Monday, March 14, 2011

Intolerance: Alive and Thriving on Facebook

Photo Credit: Google Images

"When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical." --unknown

Bloggers are frequently accused of hiding behind their computer screens and saying things they wouldn’t say in public or to someones face. Recently I have found that seems to be happening more and more on Facebook. Which is surprising, because while you have safety of the computer screen, you don’t have anonymity.

Facebook seems to be a breeding ground for intolerance.

As Facebook becomes more and more popular it’s being used more and more to push agendas and promote ideas. I love that. If a catchy and popular social network is what it takes to stir emotions or get people working together on a common goal great! Even if I don’t agree with the agenda I see the value in being able to quickly get your message out to hundreds of people in your stream. I may or may not agree with what is going on in Wisconsin but I have watched it unfold in my Facebook stream from people that are there and it’s interesting to watch and see how people are using it to spread a movement.

What concerns me is as I watch this new use for Facebook grow, is the intolerance and hate speech I see growing right along with it. I see this from both sides, it’s not a one sided issue. I see more and more people who instead of passing by their friends posts feel the need to call them out. Question their faith or call them names. This, I don’t get.

I don’t post a lot of heated debates or political discourse on my Facebook page. I’m not hiding anything I just don’t tend to talk about politics or religion with my friends, “mixed company” as my husband and I joke. See I find my self pretty in the middle, I have friends on both the right and the left. I also know that the comment section on a Facebook post will never, ever change any one's opinion.

Yesterday I made a mistake. I re-posted a call to action on a politically charged thing happening in my neighborhood. The biggest mistake I made was not making it clear that the words were not my own, although I doubt that would have changed the response. I was immediately pegged as a racist (although the post does not mention race) and had my faith called into question. As a blogger I have a pretty thick skin so I just brushed it off and filed it in the lesson learned category.

Than I read Texan Mama’s post on Freedom from Anti religion , she was having a similar issue in her Facebook stream, and it got me thinking about this more. Whether you are Christian or not how is name calling showing tolerance? Isn’t calling me a racist showing the same hateful behavior you are accusing me of?

The whole situation has left me back at an uncomfortable place I was at when I first moved to this area. I feel disconnected and more than a little turned off from the whole Facebook idea. While the sharing of thoughts and ideas are encouraged the tearing down and disparaging those that don’t share your thoughts seem to be just as prevalent and growing. Don’t get me wrong, I am up for debate and discussion on any topic, even if we don’t agree. What I’m not up for are arguments made solely by calling people names, names I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t be so quick to throw out if they were actually looking someone in the eye.

Social Media can bring a lot of good to movements and causes. I have made some great friends through twitter that I wouldn’t have meet otherwise and they have helped me through tough times and celebrated with me in good times. Social Media can also help you to see the true colors of those around you. While I would never un-friend anyone for their opinion I do make use of that convenient little "x" to hide them from my stream. I wish more people did, maybe than Facebook would be fun again.


Alita said...

Mel- facebook is tricky. Judgement is for God only, but it is only human nature to do so. If you feel passionate about something... post it! :) Pardon my language, but screw what others may think. If you need to outlet; do so. People who really know you or know that you are more than a post on facebook, will know that what you have to say comes straight from your heart.

Sometimes I dislike facebook in such an enormous way. Other times it is just an easy way to keep in touch with some loved ones that live out of state.

Ginny Marie said...

I have had to hide my nephew's posts on Facebook since he often quotes songs that use so much profanity. I don't want to be reading that every day! But I haven't come across the kind of situation you describe. Thank goodness! (I don't have that many "friends" on FB, but it's been a great way to connect with my family and some old college friends.)

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

Debate and discussion are essential to a democracy. It's the only way we can share ideas and, if we are willing to listen, actually learn from each other and give credence to the reality that not everyone agrees and not everyone has the same needs. We shouldn't be afraid of difference. It doesn't make our own needs or viewpoints any less legitimate.

However, intolerance does not breed learning or listening (and often causes the spread of misinformation, which, IMO is worse than ignorance.) Perhaps in these discussions, when we see intolerance, we should not respond with an argument escalating the conflict, but rather call it out for what it is. Encourage the poster to rethink their words and rejoin the debate when they have more facts and less emotion. Emotion is good; it motivates us to participate. But it must be balanced with logical argumentation and actual evidence - or they do everyone a disservice.

Hyacynth said...

Oh goodness. I'm glad you have thick skin. Sometimes I think mine is way to thin for blogging and facebook ... the name calling, the accusations-- they make me want to sign off permanently. I have to keep telling myself that I'm not here to please other people -- I'm here to please God. It's the only thing sometimes that keeps me writing publicly.
Love this post.

Living Treasures said...

Well said...I enjoy reading yours and others blogs..people will always judge and call names....those are the ones not capable of having a great discussion. I love when people from different walks of life have opinions, thoughts or ideas about things that maybe I see differently. People are too quick to judge without knowing the facts, then spewing their diarrhea at the mouth...I think you are a talented writer and enjoy reading your words...keep up the good work!

Gretchen said...

facebook is a strange bird. It brings out the worst in some people.

Shellipants said...

I'm going to totally agree with what everyone above me just said.

anymommy said...

Confrontation and nastiness suck in any forum, but in particular it's hard to understand when someone is just expressing an opinion and the other person could walk away. Or click away. I'm really sorry you are dealing with this. I've lost sleep over online stuff and it sucks.

Melissa said...

I had so much flack over my posting gentle parenting articles (aka parenting without spanking) that I actually shut down my IRL facebook. I wasn't trying to start a debate when I posted them, these were concepts that had changed my parenting and my life for the better. So when people responded by attacking my faith, and endless arguements on why God tells us to spank our children, I just couldn't take the emotional exhaustion anymore. I'm not going to pretend that my life hasn't changed just so they will leave me alone, it was better to just shut the whole thing down.

Jennifer said...

Most of the time I choose not to comment on things that I font agree with, but not always. But u do try to always be respectful and kind. I'm not sure what has happened to make people forget the whole do unto others rule, but I think we should bring it back. That is one if the reasons I wrote the "it is not ok" post. I think it is time for people like us to satnd up and say, you know UT is really not ok to talk to or treat people in that manner. It is like people have forgotten their raising.

Unknown said...

This is the main reason I've nearly stopped posting to my FB page. While I would like to keep my friends & family updated on my life, it seems that it can be a breeding ground for others to judge and criticize what I'm choosing (or not choosing) for my life.

I'll be the first one to admit that I'm struggling with my faith right now... but there is a certain forum where I'm ok with sharing it (i.e. certain times on my blog) and other times where I will steer clear of the subject for fear of judgement and people saying mean things.

I have so much more to say on this - but just know, I understand EXACTLY where you are coming from on this.

Alexandra said...

WHY do people feel the NEED to judge so much.

I read plenty I disagree with. I just click out.

Kate Pantier @ Mommy Monologues said...

Call me a nerd, but I've been reading the book "Blog!" by David Kline & Dan Burstein. And if you don't mind me writing out a HUGE quote...

"But within all the noise [of blogging or social media in this case] among the billions of words & pixels of new content being generated every day, lies a very important & steadily rising voice: the ordinary citzenry, on a national & global basis, re-engaging in the lost art of the public conversation."

Basically, they say that the "ordinary citizen" lost their voice & the internet has brought it back again. It has connected us to celebrities (like via twitter) & it has given us all a platform to be heard. And this resonates with people because we are claiming this voice because kings in the past owned it, now politicians, the media have all been ring leaders. Now we are taking control.

You have a former anthropology & history grad student here who finds this whole blogging & social media phenom fascinating, the good & the bad.

I never get in arguments with people on facebook or twitter or blog frog. It's a waste of time. And besides, like you, I'm in the middle. I don't belong to the right or the left.

If I wouldn't say it in person, then I won't write it publicly.

Anyways....I loved the post! Very thought provoking!