Contentious Coffee Challenge; Rising Above Social Media Squabbles & Mending Partisan Divides

By Lauren Wagner¦ 1/29/17¦8:08 AM CST¦ ©  

It’s hard to ignore how divided we are right now. So, let’s face it head on instead. I truly believe that Americans fundamentally have always, and will always share more common values and deeply held beliefs than they differ on. Our current state of affairs undeniably doesn’t reflect that unity. We’re walled off in ideological silos, limiting ourselves with online echo chambers, and it’s time for us to move on to trying something different. It’s time to put our country back together. Lets do it DESPITE the politicians, the media, the blame game, and the ugliness that corrupts us.

If arguing on social media was going to solve anything I’m sure it would have by now, because many of us are practically professionals. Instead, these web-centric communications have led to many devastating real-world consequences and strained countless valuable relationships to a new level.

No matter which ‘side’ you support these heated debates and argument themselves represent the enduring passions we ALL have for our great country. We’ve argued because we loyally love America, and we believe in it. We’ve been heated because we’re patriots.

In the spirit of that common ground I’m challenging you to do your part in helping us mend this partisan divide on a grassroots level. I challenge you to reach out to someone you have disagreed with on a social media platform and ask them to meet you in person.

The coffee date or dinner, or Skype session may be nerve-racking and contentious at first, but face-to-face communication is a vital key we’ve been missing. Without it we have a much harder time understanding one another, finding empathy for each other, and maintaining a mutually respectful dialog. Without it we’ve been reduced to the online debates and meme-wars we’ve been having over everything from fake news and crowd size to foreign interventions in our election. We’re better than that, I think we know it, and it’s about time we start to prove it.

As an icebreaker for your contentious conversations I have included a few tips & a list of 5 things most of us can agree on:

No one likes these Labels…and none of us have ever seen anything quite like this before! This divide between the right and left is as bad as it’s been in any of our lifetimes. Liberals and conservatives have grown further apart and our culture has been saturated with rising animosity as a result. We’ve labeled one another with tag words like “snowflake”, “libtard” and “racist”. If we disagree we simply write each other off as misinformed or hateful. These labels are not only hurtful, but they’re limiting us, and the caricatures we’ve created can’t possibly speak for all of us. If you feel tempted to apply one of these labels in conversation take it as a sign that you should ask questions instead.
Something connected us in the first place. Disagreements have happened among friends, families, co-workers and high school acquaintances alike, but those family units and community connections are part of what makes us great. Some common experience, shared interest or family bonds connected us in the first place. Try to remember those things focus on the positives and begin with talking about them.
The children are watching! Most parents hope that they teach their children to respect others, respect life, and that they’ll have the ability to resolve differences and maintain relationships. We want them to be patriotic. We hope that they value the sanctity of fairness, and hope that they can be protected from institutional harm. If we, as adults, are constantly severing ties, breaking down our communities, and “unfriending” one another we’re sealing the fate of their future conflict resolution skills. We’re also not being honest with them. We lie when we let them think we’re better off divided than united, and they deserve the same communities full of respectful disagreements we grew up with.
Most of us believe America is best when united. No matter who you blame for it we can all agree that our government doesn’t work when they’re not working together and it’s the American people who suffer. Our government works for us, and it works best when we show respective value to each party; rather than attributing all value to one party.
We seem to have had a misunderstanding. One resounding message we got from the election is that our parties are out of touch with their citizens as well as with each other. That has made it hard for us to understand one another, but it’s worth it to ask questions and openly listen to answers. If you’ve said or done something particularly ugly online, apologize in person. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will clear the air and allow the conversation to move forward. After all, we’re all in this together.
I know we can chip away at polarization in our everyday life if we challenge ourselves and face it. If you accept the challenge, good luck! I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to share your experiences.

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