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SCOT BELLAVIA: My Modus Operandi Online

It used to be that I only posted on Facebook for the occasional life update or most recent picture. This was in contrast to those who posted inconsequential things: pictures of their meals, whatever thought came to their mind, and their scores from some silly game.

I thought Facebook couldn’t be used to go deeper with people.

I sided with the school of thought that heavy topics like religion and politics can’t be discussed successfully online. I thought it was ridiculous that people became armchair experts overnight in whatever subject was relevant to current events.

Quarantining in the early months of the pandemic gave many people too much time to think and no place to act. Maybe that’s what happened to me. In June, a single thought bubbled to the top of my head so fiercely, I had to share it. This became the first of many regular status posts.

My intent has been to spark conversation and provoke critical thinking by posting what seems, to me, like the obvious conclusion. However, I am not an expert on any one topic, so I anticipate contradictory responses. I word my status posts to be specific enough to address a topic, but vague enough to invite a response so I can hear a wider perspective.

Everyone wants to be heard; perhaps I am only adding to the noise. Yet, I have learned from others and even altered my thinking after people share their contrasting views.

In the midst of one comment thread I was in, one of the speakers said that that was one of the best Facebook conversations he had ever had. We were talking about abortion. Likewise, friends and family have told me that my speech is welcoming and encourages people to respond, knowing what is said will be well received with respect and sincerity. Mine is not an extremely deliberate way of talking to people; it’s simply the way that makes sense to me.

But I do have to control myself. I don’t want to post daily else my content becomes less meaningful. I have some other rules I’ve set up for myself to maintain positive and friendly discourse.

I limit my posts so only friends see them. I’ll only talk to a stranger if they speak to me first. I believe in relational authority, that is, providing correction only in the context of a relationship. With strangers, my goal is only to accurately represent myself. With friends, I have more of a place to challenge them and allow them to challenge my thinking.

The rest of my self-imposed rules of how I interact online come from the Bible.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A kind answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Simple statements like, “I hear you” or “Thank you for sharing” can calm livid opposition. In trading sensible dialogue for loud noises and wrathful speech, the irate expect and even desire, the same from the other side. According to this verse, responding with kindness will diffuse their intensity.

Proverbs 26:4 says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.”
When it’s clear the person doesn’t want to talk, when they use logical fallacies and yell over the keyboard, I immediately quit the conversation. Knowing I’m not above falling into these same errors, I stop myself when I see them in my own comments and always proofread my comments so I can make edits as needed.

Proverbs 26:5 says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
If we all desire to dialogue, we ask questions as often as we make statements. We want to see correct thinking prevail, caring about the other side enough to speak against the folly.

James 1:19-20 encourages readers to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” These are not easy habits to develop but practicing them can make respectful dialogue out of any subject.

I post with the intent to learn, not win. I pray that what I share prompts critical thinking and results in all parties coming closer to a better understanding of one another and closer to reality. Ultimately, I want to have these conversations in person; I do and I will. But in the meantime, Facebook statuses are my modus operandi.

Scot Bellavia

Scot Bellavia

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