Saturday, October 15, 2011

ADVICE: Dealing with Homophobic Facebook Posts

Good morning! Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that I periodically enjoy giving ADVICE. I have been told I am good at it, but I am NOT an expert. I am just observant and think too much and have many opinions. So take all of my advice with a grain of salt! I usually try to answer on Twitter, but this question was an important one so I wanted to give it as many characters as it needed.

@ashfrankie: "A friend posted [on their Facebook page] the video "Jesus Christ Saved me from 27 Years of Homosexuality" & called it great and I am trying to figure out a diplomatic way of saying that they are completely wrong and are being very hurtful."

This is a complicated one! Because first of all, yes, of course, this is very hurtful. And it's completely natural - and good - to want to stand up to this person and say that. I'm just not sure that this is the right place to do that, for a few reasons . . .

If the person was posting this on some sort of public forum, or a group site, or YOUR Facebook page, then I'd say yes, definitely, say something in the comments. But since it's on their OWN page, this is less clear. Posting a video on a Facebook page is sort of like having something on display in your house, and I try to restrain myself from expressing my outrage when I walk into someone's house and they have Sarah Palin's book on their coffee table, you know? And this part is just from my experience, but: I have conservative friends, and when I post something liberal on Facebook or Twitter, they do not usually jump in and say "YOU ARE WRONG," and I appreciate that. Likewise, I don't do that to them. I think civility and respect for others' beliefs are very important things, within certain boundaries. (More on that in a second.) So in this case, I don't think I would make a public comment.

A few caveats here: I am assuming that this person acts like my conservative friends and is not all over YOUR Facebook page telling you your videos are wrong. If this person DOES do that, and that's the kind of dynamic you have, then responding in kind seems okay.

I am ALSO assuming that the video in question is a testimony/conversion story, which is why I categorize it as "personal religious beliefs that are to be respected." On the other hand, if it was saying "God Told Me All Gay People Should Be Killed" or something, then forget respect, because that's an outright threat. For me, I think the distinction lies in the difference between "This is a belief that I have, and I want to tell you about it" (fine) and "This is a belief that I want to impose on others by any means necessary" (not fine). Now, this distinction can be pretty subjective, and I have not seen the actual video in question, so this is more of a general statement.

(Also, I am more likely to respond if someone posts something factually incorrect rather than just opinion. Especially if these facts are easily provable/linkable. For example, a few Christmases ago there was an email going around all "BOYCOTT TARGET because they won't let the Salvation Army collect there and therefore they're anti-Christian," and I actually did respond to people telling them that Target's policy was not to let ANYONE do fundraising, so it wasn't singling out the Salvation Army or Christian groups. And someone actually said "Oh, thank you, that completely changed my mind." I was shocked! Anyway. Moving on.)

The other reason why I would probably not make a public comment is because, in my experience, when you comment on someone's Facebook they get worried about defending themselves in front of their friends, and are not in the right frame of mind to actually listen to what you're saying.

This does NOT mean that I would necessarily do nothing, though! I don't know how close you are to this person, but if you are close enough that this is going to bother you, I would try to bring it up in private email or conversation. "Mary, I know you like sharing your beliefs, but I'm not sure whether it's occurred to you that some of the things you post are very hurtful to some of the people who see them - people you care about." Something like that. I think a private dialogue would have a better chance of getting your point across, and maybe making the person think about it, rather than just getting everyone upset for a few minutes, until the next Facebook hubbub comes along.

I hope this helped a little! Good luck!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Recommendation: The Ogre Downstairs

Hello! I did not mean to go away for so long. I will try to be better. Here, have a book recommendation!

I had somehow never read Diana Wynne Jones - I know, I know! - so when Sarah Rees Brennan recommended The Ogre Downstairs I thought I'd give it a try. It's about two families of siblings who are suddenly step-siblings and trying to figure out how to make the new family work, and the new stepfather is horrible (they think), and there are magical chemistry sets wreaking all sorts of havoc. Honestly, it took me a while to get into it. Well, it was a perfectly pleasant reading experience from the start, but I would read a few pages before bed, put it down, and not feel any particular call to pick it up again until the next night. But I think that's more my problem than its, and when I finally got a decent stretch of time when I wasn't falling asleep, I read the last half of it in one go. The magic is very well grounded in the real world, and the way it comes to help the kids recognize that their new family members aren't necessarily as awful as they seem is really well done. My favorites were Malcolm, who comes across as mean but maybe is just shy and lonely and fragile, and the little one, Gwinny, who overcomes her fears with bravery and honesty and open-mindedness, and is much more of a real character than little siblings in YA books often are.

Sadly, this seems to be out of print, but I'm sure your library can get it for you!