Will You Be My Friend?

A recent headline proclaimed that President Obama “friended” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

And I started thinking: How can we use social media to become instruments of peace in this world? All too often, we see people post their opinions and judgments on their Facebook walls or spread misinformation (sometimes intentional and sometimes not) via Twitter. Instead of useful dialogue designed to contribute to the common good, we have little more than children needling each other and hurling taunts across an ethereal playground.

But how does such communication facilitate dialogue? Do twits build respect for people who hold different opinions? How often do we listen to others, auditing ourselves to find the error in our “truth”? When we nail our judgments to the wall, are we trying to inflame passions or neutralize them? Are we acting in good faith, trying to collaborate with others, identifying the common ground upon which we stand in order to engender peace? How often do we use our posts to support efforts in facilitating honest and productive dialogue?

When we identify ourselves as belonging to a particular group, we necessarily identify those who do not belong: we call them “fascists” or “un-American;” “Republicans” or “Democrats.” They have become the Other, something to be feared, despised, or eradicated. Dialogue is the bridge to the Other, not so that we may eradicate them, but to understand them.

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

  • President Obama and Rush Limbaugh played golf together?
  • Bill Maher went on a fishing trip with Bill O’Reilly?
  • Stephanie Miller “friended” Anne Coulter?
  • Lady Gaga and Sandy Rios sang a duet at the Grammy’s?
  • Sarah Palin had something nice to say?

Of course, I am not above reproach, so, I decided to “friend” Glenn Beck.

That was a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately, I had something good to wash it down with!

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