Erick Rommel

If there’s one area where Facebook excels, it’s in proving that a photo is truly worth a thousand words.

In many cases, those words vary based upon who’s looking at the picture. The photos I see of my family and friends will probably speak to you differently than they do to me. But, occasionally, there are images in social media that show, deep down, we all speak a common language.

Take Grumpy Cat, for example. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, those two words speak volumes. If you’re not familiar with Grumpy Cat, let me explain.

I’ll start with the obvious. Grumpy Cat is a picture of a cat that looks grumpy. People share versions of the picture, each featuring the same photo, but with a different caption. For example, one Harry Potter-related picture shows Grumpy Cat with the caption, “My patronus is a dementor.” Another states, “I liked Titanic. My favorite character was the iceberg.”

When sharing a picture, are you trading personal dignity for a snarky low blow?

If you like Grumpy Cat, the photos are a quick, humorous diversion. If you despise Grumpy Cat, find solace knowing that Grumpy Cat’s 15 minutes of fame will soon be over. In the end, Grumpy Cat is harmless.

But what about other photos shared on Facebook and other social media? Many see them as creative ways to express personal beliefs. But what about those who disagree? One person’s cute photo can be another’s hateful attack.

Some images are designed to provoke conversation. If you’re sharing them, you’re sharing your opinion. Don’t be shocked if someone responds with an alternate view. If you reply, remember the golden rule of communication — disagree without being disagreeable.

That’s a hard rule to remember. Things you would never say to a person’s face are typed without a second thought. Your witty comeback may be someone else’s unimaginable insult.

Some online arguments remind me of an old prayer, “Lord, I’ll fight my battles on my own. But make me strong.”

When I was younger, I embraced that prayer. I believed anything was possible, if only I had the strength to see it through. Now that I’m older, I realize it’s an empty prayer as well. No matter how strong you are on your own, you always will be stronger with those you know and trust by your side.

My prayers have changed. I no longer pray for the strength to fight battles, but for the vision to find common ground. Failing that, I pray to find ways to disagree without being disagreeable.

When you see a photo online, treat it in the way it’s intended. If it’s funny, laugh. If it’s tragic, cry. But, if it’s offensive, think before taking offense. Can you disagree without being disagreeable? Is it a battle worth fighting? Is it a battle you need to fight?

The same goes when sharing a picture. Does it express your views in a way you’re proud of? Are you trading personal dignity for a snarky low blow?

If you feel strongly about what an image says, by all means share it. A picture might express your views more eloquently than any long-winded paragraph. But never forget to disagree without being disagreeable.