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.

How not to run an institution of learning by Lenoir City High School

I’ve never been a fan of high school newspapers. It’s fine that they’re usually filled with the sort of stuff that only interests students, but I don’t like how they so often tend to be failed models. Fundamental to the freedom of the press is that whole “freedom” part. Schools have the right to edit and censor as they please – they can even punish students if they want. It’s all perfectly legal, well-settled law, but it obviously runs counter to the ideal of the First Amendment. Any school that is really committed to teaching students about journalism would be more than willing to give up every single right it has to censor. No exceptions.

Of course, that isn’t going to happen. After all, giving up the right to censor would allow those evil atheist students to have a voice. And places like Lenoir City High School in Tennessee wouldn’t want that:

In a recent editorial that Myers, 18, intended for the Lenoir City High School newspaper entitled “No Rights: The Life of an Atheist,” she questioned her treatment by the majority.

“Why does atheism have such a bad reputation? Why do we not have the same rights as Christians?” she wrote.

Myers’ editorial also accused school administrators, teachers and coaches of violating the constitution by promoting “pro-Christian” beliefs during school-sponsored events.

Lenoir City school authorities have denied Myers permission to publish her editorial in the Panther Press, the staff supervised student newspaper.

They also say their policies do not violate the constitutional rights of any students.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said it was the decision of the school authorities not to allow publication of Myers’ editorial because of the potential for disruption in the school.

“We do have the right to control the content of the school paper if we feel it is in the best interest of the students,” he said.

One has to wonder just how this benefits students. What interest does anyone have in not allowing Krystal Myers’ points? Aside from Christians and other religious zealots who are afraid that contrary views of the world are threats, I can’t think of one.

I’m having trouble in deciding what the worst part in all of this is. On the one hand, the school is suppressing unprotected but non-harmful speech. They have that right, unfortunately, but that right is purely a legal one. I do not believe they even come close to having a moral right. (I hope the government proceeds to one day extend full First Amendment protections to students, destroying the rights it created for administrators and the like.) On the other hand, however, they aren’t merely suppressing non-harmful speech that should be protected, but they are also suppressing a pretty good article. Myers’ didn’t write some anti-religious screed. She didn’t take any cheap shots. (Not that she couldn’t have done that and still had a great article.) She did criticize the school, something I know people who choose to spend their lives lording over teenagers just can’t stand, but she did it fairly. Any rational school would have been proud of one of their students putting out such quality of work. Any rational school would have welcomed the criticism – especially when that criticism exposed its illegal practice of promoting Christianity over and over. (I’m making the big assumption that schools prefer to be in line with the law.) Unfortunately, Lenoir City High School is not a rational school.

I wouldn’t normally post an entire article by someone else since it makes for a lengthy post, but I’m going to make an exception here. I hope everyone will give it a read:

No Rights: The Life of an Atheist

By Krystal Myers

The point of view expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the point of view of the Panther Press, its staff, adviser, or school.

As a current student in Government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an Atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians. Not only are there multiple clubs featuring the Christian faith, but youth ministers are also allowed to come onto school campus and hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends. However, I feel like if an Atheist did that, people would not be happy about it. This may not be true, but due to pervasive negative feelings towards Atheists in the school, I feel that it would be the case. My question is, “Why? Why does Atheism have such a bad reputation?” And an even better question, “Why do Christians have special rights not allowed to non-believers?”

Before I even begin, I just want to clear up some misconceptions about Atheism. No, we do not worship the “devil.” We do not believe in God, so we also do not believe in Satan. And we may be “godless” but that does not mean that we are without morals. I know, personally, I strive to be the best person I can be, even without religion. In fact, I have been a better person since I have rejected religion. And perhaps the most important misconception is that we want to convert everyone into Atheists and that we hate Christians. For the most part, we just want to be respected for who we are and not be judged.

Now you should know exactly what an Atheist is. says that an Atheist is, “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” However, this does not mean that Atheists do not believe in higher causes; we just do not believe in a higher being.

With that being said, I can move on to the real issue. Before I begin, I want you to think about your rights and how your perceived “rights” might be affecting the rights of others.

There are several instances where my rights as a non-believer, and the rights of anyone other than a Christian, have been violated. These instances inspired me to investigate the laws concerning the separation of church and state, and I learned some interesting things. However, first, I would like you to know specifically what my grievances are against the school. First and foremost is the sectarian prayer that occurs at graduation every year. Fortunately, I am not the first one to have thought that this was a problem. In the Supreme Court case, Lee v. Weisman, it was decided that allowing prayer at graduation is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Special speakers can pray, but the school cannot endorse the prayer or plan for it to happen.

Public prayer also occurs at all of the home football games using the public address system. This has, again, been covered by the Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. The Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If a speaker prays, it is fine. However, as soon as the school provides sponsorship, it becomes illegal. Sponsorship can be almost anything, even something as simple as saying that the speaker can pray or choosing a speaker with a known propensity to pray or share his or her religious views.

However, it is not just the speakers who we have to fear at Lenoir City High School. We also have to fear some of the teachers and what they might say about their own religious beliefs. On at least two separate occasions, teachers have made their religious preferences known to basically the whole school.

One teacher has made her religious preferences known by wearing t-shirt depicting the crucifix while performing her duties as a public employee. Also, Kristi Brackett, a senior at Lenoir City High School, has said that the teacher, “strongly encouraged us to join [a religious club] and be on the group’s leadership team.” Yet again, this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. When asked if this was true, the teacher replied, “As a teacher I would never use my power of influence to force my beliefs or the beliefs of [a religious club] on any student in the school.” Regardless, the religious t-shirts are still inappropriate in the school setting. Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known; the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher.

Not only are religious preferences shown through shirts, but also through a “Quote of the Day” that some teachers write on the boards in their classrooms. One teacher has Bible verses occasionally as the teacher’s “Quote of the Day” for students. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been violated, yet again with no regard for non-believers.

But perhaps I would have more hope in our school and the possibility of change on the horizon if our own school board did not open their meetings with prayer. A person who wished to remain anonymous that has been present at school board meetings says, “They do have prayers. They pray to ‘Our Heavenly Father’ and end with ‘In Jesus’ Name We Pray.’” Not only is this a violation of Supreme Court law, but also a violation of the board’s own policy that prohibits prayer at school-sponsored events. The whole foundation of how our school is conducted is established by obvious Christians. Somehow, this is unsurprising. If our School Board chooses to ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court, then it is no surprise that teachers choose to do the same.

I know that I will keep trying to gain my rights as an Atheist and as an American citizen, but I also need your help in educating other people to realize the injustice done to all minority groups. The Christian faith cannot rule the United States. It is unconstitutional. Religion and government are supposed to be separate. If we let this slide, what other amendments to the Constitution will be ignored? I leave you to decide what you will or will not do, but just remember that non-believers are not what you originally thought we were; we are human beings just like you.

via Friendly Atheist.

The Tea Party summarized

2009: No more government waste! Cut spending! Lower taxes! Stop giving money away to lazy (colored) people! (And please keep my social security flowing.)

2012: Taxes? lol wut? No abortion!

Hedgehog Mountain

It isn’t a winter hike if you don’t build a snowman.

Photo by Bree