In July of 2005, I went to see Batman Begins at the Holiday Twin drive-in in Fort Collins, CO with a friend of mine. We’d been bouncing around in anticipation for several months waiting for this movie to come out. Leaning forward in the front seat of my Oldsmobile, we shoveled snacks into our faces & geeked out. She was one of my geek girl friends. Getting excited for superhero/fantasy/action movies, standing in line to see them, then jabbering excitedly about them afterward was something that connected us.
We weren’t on Myspace. We didn’t have Facebook. We talked in person, over plates of food & big glasses filled with adult beverages. We chatted at the office where we both worked. It didn’t matter much that she was a Conservative, Christian gun owner from Texas, or that I was basically the exact opposite of all those things.
Sure, we gave each other shit about it. We made a lot of jokes. We also asked each other a lot of questions & somehow, it worked out fine.
Fast forward to 2008. I’ve left Colorado to live in France. The sequel to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, had been released. I saw it at a movie theater in Paris with my husband. Barack Obama was about to be elected president. Like many of my friends, I had an account on Myspace, which I was getting fed up with. I joined Facebook in 2007 & preferred the clean, quiet of Facebook, as opposed to the glittery, .gif-ridden shouting & bickering of Myspace.
It was right around this time that the pro-Sarah Palin posts from my Conservative Geek Girl friend started showing up. We’d kept in touch through various places on the Internet since my move & up til then, most of the posts I saw were geeky & personal fragments that I was interested in seeing. Yes, I want to see your vacation pics. I am interested in looking at entire photo albums of your new hairdo, or that weird thing on your cat’s neck. Yes. Absolutely.
What I wasn’t interested in seeing was right-wing propaganda from websites stating that the U.S. should put Arabs & Muslims in interment camps.
I feel very strongly about this because I detest hateful, racist bullshit. It also hit too close to home. My last name is Arabic. I chose to take this name when I married my half-French, half-Arab husband.
So there it was… the first friendship I had that crumbled as a result of social networking stupidity.
Could we have talked it out? Maybe. If I were more of a talking-out kind of person & could rid myself of doubt – if I could look at her without wondering if she would be okay with my husband being put in some fucking interment camp.
Nah, for me, it’s sometimes easier to just tell someone to stay the hell away from me. I know many people say that “life is short” & “don’t burn bridges” & some other clichéd shit about how it’s bad to sever friendships, but I feel that life is too short to spend it being surrounded by ignorant, bigoted shits who piss me off.
If you disagree, then you’re more patient than I am. Good for you. You’re nice. I’m mean. You’re the winner. I’m okay with that.
Since then, I’ve fired more friends. Some them I didn’t know very well. When someone I never have any contact with is posting horrible things online & our only common link is that we both come from the same shitty little town, it’s easy to unfriend them. It’s also unlikely that they’ll care or even notice. They’ll just continue posting their nonsense.
Other times, it was people I’d known for 20+ years. Just because you went to high school together & got into some trouble together back in the day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re still friends – or that you even like one other at all.
In the past 5 years I’ve been on Facebook, I’ve discovered where almost all of my friends stand on every single issue. I know who is for or against gay marriage. I know who thinks Obama is a gay, Kenyan-born Muslim bent on destroying America. I’ve been preached to, bitched at & insulted. I know who thinks being Palestinian or pro-choice is evil. I’ve heard why I shouldn’t eat meat, wheat, Oreos, Chick-fil-A, daisies & yellow snow.
And it works both ways. I’ve been deleted by at least two dozen people. Maybe it’s because I’m a godless, foul-mouthed, carnivorous, Obama-voting, pro-choice lover of gays & Palestinians & that I live in a wicked, socialist country like France. If none of those are reasons why, I have to assume it’s because of all the fart jokes & if you can’t handle fart jokes, then it’s probably for the best.
I try to refrain from the initial impulse to delete someone. That ‘hide’ button on Facebook is an excellent feature. But, a friend of mine recently pointed out: if I have to hide posts from people & I can’t stand anything they say, how can I call them my friend?
I think there’s a lot of truth in that, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to delete someone every single time I see a post that irritates me. So, I hide them. And sometimes, forget that they are even there at all. So, I guess when that happens, we’re not such good friends, right?
I’m not under any illusions about myself. I know I’ve posted things on Facebook or Twitter that someone didn’t like. Over the past year or so, I’ve refrained from sharing certain things on Facebook because my group of friends, while mostly like-minded thinkers, is still rather diverse, so I don’t want to force all of my opinions on everyone & don’t feel like dealing with the backlash & bitching.
I prefer to reserve most of that for this site, which people can visit only if they want to.
And there’s my main problem with the obnoxious & constant political & religious posts on Facebook – the assumption that everyone on your friend list wants to be force-fed your belief system & opinions. Go shout about those things on a personal blog, or on Twitter. Why fight with former classmates in front of your coworkers & relatives?
Filling everyone’s news feed with an endless stream of shitty Facebook memes about politics & religion will not convert anyone, or convince people with opposing viewpoints to come over to your side. This is like flashing a bunch of bumper stickers at someone instead of using your words. We don’t all live by the same set of social standards. Your rhetoric will not prompt me to start voting Republican, or to be okay with religion. (Yes, it works both ways, but this is my rant, so we’re looking at it from my viewpoint.)
Of course, if you tell an obnoxious poster to shut it, they’ll likely come back with something about their Freedom of Speech. This isn’t about your fucking 1st Amendment rights. It’s about common courtesy, recognizing the varying ideals of your friends, acquaintances & family members & making an effort not to inflame them.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t discuss things, but one of the nice things about Facebook is that not only can you hide what you don’t want to see, you can also hide what you don’t want others to see. Try putting more energy into playing nice & being courteous & a little less into trying to to shove your belief system down everyone’s throat.
Now here we are. The third movie of this Batman trilogy has been released & we all know what happened in Aurora, so I won’t even get into the details of that. Suffice it to say that being from Colorado, a huge fan of Batman & Christopher Nolan’s movies, it hit close to home. Reading the news hurt. Watching my Colorado friends trying to locate friends & loved ones hurt. Wondering if all of my friends were okay… it hurt.
It still hurts.
Before victims had been identified, before families had been notified, the rotten, repugnant ranting had started with people spouting off about their own political & religious agendas. The trolling & conspiracy theories popped up. My level of disgust & disdain is hard to articulate, but I can tell you that I’ve been making good use of that hide button recently.
I said to my husband, “It’s so damn annoying, all of this shit cluttering up my news feed: guns, the 2nd Amendment, religion, politics… aren’t you getting sick of it, too?”
Olivier, he shrugs. “I guess I would, but I don’t see much of that. Most of my friends aren’t Americans.”
I thought about this & he’s right. The people I have to hide, who do the most shouting, are Americans. So, Americans, why are we shouting like this? Why do we have such a useless fucking need to be right & convince others that our belief system is best? Why do we feel the need to make spontaneous announcements & sophistic arguments about what we think & why others are wrong for thinking something different? Unless the goal is to alienate a certain percentage of the people you’re acquainted with, I really don’t get it.
Would you go to a party with all the people you know & start randomly shouting about religion & politics, or would you just chat, laugh, have some snacks & a few cocktails?
Sometimes I miss the days when my news feed was filled with vacation photos, status updates about someone’s day, what they’re eating & whatever the hell that thing is on your cat’s neck.