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Deleting Facebook posts prevents helpful dialogue

Harleigh Boldridge (‘18)

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Like every good American, I recently engaged in political threads on Facebook. One thread that caught my attention was a debate over whether or not it is “respectful” to kneel during the national anthem or the waving of the American flag. It struck me that the person who had posted the controversial photo felt the need to not only delete several comments from within the feed due to their hateful nature but even went as far as publicly stating that they had blocked the person who had written the comments.

This is not the first time that I have thought about the ability to delete posts or comments on social media. In August, a different friend of mine had made a victim-shaming post regarding the sexual assault lawsuits surrounding Taylor Swift. After reading some deep, thoughtful comments on said post, she admitted openly that she had not considered other perspectives and realized that she had stepped out of line. She then proceeded to delete the whole post, including the trail of dialogue and related articles that lead to her conclusion.

This year has been characterized by social media, social justice, and concern for the first amendment, especially regarding hateful rhetoric. Many folks have also expressed great concern for the lack of dialogue happening in our society. It seems that while a majority of people utilize Facebook as some contemporary agora by sharing their talents, ideologies, experiences, and politics, we have not made significant progress toward resolving these issues. This may be because we spout off posts in an effort to generate ‘likes,’ but I would like to credit the ‘delete’ button for our stalled discussion.

Consider the situations I mentioned earlier. I think that each Facebook user deleted comments or entire threads for different reasons. In the first scenario, she was protecting other friends from what she considered personal attacks; in the second scenario, my friend was embarrassed in her ignorance. While different, these situations are related. By deleting comments regarding contemporary issues, both women sought to do good and save face. But does deleting Facebook posts or comments  actually achieve either end? And if they do, at what cost?

Through deletion, these women have also erased evidence about how we ought to respond to hateful comments or our own ignorance. These women wanted to save face for themselves, but they also opted to protect the reputation for those who make hateful comments. Silencing those comments did nothing to stop the hate behind them. Instead, they have erased the trail that would condemn people as hateful. By deleting hateful posts, they have implicitly allowed hate to continue thriving unchallenged. And for the sake of myself and others, what looks better: someone who can support their claims and admit when they are wrong or someone who only posts to please?

I propose the following: stop deleting threads because we do not agree with what is being said on them. Let us start being proactive in how we handle conversations that go awry. Social media is ripe with opportunities to practice restorative justice, show off one’s skills with dialogue, and learn about the perspective of those who live entirely different lives than we do. Instead of deleting a post, try turning off the notifications for it and let a hateful person run themselves out. Let people make fools of themselves. Do not be afraid to admit that you are wrong. Since we are not always going to be perfectly articulate or right when we encounter dialogue in person, we might as well utilize any tools we have to get better at communicating with one another.

Signed,

Harleigh Boldridge (‘18)

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The student news site of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa