The internet can be a dark and soul-sucking web of despair, and Facebook groups and comment sections hold the worst of humanity. Everyone is a keyboard warrior, and folks run headfirst into arguments with what they think are the most important opinions, smartest thoughts, and hottest takes in the room. But as sure as someone has something to say, someone will disagree and happily vocalize their reasons why. Just because someone feels bold enough to say something, doesn’t mean they’re always confident enough to let their comments stand. Sometimes when an original poster (OP) doesn’t like the backlash they’re getting, they delete their post, thus deleting all comments in response to the OP. This is called “dirty deleting,” and it’s rude AF.
I’m in several groups where dirty deleting is cause for removal from the group because it shows a low level of emotional intelligence and polices the tone of those who have something to say in response. It lacks culpability and shows cowardice.
Not dirty deleting should be the first rule everyone agrees to when walking into the ring of Facebook groups. If you are going to say something, either stand by it or openly admit you are wrong or willing to change. Hitting the delete button means denying all accountability and—at minimum—erasing someone else’s point of view just because you felt threatened by it or didn’t like it.
I acknowledge that some people are flaming assholes and sometimes delete and block is your best bet when they show up with their sack of isms and ignorance. I am not upset when someone needs to protect their safety or mental health; I am upset when someone feels like they need to protect their image or their pride—and that is usually the root motivation for dirty deleting.
Let’s circle back to the dark hole of despair. Not everything is true all of the time, so this means the internet can also be a great place to learn things. Sometimes both asked-for and unsolicited responses to comments left in Facebook groups facilitate great discussions, even if uncomfortable at times. There is a difference between being attacked and being educated and held to a higher standard. This is where my biggest gripe lies with dirty deleting.
When an OP doesn’t like the tone of a discussion or the comments people are leaving, they claim victim status and delete long threads, conversations that amount to hours of effort and emotional labor, simply because they didn’t like being challenged. The OP may feel embarrassed or bullied. Dirty deleting is a gross sign of insecurity and a sign of unwillingness to learn or be uncomfortable.
In one of the local groups I am in, a parent I know expressed frustration that the elementary school kids were being read I Am Jazz, a picture book written for preschool kids and older that tells the childhood story of transgender woman and activist Jazz Jennings. The parent felt that kind of discussion should happen at home and should be up to the parents to decide if and when to talk about that stuff. Well, that stuff is my stuff, and the stuff of my transgender daughter who was in class with hers.
I made several points that my child’s safety, respect, and acceptance shouldn’t be compromised because she or other parents were uncomfortable. I posted several articles about early conversations with kids about LGBTQIA+ topics and added age appropriate book lists. Other parents added comments too. None of the language was disrespectful or explosive. I was optimistic that I had made good points for her and other parents to digest. Then she DMed me and told me she deleted the post because she didn’t want to look like she wasn’t accepting. She privately apologized but was worried what others would think of her. I was pissed, exhausted, and felt defeated by her inability to see the value in that community conversation.
You need to own your shit, people. If you haven’t heard it before, let me tell you some really important things.
It’s okay to be wrong.
It’s okay for someone to disagree with you.
It’s okay to check your biases.
It’s okay to admit you have some learning to do.
It’s okay to change your mind.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
It’s okay to dig your heels in and claim righteousness.
But it is not okay to pretend like none of it existed by deleting other people’s words—their time and emotional labor—because they made you feel things you didn’t like.
The most heated debates seem to happen when an OP talks over, or doesn’t listen to, marginalized voices or their allies. Agreeing to disagree is not an option when Black folks are explaining the ways they continue to experience systemic racism and violence. Agreeing to disagree about the existence of transgender children is a no-no. Hiding behind religion to love the queer sinner but not the queer sin is bad. Then there are science deniers, anti-vaxxers, and pro-lifers who seem to be oxymorons of themselves. Opposing views with rational arguments fill a thread with valuable counter points, links to articles, lived experiences, and fact checks, but when the OP has had enough, it’s all gone. They delete the post because they claim it has become too toxic, when in reality the most toxic thing was their inability to stay in an adult conversation.
This has happened too many times to me, and it’s maddening. I am often level-headed even in my disagreements with folks. I try to see their side of a topic while still hoping I can help them see where I am coming from. I often take the time to validate my points through studies or research-based articles. I understand I may come from a place of being biased, but I do my best to argue within common ground.
When other folks will chime in, really wonderful perspectives can be shared. I also know more people are reading than responding, and I hope the work I and others are doing—specifically to move equity and humanity forward—is educating other people on the topic at hand too. But in my work as a LGBTQIA+ educator, I know how often people shy away from being wrong or thinking they hurt someone.
When someone starts to see how their original comment could have been worded differently or that they didn’t actually believe what they said because they didn’t understand the topic well enough to believe anything, they often want to make their shame or guilt go away. So they dirty delete. They undo all of the emotional labor and time taken to get to that point instead of rewarding it with proof that people can either change or stay mad in their convictions. That’s not okay.
Strengthen that backbone, folks. You said what you said.