Jim Beam column:Conversation cools conflict – American Press

Jim Beam column:Conversation cools conflict – American Press

Jim Beam column: Conversation cools conflict

Published 06:52 Saturday, December 10, 2022

Americans don’t talk to each other much these days, but they do communicate. Unfortunately, most of the time it is only with emails or through social media sites.

We can take some comfort, I think, because it seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker about the issue during Macron’s recent visit to the US

“Emotion is always stronger than argumentation,” Macron said. “And negative emotion is stronger than positive emotion. So on many of these social platforms, negative emotions, feelings are the ones that prevail. And during the last few years we’ve had such a resurgence of violence, hate speech and a kind of inability of our own societies to live together.”

Macron said we must restore democratic and respectful conversation and exchange opinions and ideas. We can end up agreeing or sometimes agreeing to disagree, he said.

“Social media itself is not the problem,” according to lifespan.org which runs award-winning Rhode Island hospitals. “It’s the way people use it in lieu of real communication and personal socialization. “Friends” on social media may not actually be friends and may even be strangers.”

During my 62 years in the news industry, I have spoken on the phone many times with angry or upset readers. Most of the time we gave each other time to say our peace. Sometimes it solved the problem because we had a chance to explain what or why something happened. Other times we agreed to disagree, but on friendlier terms.

It is extremely difficult to do this on social media. For example, one of our conservative readers sent me TikTok videos designed to reinforce his political views. I try to avoid replying to those types of emails because it’s a losing proposition, but I broke my own rule.

We had some heated exchanges and I ended up asking him if he knew that TikTok is a Chinese app that causes some national security issues. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like TikTok, which is much better than our newspaper.

After that exchange, I wondered what might happen if the two of us had an opportunity to sit down and have a quiet conversation. Some news reports may have answered that question.

“Nation’s health may depend on people getting to know each other again” headlined an August 20 column in The Advocate. It was written by Lynn Schmidt, a columnist and editorial member of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“Our country is in a very dark place right now,” Schmidt said. “But I have hope, because the answers are all around us. They live around us. For thousands of years, wise men have extolled the virtues of loving your neighbor. Now is the perfect time to go out and do it.”

Schmidt said a 2018 Pew Research Center poll showed 57 percent of those who responded said they knew only some or none of their neighbors. That climbed to 72 percent among 30- to 49-year-olds and to 78 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds.

I recently got an upper body massage for a nagging neck problem. The woman who did the massage turned out to be a former neighbor whose family lived around the corner from my house for some time.

Her husband often worked in the yard and I thought of going there one day and getting acquainted. Unfortunately they moved away before I could manage it.

“Step out of your comfort zone on some topics” was the headline on another column in The Advocate on Wednesday. It was written by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review.

Lopez was recently in the Dallas area and said, “I finally talked about some of the most controversial topics with my Uber driver. Abortion occurred early and often.”

Then she gave this advice: “It may seem funny, but don’t be afraid to have conversations with people you don’t know and may not agree with everything. One person at a time we can see that different opinions can be a beautiful way to understand ourselves, each other and the world. We don’t always have to be enemies.”

So true, so true. This has happened to me a lot when I could have a conversation with someone.

Every now and then we need to put down our cell phones, step away from our computers and catch up on conversations we haven’t had with friends, neighbors and others. Social media is not the best solution.

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