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.

‘Tek and Wake

“Facebook isn’t real life!”

People have this view of Facebook where they think it somehow isn’t substantial, that it doesn’t “count”, that it isn’t “real life”. I think they are almost entirely wrong.

When I write anything on FTSOS, Facebook, or elsewhere online, I make it a point to not type a single word I wouldn’t also be willing to say to someone in person. Doing otherwise betrays a false bravado and that isn’t the sort of person I ever want to be. However, not everyone feels this way. Or, at least, they don’t act this way. For instance, I have had a number of people get into heated debates with me over Facebook and then, upon seeing me in person, they try to cool things off, occasionally even apologizing. My response is to consistently say that I don’t care that they were speaking harshly or that they were being rude or whatever. My view is that the reason they said those things is because they believe them. If anything, I’m happy they spoke what they think is true. I may think their beliefs are erroneous, even stupid, but I would rather read what they really think than read what they think is the nice thing to say.

There is an unfortunate reason why people change their tone (and not just with me) so quickly when they see their ‘opponent’ in person. The Internet amounts to a comfortable buffer which insulates people from many feelings of awkwardness, distress, etc. This causes people to place less value on the words they are willing to type versus the ones they are willing to speak. In other words, people believe, as I so often hear and read, that ‘Facebook isn’t real life!’ They think there is a fundamental difference between in-person interaction and online interaction. I think they’re wrong.

I’m not about to deny that there is a clear difference in dynamics between so-called ‘real life’ interaction and online interaction. There is. But that is the only difference in non-anonymous situations and it is not fundamental (due to the lack of anonymity). What a person says on Facebook and other online places still impacts the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and mood of a person sitting at the end of another connection. Right now, I mean right now, anyone reading this post is considering what I am saying; anyone reading this post is computing in their minds what they think and how they feel about my argument. Is that not real life? Is that somehow fake? Is everyone who sees this just pretending to exist?

None of this is to say that online interaction is better than in-person interaction. I think in-person interaction has many advantages over online interaction, including a wider array of dynamics. On the flip side, I think online interaction has its advantages, including the ability to formulate detailed points and stories and arguments. However, I think the people who scream that Facebook and other online media platforms aren’t ‘real life’ would be the same people decrying the ‘realness’ of telephone conversations back when they were still a new thing. They have a ridiculous argument – ridiculousness that is just as real whether it is said over a cup of coffee or on a status update.

Thought of the day

The fact that Santorum keeps himself in the running by saying the craziest shit is telling of the Republican Party.

Bill Nye knows what’s going on

Haiti reminder

This is just a quick reminder about my Haiti trip and the continued need for donations. We have an online auction as well as a page for straight donations. Anybody who wants to post this on their Facebook wall or blog would be greatly appreciated.

Every little bit helps.

Gay marriage to appear on Maine ballot once again

After the Maine legislature and governor passed equal rights measures for gays in terms of marriage in 2009, our religiously-motivated bigots got organized and turned the clock back quite quickly. They won that battle, but the war continues:

Gay-marriage advocates turned in more than enough signatures to move ahead with a citizen initiative that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Maine, the secretary of state’s office ruled Thursday.

More than 85,000 signatures were declared valid. The groups needed only 57,277 signatures for their bill to get to the Legislature.

The decision means lawmakers will now be presented with a citizen initiative to allow gay marriage in Maine.

I’m proud to say my signature was among those turned into the secretary of state.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this. It’s great that this is back on the ballot, and early poll numbers are positive, but equal rights were defeated by a hefty margin in 2009, 53-47. It’s going to be an uphill battle for sure, but I suspect it will help that it is a Presidential election year.

At any rate, even if we continue to treat some people in Maine as second-class citizens after this November, it’s only a matter of time before the state gets on the right side of history and continues to make New England proud.