I keep my Facebook universe relatively small. With a few exceptions my friends list is comprised of family; ‘real life’ friends; high school, college and grad school peers; and some coworkers. I post pictures of my daughter. I ‘Like’ photos that my family and friends post, I ‘like’ and comment on the jokes people post, and I keep in contact with extended family and friends I never see. The usual Facebook crap. Oh, and I post a steady stream of ‘controversial’ stuff; such as leftist politics, anti-anti science, and of course atheism and antitheism; though I try to keep the frequency of such things down. I’m not trying to stay on the safe side and avoid confrontation, but in order to not clutter news feeds and become overwhelming, annoying, and therefore ignored; I think it is important to be selective in what I post.
I usually joke that I am trying to lose friends, but this isn’t really the case. I just do not feel the need to censor myself and, honestly, I think the media is so poor in America that I try and post things that are never covered by mainstream media. I always have that thought in the back of my head that I would like to delete my Facebook account or just cull my friends list down to family and close friends for pictures and polite communication. Three things always stop me. These three things seem more important to me after the Reason Rally and reading some reactions to it.
First, I feel like my activity on Twitter—while fun and valuable (by someone’s standards)—is basically ‘preaching to the choir.’ I follow a lot of atheists and a lot of atheists follow me. Twitter is where I like to scroll though and see what people are reading when they tweet articles and whatnot. For a lack of a better term: it is my place for social media confirmation bias (though I try and temper that). Facebook, conversely, is much more diverse. I have friends and family that are all over the religious and political spectrum. When I post something on there I am usually thinking “Ok who will like this and who will get pissed.” I don’t want to piss people off, per se, but I would like to have stimulating conversations with these people. Even if they do not engage, I at least I hope read something they normally wouldn’t read and think about it.
Second, I know a decent amount of the “inactive” atheists or apatheists out there and they wouldn’t normally go out and find some of this stuff to read and think about. More importantly, I know some people are that are closeted atheists that want to “Like” the Left Hemispheres page on Facebook (ß DO IT!), but can’t due to fear of friends, family and co-workers potentially noticing. I get Facebook emails from people wanting to talk about certain topics or telling me “right on, man!” I’m not going to lie; that feels pretty good.
Third and finally, a funny thing has happened while I have been ‘trying to lose friends’ by being an open atheist. People I wouldn't expect to ‘Like’ my statuses have begun to hit that ‘Like’ button lately. These are people that still attend Catholic Mass, Protestant services and maybe a few people with nebulous pantheistic or deistic beliefs (though they would be confused by those terms). These are people that I had assumed ‘hid’ me in their news feeds because I never hear from them and I know they are believers. I thought I annoyed them or offended them. This did not bother me in the slightest, but that is what I assumed. Now I’m not saying that I’m some ‘master atheist’ that is de-converting the faithful. I don’t even care to. I’m just hopeful that they are starting to think about the beliefs and doctrines that they have taken for granted or were told not to think about.
Just entertaining the thought that one’s deeply held beliefs may not be true is a step towards rationalism. Even if one holds onto the belief in the supernatural, that seed of doubt is good for human relations. It allows an individual to suddenly realize they may not know the truth. They may not have a monopoly on morality. They aren’t better than the person they were told they are better than. They maybe shouldn’t hate the person they were told to hate. It allows real conversations to begin. It starts internally and then moves to the external where humanity is waiting.