Recently, I was involved in a Facebook debate over a topic that someone else posted on their page. A debate on Facebook? Go figure that! The post, made by one of my Facebook (FB) friends who posts often, about 10-20 posts on an average per day, was critical of those who post or announce on their own FB pages that they are deleting or cleaning out their friends list. Obviously, the one who posted about this type of post did not like this practice and he referred to it as “tacky” and “self-serving.” At first, I thought, nah, don’t respond, it is not worth it. Then, I thought, why not? I had a little time that day and was down for the fun.
There were two things in general that I wanted to articulate, and, for the sake of transparency, I am one of those persons who deletes FB contacts and cleans out her Facebook page every now and then (when there is little to no communication or when the exchange is consistently argumentative or unhealthy). On the other hand, I usually let people know what my rules are up-front at the time that an FB request is made; no communication, no FB connection. Those are my rules and mine alone. Others, I suspect, have their own rules or boundaries, or maybe they do not. Perhaps, for some, anything goes on FB, which is another prerogative that is fine by me. What other people do on their FB pages does not necessarily concern me.
Having said that, the first issue that I wanted to highlight during the debate was that I thought that it was the pot calling the kettle black to post telling others that their posts were tacky, self-serving, desperate, and attention-seeking (the words used by the poster and the commentators during the debate). FB lends itself to all of these behaviors. People post tacky, self-serving, desperate and attention-seeking stuff all day. Every post is a way to bring attention to one’s self, one’s doings, or one’s thoughts (no matter how “noble” or “appropriate” the stuff may seem). However, last time I checked, there is only one poster-in-chief, only one FB squad that regulates what is permitted or not on FB. That poster-in-chief is someone or some division that we know not, but who has the ultimate authority to decide or judge if someone has violated the FB posting rules (which some have openly disagreed with). For an individual FB user to post telling others what not to post because it’s tacky and ridiculous is tacky and ridiculous, for, sooner or later, we are all going to post something on FB that seems tacky and ridiculous to someone else. And, so what? If you don’t like what someone posts, then move on. Keep scrolling. When one puts herself or himself in the position to tell someone else what is tacky or not on FB, then that person has made herself the authority, or the one who determines what is acceptable on FB, i.e., the judge. Thankfully, most of the people who I follow on FB have issues with authority figures, better yet with those who maintain the “respectable” status quo; or at least they say they do.
Secondly, what FB has done for most of us is to give us a wide platform to showcase our ideas, thoughts, likes, dislikes, creations, fetishes, etc. Facebook is the place to say “look at me.” Thus, I was absolutely shocked to learn that someone who I thought valued the freedom of speech was telling others that their speech on FB was tacky, ridiculous, and therefore not acceptable, i.e., wrong. It is one thing to critique someone’s speech on FB; at least one is attempting to engage someone or some idea, but it is another to judge someone’s post as wrong, illegitimate, or not worthy of speaking. Dig this: critique and judging are not the same, but some people don’t really know the difference. Christians are really guilty of this. Critique an aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition, like the fact that massacre, rape and incest (and some in the context of jihad) were actions encouraged and condoned by Yahweh god and practiced by the people who came to be called Israel, and you might be called judgmental, anti-Semitic, or even racist.
On FB, I see posts all day that are offensive to me (in particular as it concerns black women), and some that are just not my cup of tea, but when such posts become too much for me, if I tire of looking at racist, sexist posts and comments, then I might try to say something or ask a question to gain an understanding of what was meant by the post (giving the poster the benefit of the doubt). If I am not satisfied, if the response turns into a fight, if the conversation becomes unhealthy, or if it reveals an unreasonable mindset in me or anyone else, then I move on, and sometimes that means I disassociate with such people, which is the same thing I do one-on-one with the people who I know personally. And, I think such responses are quite rational, especially when the person on the other side is unwilling or unable to look objectively at the situation or at him or herself. For the record, I don’t like (and try not to entertain) shouting matches.
Indeed, any FB user has a right to post, but that does not mean that everyone can or will agree or support the post. Some posts will be challenged, and, unfortunately, that’s when the attacks become most fierce, especially when the one doing the challenging is in the minority or amongst those who support the post in general, which is called the tyranny of the majority. Obviously, I do not have a problem with anyone who announces to others on their own FB page that they are doing some contact cleaning (though I suppose those being defriended don’t like it, hence the defensiveness that gets projected onto others). But, when it is all said and done, it’s their page and they can do with it what they want; as long as they are not interfering with “my” page or announcing that they are planning on doing harm to others, then we’re good. Rock on. On the other hand, those who ex out an FB contact willy-nilly without warning suggests to me that they are probably, kinda-sorta passive aggressive, and, passive-aggressive people do not appeal to me. On the contrary, I value the people in my life who give it to me straight, no chaser.
Back to my original story: as the debate about those who post that they are removing or defriending FB friends was concluding, the one who created the post about it commented that he was shocked that there was so much commentary on his post about his post. And, he continued that it seemed a case of misplaced priorities. When I saw that, I thought “Well, I’ll be.” Ironically, that, for me, was shocking since he made the post a priority in the first place. For in reality, it was he, not anybody else, who started the conversation telling others what was priority posting or not. That he was shocked by the popularity of that thread was shocking, at least it was to me. But, hey, maybe he was just posting to be posting? I dunno. None of us really knows what posts will be popular or hotly debated (I suppose it all depends on who joins in or what points of view are being advanced).
So, here is thing that I find intriguing and worthy of a blog: the Facebook phenomenon has provided us all with the opportunity to draw attention to ourselves. The stuff we post (and hide) online reveals who we are, what we stand for, how we roll, personal interests, our senses of humor, our day-to-day affairs, the way we think, etcetera, etcetera. Sometimes we are explicit with making ourselves known, and sometimes we are not. Even when we are not trying to expose ourselves on FB, we are exposing ourselves. The things we say in posts or in comments reveal our philosophies and preferences in life. Anything we post says something about each of us, and how we feel about ourselves and others in relationship to the world and ideas that we know. As feminists would say, the personal is political. Further, get this, we give consent each and every day to FB, a worldwide digital corporation, to know and track us personally. Make no mistake about it, this corporation, like all U.S. corporations, is closely aligned with our government and it has taken the whole concept of the freedom of speech to a whole new level. Or has it? Because maybe the poster-in-chief is not really who we think he is? Can you dig it?
© 2014 annalise fonza, Ph.D.