I was pretty inspired the other day when a sea of pink equal signs popped up on Facebook. I’ve been a supporter of gay marriage for a really long time. In addition to following the Supreme Court arguments through NPR (busy Mom’s guide to the news), it was telling of the changes our society has seen in the past few years to see so many different people, from so many different times in my life posting a symbol of their support. But I didn’t post it.
Just in case you weren't sure what symbol I was talking about.
One of the things I so love about Facebook is the way it brings together a group of people from such disparate backgrounds and associations. There are high school acquaintances, college friends, mom friends, Air Force friends, family members, and former work friends. There are die hard liberals and die heard conservatives. There are atheists and evangelicals. I make sure that all of my 200 plus friends are people I actually know in real life, but they aren’t all people that I communicate with in any way other than Facebook.
Because of that when you post something on Facebook, you’re really posting on an open forum, even if, like me, you have locked down your profile from public searches and limited posts to friends only. You’re in mixed company. This is not to say that I’ve never said anything controversial on there. I have some really strong opinions, which I have voiced, but, generally speaking, you’ll find my posts to concern mostly parenting, the weather, and cute kids.
But I started wondering what holds me back. Here’s the thing: If I’m having a conversation with you and you ask me if I support gay marriage I will tell you my honest opinion, which is, absolutely I do. There is no reason whatsoever to deny those couples the legal rights of heterosexual couples. If the country is so uncomfortable with the label of marriage for those rights, then I’m in favor of everyone, straight and gay, getting civil unions, which bestow those rights. Leave the label of “marriage” for the church, but everyone needs those rights and legal protections. But this is not a blog about gay rights.
I was lonely when I started graduate school. I moved halfway across the country from my family and my undergrad, super liberal, super hippy, very gay-friendly college experience. I found myself in a very conservative, very religious, very white, Abercrombie and Fitch ad. It was a shock. I met some girls who were also starting grad school at some grad assistant welcome seminar, and we hung out a few times. They were definitely more from the sphere of grad school than undergrad, but very nice. One night they invited me to watch a football game with them and some of their friends. I wasn’t paying the greatest attention to the conversation when suddenly one of the guys started talking about gay people, and he said some really bigoted, stereotyped, untrue things. And the way he said it, and the little I knew about my new, strange land, made me believe that he’d probably never met a gay person in his life. I couldn’t possibly stay silent. So I spoke up. Once you added that to my rejection of their Calvinistic views on salvation, I never heard from those girls again.
I’m not at all sad that I spoke up. I shared my worldview with them. I’m sure I didn’t change any minds, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to be myself. But I did learn a bit about discretion.
I’m not going to lie to you, or sugarcoat something that I believe. But I’m also not going to wave my flag in mixed company just for the sake of waving it. Hopefully, when I get to know someone better on a personal level, we can bring together our different points of view and not sever the lines of communication, but maybe learn from each other instead. That’s what holds me back on Facebook. If I was only communicating with my core of close friends, then I wouldn’t hesitate to make more political statements. But I’m not just talking to them. If you are someone that I care enough about to talk to someplace other than Facebook, then these things are going to come up and you’re going to hear my thoughts on them. If you’re not, then I don’t need to start a fight with you. Because if I only see you on Facebook, then you’re probably not someone whose mind I’m going to change.
Even while I type this, I struggle with it. Part of me feels like if I really cared about an issue, then I wouldn’t care what anyone thought. I’d just post whatever I wanted. That guilty part of me spurred me to write this blog—to show I do care. But I also want my support of a cause to be honest and solid. I don’t want it to be a fad. I don’t want it to be a one-time Facebook publicity stunt. I want it to be about real values and thought and logic. And I’m not ashamed to say that I want my Facebook life to be pleasant. I don’t need or want cyber-drama, especially with people that I am not close with. I sometimes actively avoid the people who do post incessantly with political/other rants. I don’t want that noise. I also really appreciate reading insightful, well-thought-out posts from people really involved and invested in the issue.
If you’re wondering what I’m thinking, feel free to ask. Otherwise, I treat Facebook like a work cocktail party—never talk about money, politics, or sex.