Saturday, August 23, 2014

FACEBOOK 'Unfriending' : One of the Best Things About It

Let us accept as a valid opening proposition that Facebook is an artificial social milieu. It is, in fact,  a media creation not based on genuine friendships but on virtual acceptances of virtual "friends" who entreat you to "friend" them once you sign up. I took a long time before signing up, for several reasons, including that I suspected it of being a colossal time waster, as well as imposing cumbersome social burdens -  i.e. in trying to 'regulate' the differing personalities that posted on your home page.

Former FB user Sara Scribner - who broke her addiction after several years - described it to a tee:

"It’s not easy to make all these projected selves cohere: My friends and family include folks from Southern evangelical Christianity, from the rap/rock critic subculture, from ’90s bohemia, from mommy-land, from the public-education universe. My guess is that most people on social media have some variation of this problem. In life, I entered each space separately; on Facebook, it all happened simultaneously."

 Hmmmmm... Southern Baptists, rap-rockers, 90s bohemia, public education, i.e. teachers  - sounds like an explosive social mix to me. One that one would hardly confect in any real life social situation. You would be more likely  - if having a party - to invite one subset to that - say the rockers and bohemians - and let the Southern Baptists,  conservatives arrive at another, This way you avoid likely social confrontations, verbal clashes - not to mention fights!

This is what Scribner meant when she said in life she "entered each space separately" - while on Facebook all the personalities and their assorted postings are tossed together simultaneously  like Calaloo - a West Indian concoction with multiple different veggies all in one pot. Sometimes, as in making a soup, they don't all cook to the same degree and the person that consumes it gets a violent reaction. I saw this once while on a Peace Corps training exercise in St. Lucia in 1972.

Because of this dangerously overlapping pseudo- social setting and peculiarity, as Scribner also noted, it became more and more difficult to manage or reconcile upsets between virtual personalities coming from divergent backgrounds. In my case, what wifey and I noted were a spate of sudden attacks - with scurrilous depictions - of Obama (associated with a "Presidential seal" using a Skunk emblem instead of a bald eagle - because he's born from a white mom and black Kenyan  dad.)

I posted a response to  the offenders (relatives in OK)   - under the skunk photo - after my wife responded with "I HATE It!"   I said the depiction was clearly racist and also offended many liberal friends sharing the same page, as well as relatives of ours from the Caribbean. I also said that I too had issues and bones of contention with Obama but I have made the case against him without resort to racist images or "jokes".  I said one could disagree with Obama and some of his policies without being disagreeable. This brought the terse response to "Lighten up!" that it was basically "a joke", and I was wrong for taking it so seriously. I think not, because none of our family and other friends viewed it as jokey but as an insult also to their own mixed racial backgrounds.

But this sort of failure of perception is typical when people who generally inhabit little red state enclaves suddenly exhibit those predilections in a public home space - as on FB.

After this altercation, the respondents,  especially one,  decided to launch into a full scale 'war' on liberals with multiple assorted pics of drug users, Jane Fonda in Vietnam, attacks on troops, cursing, protests, begging for money.....whatever......each accompanied by a semi-coherent rant. Finally, I got tired of it and informed the miscreant that the public (home) page of Facebook - shared by many friends - wasn't the place to have this out, but we could do it via email. I especially noted his whines concerning "liberals don't know what they're talking about" and "liberals have a problem with the REAL history of the world and nation", including claims that "liberals were revising history". Referencing all this, I simply asked him to name any four or five specific examples of such liberal revisions or "problems" with the real history of the world.  He asserted there'd be no email exchange and if I wanted to learn more I could read Larry Schweikart's book '48 Liberal Lies About American History" as he "didn't have the time or the patience to try to educate the ignorant".

As I didn't want to extend or foul up a FB page which wasn't the place for such contretemps, I did a number of blog postings - after his wise ass Schweikart response, and then another after he extolled the radical conservative media troll, Michael Savage. Eventually other blog ripostes were too much for him and he "unfriended" me on FB . (I did warn him not to set a virtual foot  on Brane Space if he didn't like robust liberal takedowns of radical conservo, nutso bilge.)

This, of course, saved me the trouble of doing it myself. Now, the home page is free and clear of the anti-liberal tripe, denigrating Obama images and anti-Obama hate harangues. Now, refreshingly,  the remaining FB friend community is more harmonious and homogeneous.

Is it because I am against 'free speech'? Not at all. What I am against is the abuse of it and in the wrong domains to the point it makes many other users, people uncomfortable. Also, the two cases of blog and Facebook are decidedly different  - a point I made to him when he barked in an email I should be doing responses on the FB Home page not on my blog.

But one has to actively search out a blog. Hence, if one accesses a blog - especially like mine - s/he knows in advance what he or she will get. I am not hiding my stances on anything, after all. A FB page is different because it allows instant general access to the pool of common 'friends'. Photos, imagery are immediately visible. The recipients are the many different users who you've friended or accepted friend requests from and most don't expect to see unseemly portrayals of black people in disgusting, photo-shopped depictions defiling their Home page when they come on to check info or new messages. It is an insult to them and everyone else.

In terms of this example, I merely present it to show that the unfriending tool of Facebook may well be the best feature of it. Now, although the friend universe is  decidedly less diverse, it is at least more peaceful  - and I can easily live with that!  It is perhaps more difficult to live with a fractured familial relationship but I put the blame squarely on the country's poisoned, polarized politics. The example illustrated here shows what transpires when people allow politics to trump blood relationships and possible amity-  including adopting the noble advice "agreeing to disagree' .

Was it actually "white privilege" that blinded my Okie relatives to the fact that what they were putting up was wrong? Good question! See also:

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