If you’re here for ROW80, don’t mind me. Scroll down for my Wednesday update. Or, check out this bit I just wrote today and tell me what you think… I only ask that we keep it civilized, ladies and gentlemen. Any vulgar / inappropriate comments will be deleted. You may not like what you read, but you need to dislike it politely, please and thanks.
Hello, my name is Anna, and I’m a Millennial. As a Millennial (translation: a person born between around 1980-2000), I share certain characteristics with others in my generation: we’re tech-savvy and innovative, we connect to community, we have a desire for recognition and uniqueness, etc. One key characteristic of Millennials is the daily tendency toward relativism in our thinking: “I’m okay. You’re okay. Nobody’s perfect, but nobody’s entirely wrong either. You just see the truth differently than I do; it’s not my place to judge you.” While I know that relativism is a flawed way of thinking, I can’t seem to stop it.
Let me make this idea more concrete, for the sake of discussion. I’ve been noticing a lot of posts on Facebook lately (because social media is definitely characteristic of my generation) about various controversial, life-related topics. Two recent stories stand out to me: several states (including our own) are allowing gay marriages, and a young woman with brain cancer is choosing an early euthanasia for herself, rather than suffer the debilitating effects of the disease. The people who have posted these stories seem to agree with their contents: thumbs-up for gay marriage, and thumbs-up for euthanasia. “What a beautiful story!,” or so they say.
I know two things for certain. The first is that my friends and a good chunk of the general population are, in fact, wrong (or at least distinctly misinformed)… I confess that even typing that sentence was a challenge for this Millennial. All these people in the stories are beautiful, because they are humans with dignity and have been made in the image of God, but these choices they are making are not good, or holy, or wholesome, or beneficial to the global community.
The second thing I know for certain is that it is not my job to correct the vast wrong-ness of the internet. This reminds me of the meme from the internet: “I can’t go to sleep! Someone on the internet is wrong!” I don’t want to be “that kid” who spends his or her time trolling on the internet and trumpeting opinions for everyone to hear (and disagree with). And so I’m caught between a little blue button and a little blue thumbs-up: to comment, or to ignore? Whether I should be ashamed by my decisions, I haven’t decided, but I’ve chosen to ignore them. Every single time. And my conscience writhes within me.
I realize I can’t fix everything… and yet, I can fix some things, if I am strong enough to forego relativism. As a Millennial – or, perhaps as an individual – I don’t like conflict. I don’t like telling people they’re wrong. I love to convince myself that everyone is “okay,” even if they’re not. It worries me: I catch myself being apathetic or distant in many situations, because I just don’t know how to handle these kinds of conflict.
On a personal level, I’m concerned about my decisions to ignore these posts: is the fact that I don’t speak up a sin? This concept is contrasted against those chain-mail-style posts that say, “Share and like this picture if you love Jesus! If you don’t, you’ll burn in hell.” Really? We can all roll our eyes at those kinds of pictures, but my question still stands: what am I morally obligated to do, if anything, in a situation where my friends post articles I know are wrong? May I keep scrolling and ignore the posts I disagree with, or must I speak up? Or is there some middle ground I can be content with?
If I had to answer myself on these questions, I know exactly what I’d say. I’d pull the “pastoral” card, and cling to the “build a personal relationship before addressing conflict” adage. But I feel like that’s a weak, idealistic answer with little grounding or practical application. I could spend a lifetime “building relationships” and never become comfortable bringing up the conflict. One of the spiritual works of mercy is admonishing sinners, but how are we supposed to do that, from one Millennial to another?
Is this challenge of relativism I face – both on Facebook and in my daily life – a personal flaw in my character, or a problem that faces our whole generation? If it’s a generational issue (and I suspect it is, at least partially), in which occasions will I be held accountable for my brothers and sisters of the human race?