Facebook has been abuzz this week with news that you can block annoying political posts on said social media network. Though social media is lauded for the ability to communicate just about anything to those who will listen, there are enough people that don’t want to hear your thoughts on which rich white asshole wants to control your body or how much you think the president is not patriotic and will destroy the country.
Those examples above are not the feckless, tossed-off brain farts of ignorant teenagers; those are paraphrased arguments by adults regarding American politicians. Once the self-proclaimed bad-ass nation of the world (probably said by someone not so bad-ass), certified grown-ups are now trading insults with supposed friends online with the debate skills of imagination-lacking children (“Nuh-UHHH!”). There are people that put on suits and ties–and pants–by themselves that lose their shit on random people online, on television, in magazines and in the newspapers because their views don’t perfectly mesh up. Remove their faces and alter their aged voices and you would swear that feral cats found a way to communicate in English.
The whines and rants don’t sound like adults. And yet we expect these people–hell, ALL people over the age of 18–to have The Adult Conversation™ when it comes to discussing sensitive topics. The Adult Conversation, like unicorns or Arizona’s common sense, is a myth. It was a myth when people realized that religion and politics were off-topic discussions; it was a myth when people code words like “Canadian,” “urban” and “nigger” to describe blacks; it was a myth when ignorant, bat-shit crazy people kill innocents because of their race, religion or sexuality.
If you can’t tell, I’m a bit cynical when it comes to The Adult Conversation. I scoff when a talking head half-heartedly suggests that people need to have such discourse because it can’t be done–not with the narcissistic nature of people to air their half-baked thoughts online for the hell of it or for money because there is an agenda that needs to be met. Such propositions are irritating at best and offensive at worst because people have to be receptive to learning something new, wanting to get down on these dialogues; it comes off as disingenuous when it’s being sold between ad time.
People will dodge The Adult Conversation because there are too many ways to excuse insensitive comments. Think of the millions of times a politician or celebrity claims they “misspoke” when caught talking out of their ass, your idiot friend of a friend that passes off horrific Facebook posts as “keeping it real” or bragging about being an asshole; or that stodgy, middle-aged bigot that starts off every conversation with “back in MY day.” It’s hard to consider someone an adult when their one-track mind is so monosyllabic that they can’t process the IDEA of a unique opinion.
There are also too many ways to shut out dissenting voices that prevent said Adult Conversation. You can block internet posts about anything–from Justin Bieber to your really-racist uncle that uses their Facebook page to reach out to someone, ANYONE. You can get your news information from and choose to conversation with a smorgasbord of websites, radio stations, television networks, and people. Others try to prevent these exchanges through conversation-enders like “at the end of the day,” “it is what it is,” and “I don’t see color!” Remember when MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews proclaimed America to be “POST-RACIAL!” when President Obama was elected in 2008? It may have been unintentional, but it could have been perceived as a hard stop to any talk about racial matters.
Need further proof that The Adult Conversation is something that doesn’t exist? Remember that credo of not talking about politics or religion? There are books about why such conversations cannot be had, why people feel justified in their opinions and won’t hear talk that may sully that idea they hold so dear. We now have to understand the psychology behind the righteous person to begin to confab with such folks.
But for all of my pessimism about people and their ability to hold civil conversations, there is evidence that important ideas can break through: the fights for civil rights and gay rights; the protests in the Middle East cultivated by social media; the complexity of sexuality based upon revelations by artists like Frank Ocean. Media (social and traditional) and word of mouth have forced people to confront such cultural issues. And society is progressing (slowly) thanks to these efforts. It may be the equivalent of pulling teeth, but it’s happening (slowly).
Some of these topics will not be resolved anytime soon (again, religion and politics), but their presence in the collective consciousness, no matter where you stand on the issues, shows that maybe, JUST maybe, there will be some lengthy, nuanced and tolerant discussions. Hell, maybe they will include Facebook posts from grown-ass adults.