noun the state of being reticent, or reserved, especially with regard to speaking freely; restraint: His natural reticence seemed to disappear under the influence of alcohol.

 One of the things that has been ingrained on my psyche the last three plus years especially is that speaking one's mind comes with definite consequences. Sometimes, those consequences are that we'll lose friends because we come down on opposite sides of an issue that's a deal breaker for the other person.

The autism community feels increasingly fractured, splintered into smaller and smaller subsets as people in the community feel strongly about their beliefs regarding autism and relating topics. It's beyond surreal to see the same topic (like the recent conference in New Hampshire) discussed by different facebook friends in completely polar opposite ways--the conference was co-sponsored by Syracuse University's woo-master Biklen and ASAN. So, my friends that work hard to combat the spread of facilitated communication posted one way, and my ASAN friends, whose emphasis is on autistics participating fully and inclusively, posted another way. Reticence, at least, on this issue, seemed the only way to avoid battle lines being drawn. I dislike facebook drama.

Another recent (as of this weekend) difference is the reaction to a New York Times op-ed on autism, immune systems and WORMS as a possible treatment (which I covered two years ago). Again, it's a bit surreal to see several facebook friends on opposite sides of this issue.

And if we leave autism and just look at general beliefs, it gets even more polarized. Politics? I have a constant stream of Obama lovers and haters coming across my feed. It's enough to make my head spin. I have friends who feel strongly enough to defriend others over these political differences. Religion? Oh my. I have atheist friends, agnostics, Christians, and some holy-rollers, as well, so it can be whiplash-inducing to read my newsfeed.

It leaves me, since again, I don't care for facebook drama, rarely commenting on those kinds of pieces, and never posting about religion or politics. I'll settle for posting links to my pieces, pictures of my kids, my cats, my garden.

I will and do practice reticence, not just on facebook, but in the real world, as well. Politics and religion aren't things I'm going to argue with a person about. I might discuss with my parents, but it's never vitriolic. I fundamentally don't get being that polarized and guided by emotion on these two topics nor in wasting my emotional energy on these topics.

There aren't any right answers when it comes to these two topics, so I don't get being invested in it. Right now, in the atheist community, there appears to be hoopla regarding something being called atheism +, so the divides are there even in the subsets. I don't understand being part of an atheism movement, nor do I equate skepticism with atheism. I just don't understand the need to tear people down over their religious beliefs, or lack of.

I can't help but feel that much of the drama online is manufactured. It's a distraction from the real world, from daily living, much like shooters, role playing games or good old-fashioned solitaire are.

I suppose I'm stepping away from my reticence on speaking about these topics to say this: I have enough real world shit to deal with without making up online drama. I'm not interested in fighting over anyone's belief system as it relates to religion or politics. I'll even keep quiet on things going on in the autism world that I think are problematic and symptomatic of a population of people who want badly to believe in miracles at the expense of reality simply because when a situation is a no-win situation, fighting it is either noble in a tilting at windmills kind of way or because, as I've said many times before, it's tantamount to pissing into the wind.

All of it, as I watch it play across my facebook feed, actually tires me out. There are things that matter: which party will best protect the rights of women to control their own bodies, which party will provide stability and direction that provides protection not just to the vulnerable populations in America but in the world as well, which party will stop the erosion of our rights, which party will demonstrate a moral high ground and look to doing the right thing over the politically expedient thing. And trying to parse those things is enough to make anybody's head to explode. And to make a person despair.

Reticence is often the expedient thing--keeping our mouths shut over things that can cause us more grief than it's worth dealing with, but expediency is not always, not often, the moral high ground. I can be reticent when it comes to directly confronting facebook friends--it's not the appropriate venue. I can be reticent when it comes to discussing individuals--after all, if what's important to me are the evidence for claims, who makes the claims is irrelevant. I can focus on big picture things that make a real difference in people's lives and let the small stuff go by without comment or judgment.

We form our beliefs, often without a full awareness of where those beliefs are coming from or how our unconscious keeps us in the dark about disconfirming evidence. I can cut people slack and not make the assumption that they're wrong and I'm right--some topics have NO right answers.

And perhaps most importantly, I can learn where it's appropriate to be reticent and where it is paramount to shout from the mountaintops, consequences be damned. Everyone has some windmills they must tilt at, after all. Learning to respect others' right to do that is an important step in learning to let go of the need to control and right-fight.


kathleen said...

Yes. :)

Dixie Redmond said...

Kim, every on e in anwhile it might be fun to see someone else's newsfeed. I've started adding in more humorists on Twitter. I agree that I have enough stuff to deal with. And yet sometimes I apparently can't help myself! I'm working on that!

sharon Morris said...

I struggle to know when to be reticent, or otherwise. It's something I'm woking on. But watching others argue and bait each other online confirms that many people thrive on drama. And I can't help wonder what better ways they could channel all that energy in their lives?