In light of Robin Williams’ death, Facebook has become “a perfect storm” of psychological, philosophical, theological, moral, and sociological debates. Yet, no one is distinguishing their particular perspective. These five different disciplines and categories are all vying to be right when they don’t even speak the same language or even attribute the primacy of action to the same things.
This Is why I don’t think Facebook is the right place for this (or many other issues that we debate on there). Facebook would be the perfect medium by which you can invite others into a respectable conversation. You could have them over for dinner, grab a cup of coffee, or go for a hike with them. Once in that setting then maybe you could discuss such a sensitive topic as suicide. You can sit down and compare the various blogs that have responded to the issue and discuss what you agree with, what you don’t, and why. All of this can happen with the peace of mind that someone is not going to kick in your door screaming at your for being a various number of things that you really never considered yourself (This is essentially what the comments section does). You can listen intently to how suicide or depression has impacted their life either because of temptation or losing someone. Or maybe you can share how it impacted your life.
This is not the time, nor is Facebook the place, to assert why your views on suicide are superior and why you understand this nuanced aspect of it that no one else does. Not to mention, you are likely expressing an opinion, an informed opinion maybe, but an opinion nonetheless (I’m not belittling science or teachings of the Church. I believe many of those things are true, and are objectively true. But it is my opinion that they are. My assent to their truth is not objective truth, but opinion/subjective truth). And people will lock you into that opinion, they will begin to graft other opinions that aren’t yours onto you.
Posting a blog with a very sympathetic approach to the matter could easily lead someone to go, “Hmmm, Tom Bombadil seems awful soft on this suicide issue, he must be for euthanasia too.” Or maybe you think the act itself is categorically wrong, but the culpability (responsibility) on the person is situational but people begin to assume this, “Wow, Theoden took a really hard line on suicide, he must be like those people who think suicide is a straight shot to hell, no questions asked. He probably hates x, y, and z people too.” Or maybe you aren’t a materialist so alongside the science you wish to express the spiritual component, but this is what people walk away with, “Gandalf seems to think suicide is spiritual; like what everyone who commits suicide is possessed?”
I know, I know, some of these opinions might jump to some extreme conclusions, but they can happen. And the problem with opinions is (to butcher a line from Matthew Kelly), We all demand the right to change our opinions but withhold the privilege of changing them from others. We lock people into an opinion they expressed 4 years ago and then define them around it.
So instead of the Facebook debates, the loss of Robin Williams should remind us that others around the world face similar issues, but they aren’t the only ones with struggles.
We all have issues.
We all have stories.
We all have opinions.
And we all need meaningful relationships. Unfortunately, Facebook has become a tool of great campism and division. But, it could be a great tool for unity and reconciliation. Don’t let the tools of Facebook reduce our complexity, our sensitivity, and our concern for one another to one-upmanship and the silent shouting of black letters outlined on a white screen.
A friend of mine mentioned taking wisdom from the Bible, let us do just that. Christ sought to have meaningful relationships with people as He shared the good news. He had meetings in secret with Nicodemus, he ate with sinners and tax collectors, he called Zaccheus out of the tree, He dined with a pharisee, He walked with the two on the Road to Emmaus, He spent 3 years with 12 men from all walks of life, He conversed with a Samaritan woman, and He rebuked His disciples for turning away little children. Yes he preached, and he shared hard truths, but he also took the time to build relationships. I think wisdom would tell us that this is a great opportunity for the latter.
Your friend who is disagreeing with you, might just be the one who needs the help that men and women like Robin Williams could have needed. And don’t forget we all need prayers.
So please, use Facebook to unite to have meaningful conversations as you build substantial relationships. Use it to post prayers for those who struggle with suicide, self-harm, addiction, and depression.
And instead of posting opinion pieces maybe we can share these resources: