To engage or not to engage in “intellectual discussions” on social media in a politically heated climate

Yesterday, an email went viral on Facebook, received from an Ontario based videography company called Caramount Pictures. According to the email shared below by Kelly Roberts and her fiancee, the videographer couple refused to provide services to them because they do not film homosexual weddings. As the post was shared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and in news articles, the Facebook page for Caramount Pictures became littered with reviews alleging similar incidents including refusing to provide services for some people of colour, and people who’s wedding traditions didn’t match their religious ideals. Since then, the page and website have been taken down.

This is my fiancee and I, we are lucky to live where we are and be surrounded with people that accept us, but that’s not the story for all LGBTQ+ couples

As a woman in the midst of planning my wedding with my (female) fiancee, I felt extremely connected to this couple. We are blessed to have already connected with a photographer who is very excited to document our special day, but the concept of marriage is so heteronormative and traditional that these are things we have to think about as we choose venues, officiants, photographers etc. Whether or not you have experienced this kind of dismissal of your existence due to your sexual orientation, race, gender etc… anyone with any inch of emotion can understand why this might be upsetting and can empathize. At least, that’s what I would like to hope (although it is very clear in this day and age that some people have no problem dehumanizing other people’s experiences).

Before we dive into emotions etc, let’s just break down the legalities of this email and why people are livid about this. The Ontaro Human Rights Commission states that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination. This means that if you are running a business, you need to learn how to inspect your personal biases and put them aside, because everyone has the right to access your business even if they don’t share your sexual identity/preferences, race, religious ideals etc.

We have seen, in the past few months, people losing their jobs and businesses being shut down because of their very public participation in racist activities. Especially with the transparency and permanency of social media and the internet these days, people must have some sort of idea that it is SO EASY to screen shot or save a message, or to spread your experience of injustice to the internet. If gen z’s on tik tok can coordinate themselves over a platform of 15-60 second videos to create havoc at Trump’s rally, people who have experienced discrimination can definitely make public their injustices.

But the true reason that I am writing this post is not because of this one discriminatory act from Caramount (although it does make me upset that this is still happening), but because of the people that I have interacted with on social media posts about this and about other discriminatory events over the last months.

Today I had a very infuriating “discussion” (I use quotes because as usual it was not a discussion and was just some guy trying to argue with the way that people were treating this woman from Caramount). He tried to justify that religion and not “believing” in gay marriage was a good enough reason to refuse services to someone. He made some horrendous attempts at metaphors(?) to do this; ex: he said that he has a close relative who is gay but he didn’t go to their wedding because he can’t support a relationship he does not agree with. To back this up, he shared a couple examples about frowning upon addiction so he wouldn’t bring an alcoholic to a bar, and that he wouldn’t drive his friend to the bank if he knew he would rob it (again relating supporting someone’s union of LOVE to someone’s struggles with alcohol and with being an accomplice to crime?). In these situations where the person is clearly not going to listen to fact or reason and just want to justify their own beliefs, I break down all the garbage that people are saying and end with a lovely little goodbye (in this case I wished him a good day and that his gay relative is in the most loving marriage ever). And then I (blocked out his username) shared it on my instagram story and twitter.

So why did I even bother?

I KNEW that when he accused me of not wanting to engage in “intellectual discussion” after he flat out said there was nothing wrong with refusing services to a gay couple, he wasn’t going to budge or be intellectual and was just going to keep trying to justify his hatred. It’s the same thing that has happened the last few months when I have been attacked for standing up against racist comments, for commenting about the mistreatment of people who are homeless, and for talking about the importance of masks to protect against COVID. But as someone who recognizes that there are people who are MORE affected by these things than me, and that I can provide education to hopefully advocate for the better treatment of our fellow humans, I engage with these people.

To a certain degree.

If you’re like me and you get fired up scrolling through social media, it’s ok to engage with these conversations, but it is important to know when to engage and when to STEP AWAY.

When you come in contact with someone on social media who is challenging something that is very clearly wrong (ex: there is science to back it up, it is clearly ILLEGAL like what Caramount Pictures did, or it’s obviously happening like the Black Lives Matter protests), you have a chance to engage and educate. But BE SMART.

Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels
  • Check in with yourself – are you feeling like your mental and emotional health can handle some high energy conversation/arguements? Will you be able to calm yourself down afterwards or will this interaction exhaust you so much that it will ruin your entire day/week? Activism is important, but if you’re getting into it on social media every day, you might wear yourself out … remember this is a marathon not a sprint! Your passion and activism is needed for the long run so pace yourself and care for your health.
  • What are you arguing? Is it strong? – people who comment aggressively on these sensitive posts are looking for an arguement and will pick apart even the smallest mis-step. Do you have pretty decent proof/information to share or is it based on YOUR beliefs? Is it from a reputable source or is it from an anonymous instagram post? If they challenge you, would you have something to respond to clarify and strengthen your point? I’m not saying you need to get peer reviewed journal articles to correct someone, but unless you want to get caught in a horrible circle, grab something to back up your points before you dive in.
  • What are your intentions? – this is a big one. I always check in with myself – am I acting from pure emotion and rage just to yell at a random person on the internet or is this for the greater good? I came to a realization that if I can provide a good chunk of education on a post it can benefit anyone who reads it, even if the person I am discussing with ignores it. As someone who loves teaching, if I can educate one person regardless of who it is, it is worth it.
  • Is this worth your time? – is this person going to listen to you and consider your information you’re sharing? Or will someone on the post see this and benefit from it? Remember, there are tons of ways to get involved in social justice movements outside of social media confrontations – if you feel passionate but that people won’t listen to you on social media, search for petitions to sign, make donations, email/call your local government officials, your employers, your schools etc, share the information you’re learning about, go to protests and join organizations that are pushing for change. If conversation on social media isn’t worth your time, put your efforts elseware. Every small action helps.

And if you are about to comment arguing against someone who is sharing a painful or emotional story, or playing “devils advocate”, stop and check in with yourself. Are you providing solid arguements against this to educate someone because there is ACTUALLY another side to this conversation that someone is missing or are you using your beliefs to oppress and invalidate the emotions and experiences of the poster? If you are starting a sentence with “I’m not against this point BUT…” or playing devils advocate, you are negating that this person’s pain is valid and by questioning these experiences you are giving power to the oppressor(s).

At the end of the day we are all human. We all have our own beliefs, our own experiences, our own pasts and pains… and we are all still humans. We need to stop questioning people’s experiences of pain, stop pushing our religious beliefs and biases on others, and try to live our lives with compassion. If you are here to stand up against oppression, discrimination and mistreatment of our fellow human beings, please stand strong, stand smart, and take care of yourself. xo

Published by maiiflowerr

Pronouns She/Her. I'm a millennial just trying to make a difference in the world, and create space for people to accept themselves and live their best lives. My fiancee, Sydney, and I are mothers to our two goofy cats, and the queens of creative adventures. I am an Occupational therapist, a dancer and a yoga instructor with a passion for supporting people and creating community.

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