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February 21, 2018

Facebook and me

I was an early adopter of Facebook. As a Harvard grad, with access to a post.harvad.edu email address, I was able to create a FB identity before it was opened up to the hoi polloi.

I loved the clean design, and the easy access to so many interesting profiles. Like everyone else, I eventually reestablished contact with all sorts of friends and acquaintances from the distant past: summer camp, high school, old girl friends, old colleagues, etc. This was good.

I also made some new (if only virtual) friends. Like minded fellow travelers, people with the same flavor of transgressive humor that I enjoy, etc. This was also good.

Sometime during 2015, things on FB began to turn political. I had been an enthusiastic political blogger from 2004 to 2006 or so and began posting on Facebook links to articles I stumbled across during my daily survey of world events. Some of these prompted debates among my friends, which I endeavored to keep civil and respectful. I flattered myself that perhaps I was helping to open minds to new ideas and promote understanding (or at least awareness) of the thought processes on the other side of the cultural and ideological divide. This was also good, but things began to fray along the edges.

As the Presidential election crossed over the event horizon into our consciousness, things became more intense. I was invited by cyber friends and acquaintances to join various private groups, dedicated to ideological points of view or memes and humorous stories pointing out the foibles and hypocrisy of those “on the other side.” Some of these were hysterical, if sometimes mean spirited. I occasionally posted or reposted good examples to these groups, but generally did not “broadcast” them to my timeline.

Living and growing up in NYC, most of my friends and classmates were (and still are) liberal Democrats. I began seeing more and reposts of over simplified memes or partisan talking points from groups like the Democratic Underground that gave authority to half-truths and distortions. My friends on the right also began posting mean spirited criticisms of the “snowflake generation” and supporters of Presidents Obama. This was not so good.

Old friends, who generally live firmly within the liberal bubble, began to argue with other friends with firmly Red State sensibilities. Sometimes these exchanges were respectful, though oftentimes not. Discussion of hot button issues like structural racism and BLM led to one person I’d known (and respected) for 50 years to say he “was done with me” and unfriended. Several other people that I knew (and liked) in real life unfriended me. This was not good.

Now FB has become something like a social no man’s land between the trenches of two opposing armies. I find myself lurking to see the news and ideas others are sharing. I occasionally post a news story or opinion piece I find compelling but feel like I am throwing thought grenades across to the other line. I rarely stick around to see or respond to the resulting concussion. This is not good, and increasingly not fun.

I don’t think I interacted with any Russian “trolls” during my time on Facebook, but who knows? Certainly, some of the memes and bogus news stories I read (and discounted) may have had their roots in St. Petersburg’s Internet Research Bureau but, again, who knows?

In any case, Facebook has become un-fun. People and groups hate each other and make no pretense of trying to understand the viewpoints of those who disagree with them.  The values we share as Americans have been subordinated to tribal and ethnic interests and nearly everything (other than cat videos) is political.

I’m through with it. Basta.

February 21, 2018 at 07:48 PM | Permalink

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