5 Steps on How to Handle the Hating
A pro-life activist quickly becomes accustomed to being insulted on the streets. With the advent of social media, though, a whole new world of creative mockery of pro-lifers has opened up. For instance, when I posted a call in my University of Waterloo Class of 2019 Facebook group for all those interested to get involved in my campus’ pro-life group, someone thought it clever to share this in the comments:
I found this comic extremely frustrating because it compares a human being to a steak! Once that is understood, this “funny” comic actually becomes really repulsive. A human being that no one “ordered” is wasteful? And for the last time, pro-lifers do care about human beings post-birth!
I didn’t respond to the guy who posted it though. Was that the right choice? Maybe. I don’t think there always is a straightforward answer in regards to what one should do when one encounters such ignorance. Nevertheless, here’s some not-so-expert advice (which, admittedly, I myself don’t even follow half the time) to serve as a guideline to proper pro-life etiquette on social media:
#1: Don’t feed the trolls
This is common wisdom on the internet that really needs to be reinforced because someone always falls prey to the trolls. When I first began foraging in cyberspace, I got sucked into many debates, believing that my interlocutors were just a few short comments away from enlightenment. I eventually realized my error. Another objection always arises. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever participate in an online debate, especially because you never know whose minds might be opened or even changed by reading your comments, but recognize that the usefulness of these debates are, generally speaking, limited. Face-to-face conversations are much more preferable, so be prudent about how you devote your time.
#2: Remember that it’s not about you.
Considering it my personal mission to educate on life issues, I spend probably too much time curating the perfect pro-life articles and memes for my Facebook wall. Therefore, I take offense when, as I scroll through my newsfeed, I see that someone I know has liked a post that typecasts social conservatives as stupid or hateful or something like that. They know me! They know I’m not like that! I’ll exclaim. Chances are, though, that they weren’t thinking of me at all when they liked it, and I simply have more work to do when it comes to dispelling myths about fellow pro-lifers, which brings me to my next point:
This was a great tip that I received on the subject of people taking pictures of or filming us doing pro-life activism. Obviously, it requires some translation for confronting taunting online, but the sentiment remains the same. This is the thing: pro-choicers don’t have to be nice. I’m not saying that there aren’t nice pro-choicers—I’m saying they’ve already won the public’s and mainstream media’s sympathy. Pro-lifers, on the other hand, are held to a higher standard. We have to carry the burden of the stereotype of the crazy bigoted “anti-choicer” who just wants to restrict women’s rights and goes around bombing abortion facilities. The only way to disarm this stereotype and others like it is to disprove it. Be loving, polite, gracious, etc. Find common ground whenever possible. Be charitable in your interpretation of pro-choice arguments. Never resort to personal attacks. And if there’s a moment when you can’t summon “sunny ways,” steer clear of conflict.
#4 Vent (in private)
Or pray. Or meditate. Do whatever you need to do in order to de-stress. Facing so much vitriol can really take its toll on a pro-life activist, whether you’re new to backlash or a veteran target of slung mud, so make sure you get support from others if you need it. After a while, we all do.
#5 Get back on your feet
Don’t let the myriad of negativity on the internet keep you down. The babies need you. So persevere in your efforts, whatever they may be. The fight’s not over yet, and we need you, so take a few more hits with us.