Myth: All Vegans Agree
Not all vegans are alike. And Facebook is not a forum for debate.
Sometimes you have to learn this the hard way. I rarely express my disagreement with someone’s post on Facebook, since for whatever reason, too often than not healthy debate ends up ugly with personal insults and hurtful generalizations. However, the other day, I thought that if I questioned an assumption made by a new friend on an issue that we both felt strongly about and from what I thought, we were on the same side–for the sake of argument, let’s call it “animal rights”–I’d be safe from such mud slinging. Apparently not. Within minutes, my polite disagreement with a claim made in my friend’s post was berated, I was called some pretty hateful things that were the opposite of what someone who feels strongly about this issue such as I should be called, and a third party was called into the ring to provide my now opponent with back up insults and big words* in a bullying style attempt to belittle me further.
*[Please note, dear Facebook users, big words do not equate to knowledge or facts;
often they just make you look like a pedantic ignoramus.]
Can you imagine my dismay? I thought that people were more open to a little questioning of bald statements they make on Facebook. As long as the debate is decorous and impersonal, why should one take offense? But obviously, the basic rules of healthy argument are consistently not followed online. People can much too easily hide behind their computer screens, troll the net and telecommunicate expletives your way in the safety of their own personal dungeons. When did name-calling become ok? It took me a good week to recover from that incident, not because I can’t handle someone calling me terrible things, but because (a) the insults were aimed at an aspect of my ethical belief system in which I take great pride, and (b) it came from someone who I thought shared the same basic beliefs as I did.
And the latter is the moral of today’s blog post (more so than the more obvious lesson learned from debating online): Do not assume that just because you share a certain set of ethics and values with someone that you will instantaneously become friends. You may have arrived to your conclusions about life differently than they, to the point that you will vehemently disagree on aspects of your morality.
Veganism is the perfect example. Just because I’m vegan, doesn’t mean I automatically get along with all other vegans. I might be vegan mainly for animal rights reasons, whereas John might be vegan purely for health reasons and Jane might be vegan only for concerns over the environment. While that doesn’t mean I cannot get along with John or Jane, it also doesn’t mean that I will. Our respective vegan badges do very little to convince me that we will be friends. John may be vegan, but also a misogynist, Jane might be vegan, but also a homophobe. Or there’s also the chance that either of them are vegan and completely unhinged.
At the risk of sounding somewhat pedantic myself, when coming from an academic background replete with requirements for citations, primary sourcing and peer-reviewed backing of any claim made, and a general acceptance and encouragement of questioning, criticism and alternative thinking, one is often painfully reminded of the lack of this when trying to argue opposing theories in the real world. And by “real world” I also mean that which the Internet, and particularly Facebook, has created.
As for my new offensive Facebook friend and me, we’re still technically “friends” online, I just don’t follow this person’s news feed anymore… and one day, I will slip away, preferably unnoticed.
–You can always follow Salad in a Steakhouse on Facebook(!)
by liking my page at www.facebook.com/saladinasteakhouse