I am not required to debate you

The last several days have been hard. As you likely know if you’ve been following this blog for a while (or any other social media accounts held or run by this blog’s author), I am outspoken about several issues.

A little background:
It is no secret that I have two Facebook accounts. One is very private with the test for acceptance of a “friend” being: a) have I met this individual in person; b ) do I like them; and c) am I comfortable with them seeing pictures of my children? If someone cannot pass all three tests (with flying colours in the cases of the latter two questions), they are not welcome on my private Facebook profile.

My public Facebook profile was set up years ago when I ran for City Council in 2010. I made the decision that I wanted to be able to communicate with as many people as possible without welcoming them onto my personal and private Facebook page. (At the time, Facebook didn’t have nice lists to limit access to certain posts and all of that jazz.) I have long used my public Facebook to express concern, discontent, and many other things about the issues of the day, particularly related to local politics, feminism, sexual violence, racism, etc. To say that my posts are not always well-received would be…an understatement.

Now, onto the events of the last week:
The news cycle of the last week has been hard for a lot of us. It seems the #MeToo movement has made its way to Canada, and we’ve seen several high profile men in politics accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I knew one of them. I knew him well enough that I was upset by the allegations, and – whilst I always take the position of believing survivors – I also know better than most in the community that there is an extremely high probability that her story is truthful. (Again, we should always be taking survivors seriously for numerous reasons related to the difficulties for women to report, most especially because false accusations are extremely rare.)

As often happens on my public Facebook profile, people get riled up by the things I say. Except for two brief comments yesterday, I have always been respectful, and – even if/when I’ve wanted to, because I’m just so exhausted – I have never shut down conversation. Ever.

The things that people say publicly to and about me on that Facebook profile (and especially the private messages I received yesterday) are often mean-spirited and often abusive.

There is a very real sense from some people that if I post something, I am required to: a) engage in conversation; b) allow people to have at it and say anything they want; c) debate people; and d) respect everyone’s opinion.

Thing is, I’m actually not required to do any of these things. Just like no one is required to do any of these things with or for me.

Substitute “Facebook,” “my blog,” or any other social media platform, and Julie Lalonde’s point continues to stand.

Yesterday got completely out of control, and I only posted half a dozen very short comments in response to anyone. On one post there were more than 100 comments, and every time I logged into Facebook yesterday, I had comment/reaction notifications and private messages. At one point, I was accused of rape (presumably to ‘teach me a lesson’) and whilst many of the comments were mean-spirited, disrespectful, and insulting, most of the private messages were inappropriate and mildly threatening.

By the end of the day, I decided to temporarily deactivate that Facebook account. I was emotionally exhausted and felt like I’d been physically beaten up.

I will reactivate the account eventually, probably soon, because I have to for reasons related to numerous projects I’m working on, but everyone should know two things.

The first (and as I said yesterday), no one is required to engage with anything I say on that Facebook profile. The suggestions that I’m a bully or a dictator or anything of the like are some of the most ridiculous things I’ve read. I hold no power over anyone; no one is in any manner obligated to respond to me or otherwise engage with my Facebook posts; and the same people who accuse me of bullying or being some variety of dictator are the same ones who’ve posted awful things about me being somehow “damaged” or slung insults at me (and I’ve never returned fire).

The second is that I am not required to engage, debate, permit a free-for-all, or respect your opinion (especially if it’s not based on anything factual).

3 thoughts on “I am not required to debate you

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