I hate the necessity that Facebook has become. It’s necessary for group messages, communication with friends in different countries, planning and publicizing events. I met someone recently who, within several minutes, said, “Let’s add each other on Facebook” – it’s assumed that every individual has a profile. Personally, my dad is the only person I know who doesn’t have an account, which didn’t used to be weird because he’s over 50, but even his mom has a profile at this point, so, yes, it’s out of the ordinary to be off-the-grid in this way.
I keep debating whether to deactivate my Facebook profile. Sure, it’s helpful for staying in touch with the connections I’ve made through preteen summer camps, high school, college, study abroad, etc. Friends share photos, life events, and political views. I can also see their photos and life events on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn (to an extent), but Facebook seems to be the primary medium – at least among my connections – for sharing at length their controversial opinions. Sometimes I just can’t help commenting on an ignorant, offensive post even though I know it’ll only invite hostility or disappointment, so I’m starting to think avoiding the whole Facebook platform might be the wisest option for me.
When I was in high school, it wasn’t uncommon for individuals to go back and forth commenting on statuses, getting into fights, sometimes ending with one person unfriending the other. Lately, we seem to have cut out the middle step. Instead of engaging in a discussion (argument?), we skip straight to cutting out the “negative forces” on our Facebook feeds by unfriending or unfollowing people who post political opinions that differ from ours. I’m usually the type of person who prefers concrete examples rather than abstract statements, but I think this situation is universally applicable enough that everyone can imagine a scenario in which something on the Internet has offended her. I’m hoping I can get away with not having to point fingers at specific examples from my own life.
This evolution of how we react to controversy on Facebook got me to thinking about why people would post their polarizing views on social media in the first place. I never really understood why anyone would get so heated about someone disagreeing with something they said. Doesn’t making a public statement inherently prompt discussion? Then I started thinking further: Why do people say what they say? Why do they say it on the medium on which they say it? Being unemployed when all my friends nearby have weekday jobs means that I’ve recently been conducting a lot of my human interaction over digital media, which allows me the time and space to think much more carefully about what I say, how I say it, why I say it, and how others might interpret it. Yes, you’re right, I spend way too much time in my head and no, it’s not usually a good thing. Sometimes people post links and go on controversial rants to legitimately start a discussion and engage with their peers on a digital platform that allows them to craft carefully how they want to respond. That makes enough sense to me. Other times, though, they’re looking for people to agree with them, which in itself isn’t a bad thing – we’re all looking for validation in one form or another. I just get annoyed when technology allows us to think twice about what we’re saying and how it might affect others… and then we don’t take advantage of it.
Currently reading: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Currently listening to: Fresh Air on NPR
Currently (re)watching: season 5 of Lost