Drive-by Facebooking

I’ve decided that I need a stock post for the act of drive-by Facebooking. It is an act which has become so common that it would be easier if I could just toss this link up whenever I see it. Let me explain.

I have recently written about people who don’t think Facebook is “real life”. They’re utterly wrong, of course. Simply because something happens on the Internet does not mean it is without impact. Aside from the fact that what we read on our friends’ walls absolutely does affect us one way or another (whether to a major or minor extent, positive or negative), we can also look to huge, historical events. Ever hear of the Arab Spring? Guess what the driving force behind that was. Oh, social media? Funny that. But there is another cast of people who have a distorted view of how Facebook and other online platforms work. These are the people who realize that Facebook is real, but they don’t want to treat it how they would treat any other situation. I call them drive-by Facebookers.

Imagine you’re sitting at a cafe or a bar talking with someone. For one reason or another, the discussion turns to something controversial. You and your friend find that the two of you are in disagreement. In fact, you’re position is so offensive to your friend that he gets up and walks away. But wait, wait, wait. He doesn’t merely storm off. That would be childish enough, of course, but there’s more. Instead of walking away in a puff with a final angry word, he says what he thinks, listens to your response, and then with a completely blank stare just walks away. No words that indicate an ending to the discussion. No expression. No overt sign of anger. It would go something like this:

You: I don’t like X for the reasons A, B, and C.

Friend: I really think your position is just awful! Here is the problem with A ____. And here is the problem with B ____. And here is the problem with C ____. I just can’t believe you think otherwise!

You: Here is another way of putting my argument ____.

Friend: *walks away, never to be seen again*

I’m not saying there needs to be a formal end to every discussion and debate. In fact, I think it’s a sign of oldness when someone says, “Good night!” or “I’ll be on tomorrow to continue this!” It’s the Internet, the place where time is irrelevant. There is no need to alert everyone to the fact that you’re leaving. The thing about which I am talking is when people storm in to make a point criticizing something, but when they are challenged back, they lack the common courtesy to respond. It’s an infantile act; it’s a way to declare a belief without needing to defend it in the least.

I can see some gray area in what I’m arguing. How many responses are needed in order to show appreciable courtesy? One? Two? A thousand? There is no clear line in the sand. Still, that does not justify the sort of thing about which I am talking. However blurred the lines get, there is no good reason for drive-by Facebooking. It’s nothing more than an excuse to show disagreement with a person without owning that disagreement. It’s like the frustration one might feel after getting cuffed on the back of the head and then having the attacker run off and face zero consequences. As a person who relishes debate, I see more than my fair share of people doing the equivalent to this online. I’ve grown tired of it. I think it’s childish; if people want to argue a point, then argue it as much as time will allow. Someone who is unwilling to do that should also be unwilling to comment in the first place.

So can we do away with this drive-by garbage, please? If you have an argument to make, make it. Just don’t run away when someone challengers what you’ve said. After all, no one likes a coward.

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