January 2, 2018

The trouble with problem solving in public forums

“Complicated problems cannot be solved at the drive-thru window!”

I have had this quote tacked on my whiteboard wall for some time. It wasn’t until I was scrolling through FB page comments and reading some disturbing questions and comments, that I found the inspiration for sharing it.

Studying conversations and interactions on FB pages, Dave? What can I say, it was a slow day here at 100Pedals.

I find a few of the interactions on FB pages insightful. Which is good, considering there was stretch where some of the strings had become incredibly confrontational and irrational. While those behaviors have mostly died down, I still struggle with some of the conversations in the support pages, particularly when people engage in public interactions regarding their private problems, asking for advice and opinion.

Problems are not solved in the court of public opinion

This is what comes to mind as reading some of these interactions, “this is not the forum.” Here’s why I feel this way:

  • The issues being discussed are incredibly personal.
  • They are about other people’s personal business without their permission. (Social Media Truth: There is no such thing as a private conversation in a public forum. No matter how private the room, every conversation is public!)
  • Most of these questions and discussions lack sufficient context or background.
  • They are often focused specifically around one event, decision, or behavior.
  • The nature of the question is directed at what to do in response to something, even though the people being invited to comment have only a snippet of the information necessary to render a healthy, helpful perspective.
  • Many of those being solicited may have similar experiences, but it does not mean they are providing an answer from a healthy, educated understanding of their own personal, complex issues.

Complex problems cannot be solved at the drive-thru window or at the court of public opinion because they are, by nature complicated and have many moving parts and pieces. Complex issues do not come with instant, easy, or simple answers. They require reflection, introspection, and the guidance of someone you trust to guide you through the thought process before making difficult, challenging choices.  Tossing a “what do I do?” inquiry on Facebook fulfills none of these requirements.

The struggle most parents have with issues raising their children, particularly one who is battling a substance abuse or addiction related issue, is we are reluctant to ask for help. We hate to admit we need help. We worry that sharing our problems with someone, even a person we may trust in our local community, will reveal a character flaw or personal failing we would hate to admit to or expose.  Instead, we choose to suffer in silence. We try to manage the chaos despite our limited abilities to do so.  Finally, in an act of desperation we go to some “safe” semi-anonymous forum, like FB pages, where a slew of similarly struggling parents hang out and ask them for help. It is safe, it is easy, it is convenient; but, there is little healing or personal development in this guidance. It provides a quick-fix, emotional response which rarely incorporates the entire problem into the decision-making process, is extremely short-sighted, and is risky in the bigger scheme of things.

Parents, if you are struggling with a child, having difficulty coping with or understanding the behaviors relating to substance abuse or addiction, get real help. Invest the time and resources to work through the problem in a deliberate, healthy manner. Panic posts on FB are not helping anyone in the long haul. Over the short term, they can even be more damaging.

You can best serve yourself, your child, and your family by taking the time work through these issues together with the guidance of someone who has extensive, personal development experience with, or has been trained in what you are dealing with.

Find someone local you can trust, build a relationship with someone who brings healthy perspective to the issue and commit to addressing the issue from the perspective of education, awareness, communication, and acceptance. There are much better ways to work through what you are struggling with, please take the time to discover and engage those who are best equipped to help you.

Wishing you and your family all the best in 2018!


Want more insights from this blog?

Join me on the podcast “100Pedals Talk: Inside the Blog” as I delve deeper into this post and share personal stories or reflections behind the article. (Note: The podcast relating to any particular blog is released on Thursday of the same week this blog is posted.) Subscribe to this podcast on I-Tunes here.

This week’s blog podcast episode: http://theaddictionconversation.libsyn.com/solving-problems-in-public-forums

I would love to hear from you.

What issues are confronting you today? Where are you currently experiencing fear and shame relating to the struggles in your life? I have some pretty cool tools to guide you and would love to help.  Please let me know if you need more: dave@100Pedals.com.


Addiction in the Family, featured, Parenting and Addiction, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , ,
About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.

  1. Thank you for this particular sentiment, Dave. For me, the one line I differ on is where you said, “We hate to admit we need help”. I will admit it all day long, but it seems to me that often the ones offering the advice, especially on the social media platforms, are the ones that are still in the struggle (like me) and have not yet realized that they don’t really know the answer to MY situation or even their own, and tend to throw up a lot of theories. That’s not necessarily meant as a criticism, but just an observation.

    It takes me back to the days when I was a pastor’s wife for many years in a very large church in So. Cal. I was placed on a pedestal and asked parenting advice by all of the mothers (and even fathers) that thought I had it all together. Heck, I thought I had it all together! But five children have a way of growing up and being their own person and often leaving that perfect little fish bowl that I lived in and leaving it very messy! The dozens parenting books I read told me how to make my children perfect and how to “drug proof” them…. Now that they are all grown adults, I realize that there is no such thing. And I never really knew what I was talking about anyway! But I digress….

    What I am trying to say is that you are ever so right. And to your point, this is the reason I don’t ask these questions on any public forum. The only reason I “suffer in silence” is that each one of our journeys with addicted offspring are so vastly different and nobody seems to be able to truly help, except those who I know are praying for my son and his 10+ years of addiction.

    With that said, I do so appreciate what you have done for the awareness of our children in addiction crisis. You have been an inspiration for me to never give up.

    • Thank you, Cid for your comments. I have caught myself being critical/judgmental towards some of these conversations. This isn’t healthy on my part. Although, I agree they trigger me because of the unhealthy places these responses are coming from. Even when presented with a great deal of information, there is rarely a “right” answer. I coach parents to focus on defining the best response. Then, after examining the result, assessing what worked, what didn’t work, and what we can do different or better. It gets us all out of what the “right thing to do” is and focuses us on “what the best option” is. There what we did and what we can do differently, next time. This is why healthy, in-depth interactions are so critical vs. simply doing the right thing by committee. This is why it is so important to take these conversations to a much more healthy, appropriate place. I digress, too. Anyway, thanks for your comments and your words of encouragement.

  2. Hi Dave,

    You make a good point here. Some of the questions and answers that I see do not always seem so healthy. The groups offer people a chance to not feel so isolated, but your post definitely shares the downside.

    • Cathy, thanks for bringing your perspective into this blog. Agree with you that there are incredible benefits in the community of these groups. The support which comes from these groups for people who feel isolated is great. There is a fine line between a supportive community and healthy counsel. Hopefully, I created awareness for the need for reaching out to experienced resources to address the really complicated issues.

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