I lost a friend over a meme

Here is what I could have done differently

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

What have you done to combat the divide in our country, within the social media realm?

Scrolling through any social media news feed today, you might see an eccentric array of posts ranging from positive uplifting and rhetoric to verbal vomit that is sprinkled ever so delightfully for good measure. A common theme of the most popular posts goes a little something like this -

Black lives Matter, all lives matter, blue lives matter, Trump 2020, Democrats did this and did that, racism… racism… racism.. Biden 2020. Peaceful protest, riots, propoganda, cities burning to the ground, lynching black men and woman, another black man killed by the police, police brutality, coronavirus and so on.

Whatever stance you take on the current climate, I assure you that you are on the human side. That’s the only middle ground we each share, being human but not always humane.

The incident occurred when I was getting ready to eat breakfast the other morning and scrolling through Facebook. I came across a meme entailing a shirtless black man with his pants sagging compared to a confederate statue. The caption read, “how is this offensive, and this is not?” The inference was that sagging your pants (a black man strategically pictured) is just as offensive as a confederate statue that represents oppression, slavery, and moral disdain. I gave this old friend the benefit of the doubt, and I read a comment posted to him and his response to that person. He argues that the statue is a part of history that cannot change, so why not leave it up.

I started to write something, and I kept erasing and rethinking it then rewriting. I found myself so angry at the notion and ignorance displayed by my friend that I just unfriended him.

I became physically ill at the thought of comparing a sagging pair of pants to an offensive symbol representing the torture of thousands of Americans. What did he see that I didn’t? It’s a fair comparison. Otherwise, why would it be displayed next to each other, right? Wrong.

I’ve never heard of sagging pants buying, selling, raping, whipping, and beating a human being before. I’ve never heard of a pair of pants dehumanizing and disgracing the entire nation. The only distaste a person wearing a pair of sagging pants did is show us their behind and underwear without prompt. The sagging pants may be a crime of fashion but do not belong in the same category as a confederate statue. This meme reverted to childhood with the adult equivalent of, ‘I know you are but what am I.’

I could have said all of these things to my friend. But instead, I overreacted and just shut it off. And that is the problem, isn’t it? We shut out what we don’t want to hear. We reject and cast it away.

The above quote is from a wonderful audible book I am currently enjoying. It is entirely accurate. It all comes down to trust. I suppose I didn’t trust my friend to provide anything intelligent after that horrible meme. I didn’t want to give the Facebook-only friendship any more of my time.

Should social media be the forum to debate these issues? Should you go on a full-on facebook comment war with that friend you haven’t talked to since high school, or that cousin from who knows which lineage, or that co-worker from two jobs ago? Is it in your best interest? Is it even worth it?

I don’t believe we have to aim full speed ahead to every internet troll that has a different point of view than us. Ignorance is bliss as they say, so you cannot reach everyone. Some things are better left to scroll past than cause yourself distress.

I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is that keeping it quiet and looking the other way is what got us into this mess in the first place. There has got to be a better method of how to educate and inform peacefully and tastefully.

A good starting point is opening a dialogue and just having a simple conversation. How else are we going to learn from one another if we just unfriend someone each time the friend says something we don’t want to hear? I do not condone giving or receiving verbal abuse, even through means of debate. Please take care of your mental health and well being first; it is of the utmost importance. If it gets close to the point of abuse, stop the conversation. Revisit the conversation if comfortable with doing so, when you are both calm.

I was wrong not to educate my friend. Perhaps he didn’t realize how insane a notion he was putting out there. Maybe he could have seen it from a different point of view if I hadn’t let my emotions land on cruise control. I won’t know the what-ifs, I only know to do better next time.

How are you handling these situations and conversations with friends or loved ones? What else could we be doing, and how can anyone make a difference in these situations?



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