Over the past few months, the Facebook landscape has acquired an antagonist edge to it. Or, perhaps it has always been there and my 18-month hiatus has given me a sense of culture shock. Like a person traveling abroad, I come back to find once familiar scenery has changed.
I want to react by making impassioned demands and yelling, but then I figure remorse will set in and I will have to apologize. Usually, when I come across a bit of drama online, I try to sift out any nuggets of truth for life, and then I attempt to move on.
However, today I want to break it all down and see what we have to work with.
There are many reasons to stay plugged in. A family member or two has some medical concerns that are much easier to keep appraised of online. It is easy to share photographs with others. But mostly, it is the potential for interaction that I value the most.
For example; there is a woman who I used to work with. Our professional interactions were rather minimal, but we got along well enough, thought each other behaved decently, and had no objections to maintaining an internet relationship.
She kept coming to my mind, so one morning I sat down and typed a little note praising her efforts, her endeavors, and what little I know of her character. Not so very long afterwards, she returned the gesture by stating some rather complimentary remarks in return. She lives on the other side of the country. Before this exchange, we had not shared any private contact information. Without Facebook, there would not have been this back and forth of support and appreciation. There are other similar instances; this is only the most recent one.
Connecting with friends over the internet should, at its best, make you feel like you’re flying. Like if you and your friend were able to spend time together, you could engage in some truly wondrous activities.
And yes, it is much easier to share articles like this one via social media. I am not altruistic all the time.
As I have discussed before, we are caught up in the middle of an election. Politics are all over the place. One gets the sense that even after the votes have been tallied, there will be a sense of disunity among the nation. A poll taken at the end of July showed that about fifty percent of people are voting, not for a certain candidate, but against the alternative. The lesser of two evils is becoming a topic more and more.
A philosophical approach that came out of World War II is the Schmittian view. Schmitt argued that groups build the strongest community when they have a common enemy to unite against. An individual will not choose their bunker mates based on affection or admiration, but on whether or not they will be an ally in their struggles. It is argued that we seek out more “Us”s in our fight of “Us vs Them”.
I understand the appeal. It is elegant in its simplicity. Find something that threatens us and try to crush it. We are clearly the good guys, so we must be victorious over the others.
As much as I hate to agree with a Nazi who was fully in league with Hitler, the theory seems to be applicable these days. We appear to be eager to vanquish the other side, celebrating when our opponent suffers a blow.
Religious groups are far from immune. I have seen one sect join behind this candidate, while another thinks the other is God’s will. One would think Christians all worship the same God. If that is true, why do some think that the others’ choice is pure evil? Why not use faith to believe that the God they worship will work things out? Even when a man posts something asking for respect for one candidate, simply because he is a human being, another man outright refuses. Is that showing love to the world? If only there were lots and lots of scripture devoted to love.
Yes, I think it is admirable to be firm in ones beliefs. By all means, find people who like things that you do and create a friendship over those shared interests. I can get behind that. Come together as a community in times of adversity. Sure. We need to circle the wagons or we might end up lost in times of strife. But if it all turns into a malevolent witch hunt or if we are all marching to burn down Frankenstein’s Castle out of fear? Then I would recommend trading in torches for a cozy fireplace.
Naturally, the more we are encouraged to present ourselves online, the more sensitive nerves we expose. No armor plating; easier to pierce the heart. Emotions can run high. We have strong feelings about politicians. But tack on gun violence, racism, and persecution? Now we have a society at odds.
If a conflict arises from feelings brought up online, I can comprehend that. What I cannot get behind is labelling or attacking groups of people. I love Freedom of Speech. It is one area that I think this country does quite well. But hate speech? That I rally against.
What is one to do when a friend posts something that attacks a group of others? Will saying something only urge the other to be increase their vehemence? Does one sin by silence? One part of me feels the need to state that I disagree. While at the same time, I want to encourage my friends to express themselves openly, especially on a website that is focused on celebrating the individual.
I have struggled between two opposing quotes from two very smart men.
“The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right.” –Mark Twain
“Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.” –Abraham Lincoln
(I should point out that if you search for “Lincoln” and “friend”; you will find many more quotes stating that Lincoln was reluctant to break up a relationship [or country]. But it seems he did have a breaking point.)
I honestly do not know which path is best. I do know that I will not align myself with hatred. I have worked to not hate a single soul, and I am not about to change that. I do not care of you are the Ku Klux Klan, abortion center bombers, or 99%ers. If you have a strong opinion, I will try to respect it. Like this other historical figure suggests.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
-S G. Tallentyre
However if you call on humankind to actively harm or hate a group of people, then I will not get on board.
Call me naïve, but I want interacting with the rest of the world to be a positive experience. I have become better friends with people because of the inroads that Facebook has provided me. Former coworkers have become cherished friends. Parents have been revealed to be talented and passionate. Friends’ plays and concerts have been announced and good times have been had. Being online should bring us together; make us heroic.
So that disheartening feeling you get when anger and vitriol come across your screen? That is not just you. We should be encouraging each other. Bitter and jaded? I reject that. That is not who we are.
Yes, we have our bad days. And Facebook is as good a place as any to vent. Politics, social change, ending violence; these are all things I think should be discussed. Yet I will continue to push for understanding and kindness. I like seeking out the high ground. I hear the view is better up there.
(I still maintain that everyone is trying to do their best for themselves and their loved ones. We only disagree on how to go about that individually.)
From my perspective, new media should take a cue from the oldies. “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”