IT WAS NOT too long ago when reasonable people could agree to disagree without it turning hostile. That was a time when people talked face to face. A recent survey discovered that 69% of respondents blame social media and the internet for the current state of divisiveness.

Technology has made it possible to instantly voice our opinions from the anonymity of a computer screen or telephone keyboard. That has made it easy to say things we would never say in person.

Social media allows us to disagree with others and the emotion often makes an enemy on the other side of the argument rather than an opposing point of view that can be considered in a rational way. There was a time not too long ago when we took time to organize our thoughts before blurting them out on social media.

We now have social media tribes and partisan cable news outlets that relish the opportunity to fuel the decline of civility and promote discourse. This angst propels ratings and sells ads. Those talking heads seem to encourage personal attacks. Then, they blame the Russians for creating a hostile atmosphere.

Social media, especially the bias cable news networks, are obsessed with answering questions no one is asking as long as it fits their narrative. If they say something enough times, they believe it will make it true.

The funny thing is, in most cases we can all generally find common ground 80% of the time, if we try. The other 20% of the time is where we fall apart. Otherwise sensible and rational people are quick to draw lines in the sand and refuse to budge. They are encouraged to dig in because there are like-minded people on social media.

At some point, regarding almost any issue today, Americans must accept the fact that many of their fellow Americans will disagree with them and they will never change their mind, no matter what you say or do to show them what has been determined to be the truth.

In many ways, we’re living like strangers on a train. We’re all on a journey. Our paths may cross numerous times, but we never stop at the same places and never make a connection. Some have exactly the same views while others may have exact opposite views; no harm, no foul.

You may have heard the story about the two people who carried on a multiyear business/professional relationship. It was a mutually beneficial relationship that saw their respective businesses grow and prosper. They looked forward to their weekly professional meetings.

At the same time, the two people were unknowingly jousting on an anonymous internet site that pitted members against each other on political issues. Many times, the debates became hostile and physically threatening. That was easy because members could hide their identity.

After years of this, the two professional friends happened to be at a community Super Bowl party and were telling other partygoers about experiences they had on the internet. As they told their stories, they began to realize their despised adversary was each other.

From that night forward, their relationship was never the same.



*  *  *

THE POLITICAL SEASON never seems to end. Ask yourself, when debating issues, do you know of any scenario in which all people would be happy? How do we know whether we’re on the brink of war or the brink of peace? Arguing topics like this seems to divide us to the point we lose track of what’s fair to all.

Why are we so unhappy? Each of us wants to feel our life matters; we want to be known and respected. We connect with others and understand ourselves through stories. We want to be heard. We want our story to be told. Maybe that explains why millions of people are swabbing their cheeks for a DNA history search.

How do we square the circle when we realize that 50 years from now, people will read books explaining today’s events and those books will be written by people who haven’t even been born yet. Doesn’t that make you wonder about things we read today about our history?

St. Francis once offered this advice. “Start by doing what is necessary then, what is possible and suddenly, you are doing the impossible.”