessary for our continued interaction.  There's no escaping it entirely.

But there's another way to look at these exchanges.  That's what I'm calling the "meta" view, and it's one in which we observe the patterns of behavior.  When we do, we can see that while there are the appearance of individuals in conflict, it's actually happening on a grander scale as the Whole, balancing itself.

Have you ever read a conversation that leans too far into wholehearted agreement on a topic?  You're guaranteed to see a voice of dissention appear, and the intensity of the objection will be in proportion to the person's perceived idea as to how much of a correction is necessary to bring the conversation into balance.  If a third person joins in, they will likely come in with a position meant to tip the scales to whichever "side" requires it for balance.  And If the original objector is alone in their opinion, they will likely voice their views in an exaggerated way, particularly if they feel that they're up against a prevailing headwind of opposing voices.

Yes.  It's always, and only about the balance.

Notice when it's you who feels compelled to join in a thread.  Is there a feeling of needing to "correct" someone's position, or do you feel the need to make the opposite opinion heard?  This feeling of compulsion can sometimes seem to come from nowhere or even take you by surprise.  Ask yourself where that voice comes from.  Take a look at it to see how it came to be and which way it's meant to tip the scales.

For My Yin, You've Gotta Have a Yang

Conversationally, we're always chasing each other.  It's the reason this exchange is possible in the first place.  Within each opposing point of view is enough truth to give conviction to its expression.  But more than that, the seed of its converse is within it.  And that converse is also both true and false.  One feeds the other.  If one side of any position feeds too much (gets heavy and tips), the balance is disrupted and the conversation ends.  And when there is too much agreement, there is conversational starvation or inertia, and the dynamic dies.

So the next time you find yourself in a facebook debate, take a step back and take in the view of the whole.  Look for the seed of truth in each side, as well as the seed of what's false in each.  The exchange is a fractal, a small demonstration of the balancing forces found in every exchange in the natural world.  And our online interactions are no different... they are pushed and pulled by the very same forces shaping politics, religious conflicts, and all out world war.

It starts so very small.

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thanks for the thoughts...