Thursday, September 20, 2012

Conflict avoidance, fighting on Facebook, and character development.

I'm spending a lot of time right now trying not to get into politics-related fights on Facebook; I bet a lot of you are too. (Let's not rehash here!)

What's been especially striking to me, lately, is that people seem to fall into three major camps when it comes to public arguments about deeply-held beliefs:

1) the fighters, who start out argumentative and get feistier from there. Sometimes this means posting a link, pseudo-innocuously, to Slate or the New York Times or the National Review or the latest incendiary Newsweek cover story, and just letting the fireworks happen. Other times it means a deliberately confrontational status update, along the lines of "HOW can these bozos actually BELIEVE [whatever it is these bozos believe]".

2) The conflict-avoiders, who have their own cherished beliefs but find that their love for some of their friends and family is being eroded by too much information about said friends and family members' political preferences. This group would rather everyone made a pact not to talk about religion or politics on Facebook, please!

3) The popcorn-eaters, who may not want to participate in the drama but are enjoying the hell out of watching it unfold.

Which category are you in? I think this year I'm a #1, trying really hard to be a #2 but mostly settling for #3.

Which category are your characters in? What great fictional characters can you think of that are not #1s, or at least don't start that way?

I'll name one: Bilbo Baggins, in The Hobbit, starts out as a classic #2.

What do you think?


Delphine Dryden said...

I'm definitely a #3 (pass that popcorn, with extra schadenfreude sauce), as a baseline. I've never risen quite to the level of #1, because I'm just not that fervent (I'll tweet about politics, mostly to reinforce my own epistemic closure by having people agree with me; but I will only engage once or twice if people argue, and after that I'll ignore/block because tweets never changed anybody's mind about their politics). BUT I won't do that with close friends or family, I mainly just steer clear of all that politics/religion mess in that context (yet another reason I don't do facebook).

On the other hand, I don't see conflict avoidance as necessarily the pinnacle of character development. When I HAVE had political discussions with family it has sometimes resulted in some broader thinking and changed minds, so it can be helpful in moderation. There's nothing wrong with a thoughtful defense of your position, as long as everybody stays respectful. You also have to pick your battles (there are folks I just would never, ever go there with, because no good would come of it).

G.M. said...

I'm in category #2 for Facebook. I have two novels with very different main characters. Shui Ying from China is about love, family and hoping to fulfill her dream. She has no interest in political fights. Petra from Germany is about helping the people via fighting the corporate elite in the streets of Manhattan. Via her story, which also includes bond with family and an interesting love triangle, teenagers read about social,economic and political issues which allow them to form their own views and discuss them with others. So, instead of arguing with others about issues, I let Petra presents my personal views about many issues in a setting of YA fiction.

Jessica Brockmole said...

Interesting questions!

I am definitely a #2, so much that I hesitate to post an opinion about much of anything on FB. I hate being inadvertently pulled into an argument.

Because of that, I'm running into a little trouble with my current characters, who are both (thus far) #1s. They're driving me nuts and I keep wishing that everyone can just sit down with a nice cup of tea and get along. It's always a challenge (though, I think a necessary one) to write characters unlike ourselves.

Jessica Brockmole said...

Oh, and have you seen this? SO TRUE!!