No particular situation provoked this note. I have been dwelling on it for several years now. There are a few health-related topics I have made the decision to generally not discuss in an online forum—namely on my blog, on facebook or on my business websites. These subjects include but are not limited to infant male circumcision, vaccinations and elective abortion. My reason for not discussing these issues online is not because I do not have sustained and personal views on the issues, but because the online forum severely limits the ability to have a real and productive discussion. When online, I believe we individuals (even those who might ordinarily be very kind and respectful) have the propensity to reduce the topics to mere ideas, opinions, statistics, anecdotes, conjecture and at times attacks—forgetting that we are interacting with real people and not simply philosophies. Discussing opinions on controversial matters is vitally important and I highly support it, but when done online with such polarizing subjects, civility and objectivity wane or are even absent—all in the name of so called facts and truth. We forget that there is more than one side to the issue and that everyone brings different circumstances to the table. I don’t think kindness should ever be absent from telling the truth or the facts, but it often is in these subjects. I understand the passion on both sides of each discussion and that they are subjects that are deeply meaningful to many of us individuals. But when I cannot be face to face with others, discussing the issues, remembering that I am talking to and about human beings, I find the online discussions more divisive than engaging or helpful. We are not simply debating ideas, we are talking to people. And having short postings and quips does not allow for adequate contextual meaning. The online arguments over these subjects do not in my modest observations provoke constructive thinking or informed decision making.
Many may argue that the reason they feel it is so important to bat these things around online is for the sake of the people who might be potentially physically damaged (as a result of having or not having one of the aforementioned interventions). I do believe that that is the intent in these individual’s heart, but the common result it leads to—attacks, often bitter, generalized and dogmatic statements on both sides, putting others down who do not agree with what we are saying—are results that reveal far less compassion for people in general. To lack compassion and a willingness to meet people where they are at that moment in need, I see as a much larger tragedy than not getting your message across. If we are truly in the business of informed consent, evidence-based practice, independent decision making, free thinking, family advocacy, family education, then we need to practice what we are preaching to “the other side.” In the health/birth world, we often vilify that “other side” as being coercive, dogmatic, paternalistic, pushy, condescending, [insert your own words]…yet we turn around and do the exact same thing to others—some of these people coming to us needing help and guidance and we actually abuse that vulnerability and call it "being passionate." This is a huge misconduct and goes against what we supposedly are promising to do. The way we say things, the words we use, the tone with which we say things and the overall relationship and care for the other person are every bit as important as the information itself. And frankly, sometimes what we call our "passion" can sometimes skew our ability to understand that information, context and evidence. With this thoughts-on-paper entry I am not trying to send people a message that they should make the same decision I have about posting publicly on these issues, but just wanted to share why I have chosen not to do so. I am not trying to come across as saintly nor do I desire to avoid controversial subjects, just sharing my reasons.
So, I have chosen personally to reserve these important discussions (that do need to be had) to times when I can sit down over a cup of coffee, look into my friend’s, students, client’s acquaintance’s eyes and know they are real people with real histories and real questions and concerns and that I can offer my opinion with no obligation or dogma and challenge both of our thinking, all with kindness, compassion and love—This is why I got into nursing, childbirth education and health counseling and this is what I love.