Social media like Twitter and Facebook is great and all, right up until you’re following someone who disagrees with you. What do you do at that point?

Do you ask them questions to try to find out what the root of the disagreement is? What if they can’t, or don’t want to explain? What if they think your questions are intrusive and attacking, when you’re only trying to understand? Do you draw conclusions based on their responses?

Do you try to explain your own point of view, because, surely, the basis of your opinions is rational, and if you can just explain clearly why you believe what you believe, the other person will have to abandon their inferior opinion. Right?

Or do you talk about them to other people who agree with you and not them? That other opinion is wrong, am I right? Why would they think that, I wonder, out loud and at no one in particular (hoping someone will agree with me)?

Or do you send them a note telling them you won’t be following them from now on, and this is why, and goodbye? I mean, they would want to know why you’re not paying attention to them anymore. That’s what you would want, anyway, as long as you’re being reasonable and rational and not at all emotional about this issue on which you and another person in your social circle disagree for reasons that may or may not be important. Right?

Or do you simply ignore them. How… how… boring.

I’m being snarky but I’m pretty sure I have done and thought all of those things before. Sometimes I’ll pretend to take the high road and cloak my questions in the cloak of “honest inquiry”, and sometimes I’ll try to explain my own position and hope out loud that they’ll change their mind while inwardly knowing they probably won’t. And sometimes I’ll just ask other friends about it.

Looking at that behavior right now, I don’t really think I’ve been very mature. About any of it. I gotta be honest with myself and admit that there’s a little bit of troll in me. And maybe you, too, yeah?

There is entertainment value in it, though, which is why I’m always tempted. And there can be honest engagement where I’m legitimately trying to understand a different viewpoint. Sadly, though, I often press on past the point of honest engagement. Knowing when to quit, ah, that’s the real trick.

I find value, though, in keeping open lines of communication to people who don’t see the world the way I do. I’m not inclined to unfollow someone on Twitter just because I don’t like their opinions. I’d like to believe that I can listen, ask a question or two, and then just process the information without belittling the other person.

And my close friends, the ones whom I trust, always have an open invitation to call me on my bullshit. Lucky for me, they take advantage of that, as I return the favor to them. That’s what makes them my friends.