Facebook Posts Don’t Change the Heart

…so what does?

I saw this casual phrase in a Facebook post the other day, and it got me thinking about the state of communication in modern society. It got me thinking about how I write my own articles (that I know many people in my own circle don’t read) and what the point is of communication. It got me thinking about all of the emotion-filled posts I’ve seen recently about this plague of racial violence and discrimination that our society suffers from. It got me thinking about those people in my extended family who I know are racist, and those who think racist things but don’t quite realize it.

More importantly, it got me thinking about religion and philosophy and the pursuit of truth and happiness. I can imagine many people in my Facebook circle to essentially agree with the statement that

“Facebook posts don’t change the heart.”

Political, religious, philosophical, medical, and heck, even dietetic posts on Facebook don’t have any true impact on those around us. If you post something on social media, you can expect your echo chamber to love it and you can expect the rest to ignore it. Such is the luxury of social media.

I am not content, however, living with this maxim. Do people realize what the implications of this statement are these days?

“Facebook posts don’t change the heart.”

Do you know what else doesn’t change the heart? Public conversation. Private conversation. Conversations on internet forums. People waving signs on the side of the road. Scientists with convicting evidence from scientific studies. Politicians who are supposed to wield some weight of public authority. Judges who interpret law. Theologians who build on thousands of years of philosophical and theological thought. In the modern world nothing changes the heart.

Now, I say this in a hyperbolic fashion with a reason. These statements embody a truth that our western society holds but for some reason is not really discussing. The ultimate commodity and truth of the western world is individualityIt’s my world, my way, and everything is what I want it to be. Prior to the advent of the internet many people certainly had their own opinions on everything, but they were more reserved. There wasn’t really a platform to hold them out for everyone else to see and usually there was a deference to authority on important matters.

With the evolution of the internet these limitations on people’s individuality have dissolved, and individuals stand more prominent than ever. In the face of a huge and wide array of opinions that everyone can find on the internet, the average individual is convinced that wading out into the sea of opinion is a lot more dangerous than just sticking it out on their individual island. What’s more, these individuals find that they are not alone in their thoughts (no one usually is alone in anything), and they cling together with like-minded individuals in the midst of this vast sea of chaotic opinions. For more about this weakness of our society, I would suggest listening to this Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast.

“Facebook posts don’t change the heart.”

No, my Facebook post isn’t going to convince my racist uncle that he should change his ways. My Facebook post isn’t going to convince my LGBT friends that they’re living in sin.

“Facebook posts don’t change the heart.”

So, my friends, what does?!

Already amongst millenials it is an unspoken rule that you don’t speak about politics or religion with your friends at in-person gatherings. Speaking about any topic that has moral, life-changing implications is social taboo, and marks you as an evil extremist right from the start. And now, this same mentality is bleeding into social media as well. Facebook and twitter don’t necessarily need to be the grounds, the locus, of meaningful dialogue and conversation, but something needs to.

My previous statements about all of the various other things that also don’t change the heart are obvious hyperbole. Clearly science has changed how some people view the world. Theologians have also drastically changed how some people view the world. Some politicians have clear power and use rhetoric to change minds. Change happens. People are moved. People obviously agree that it is possible for someone to change their mind, and they obviously think that they even have the power to do it. They believe it because they believe they are persevering after a truth.

Everyone thinks a definitive truth exists. Something guides and shapes the rest of the way that we live, the way that we think the universe works. There is a base principal to everyone’s existence, and it’s what we all seek. Even postmoderns (philosophical descendants of relativists) uphold that there is some inevitable truth that shapes the way we understand the world, if there is not at least a definitive truth that has to shape the world. There is no way, though, that we are going to find that truth and share that truth with others if no one agrees on a place where it is socially acceptable to discuss it.

I guarantee that someone who says “Facebook posts don’t change the heart” isn’t finding a way outside of Facebook to change others’ hearts. I also guarantee that those who say, from the start “Unfriend me, don’t comment, don’t message me, just unfriend me” are also engaging in this same exact mentality and problem.

Some already have an idea of a place where it is socially acceptable to discuss opposing points of view. That’s great! I, for one, think Facebook is just a place as good as any. My challenge to you, though? Think about it. Where do you think it is a socially acceptable place to discuss opposing points of view and potential change? Do you frequent that place? Do you engage with the people there? If no place comes to mind, then I suggest you find it, because if you don’t then you forfeit before the debate has even begun.

Don’t have any ideas on how to engage in dialogue with someone else about an opposing point of view without blowing up first about it? Check out this podcast by Catholic Bishop Robert Barron, famous for his recent talks at (politically liberal and secular) Amazon and Google headquarters where he discusses how it is possible to ‘argue’ about religion.

“Facebook posts don’t change the heart.”