If FB is a Marketplace, Why is Every Aisle Filled With So Much Junk Food?

In PeaceAble on December 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Now let me say that this is not intended as a rant. It is more of an observation, a public service message if you will, about the impact of Facebook, Tweeter and other social media platforms on the erosion of our sense of personal and social boundaries and appropriateness in our daily communication with others; and vice-versa.

Allow me to illustrate.

Suppose you were in a public place with a lot of people, some of whom you knew well, others you knew only slightly, and a whole lot of others who were strangers to you but friends and acquaintances of the others in the gathering. Now suppose that someone suddenly, without any provocation, stood up on a soapbox and loudly announced, “Jesus is the only path to salvation! If you agree, raise your hands and repeat this. 99% of you won’t have the guts to repeat it, but I’m proud to be one of the 1% who are real Christians!”
What would your response be? Would you think, “Wow, that’s really inappropriate”? Would you feel embarrassed? Would you think the speaker was some kind of egotistical nutjob with a bad case of verbal diarrhea? Or would you think that this was clearly a sincere believer expressing his devout belief; and good for him?
Before you answer, take out “Jesus” and “Christian” and insert “Allah” and “Muslim.” Does that change your reaction any?
Now imagine that two people in the crowd began a discussion about some current issue of concern or interest; let’s say the minimum wage. Suddenly everyone within earshot began shouting about libtards and repugs, and making derogatory statements about lazy welfare moochers who should get a job and greedy rich people who are trying to destroy America. And let’s imagine that the discussion begins to spread throughout the whole crowd and turns into a shouting match in which every extreme position on every conceivable issue is turned into an obscenity laced rant, even though the obscenities are cleverly muffled just enough so you know what was said, you just can’t hear them clearly.
Now imagine that you are invited to return to the same place with the same people the next day and every day after that with the expectation, even the promise, of more of the same.

This is not to say that no one should ever talk about religion, money, politics or sex on Facebook. All of these are legitimate topics of public discussion, and it is through this public discussion that we all engage in a great ongoing cultural conversation that helps us to understand who we are.
But who are we?
Are we a civilized society capable of engaging one another about our diverse perspectives, experiences, beliefs and opinions? Are we a people who value the importance of honest, informed discussion of the issues that confront our society and require workable well-thought-out solutions? Or are we a nation, a world, of foul-mouthed, bullying, self-righteous, arrogant boors; who want everything our own way or not at all? If our democracy were a sport, would it be more like golf, or more like professional wrestling?
Social media have the potential to be a wonderfully liberating, truly democratic place. But they are also a distillation, a reflection, and an encouragement of all that is the worst of us. When we begin to break down the social boundaries that help us to work together and engage each other in peaceable ways, then the fabric of society gets unraveled a bit more every time we cross a line that our social conventions used to keep us from crossing. And we can see these things happening all around us, not just on line. Our social behavior is becoming less reasonable and democratic, and more confrontational and violent.
Sometimes these boundaries need to be crossed, of course; no fabric exists forever without some fraying, some normal wear and tear; and even the necessary regular laundering and ironing out of the wrinkles can do some damage; but these kinds of things develop the character of a nation, increase its value for us, and give it its history. The danger is that everyone has stopped caring about the fabric itself and we are instead just tearing it apart as we each try to claim it as our own, refusing to share any part of it. We are taking the scissors to it as we try to get rid of all those parts of the pattern we don’t like, as if it were a photograph of friends that includes our ex — to mix my metaphors some more.
Look, the point is this: engagement through social media, like our engagement in society itself, requires that we respect one another’s boundaries, show some restraint and personal discipline in our behavior, and treat others as we would like to be treated. So before we post something, or get caught up in the latest viral reposting of whatever is the latest outrageous meme or pointless hoax someone has decided to drop in our news feed; let’s take a moment to breathe, check our prejudices, check our facts, consider what sort of persons we want to be and what sort of society we want to have; and maybe not hit post or share quite so quickly.

  1. David
    I wholeheartedly agree with you… I’ve said it before and I will say it again, social networking gives us all a very false sense of intimacy and people say things they would never say in a regular social gathering. We have forgotten our manners and how to converse respectfully with one another.


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