Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rambling Thoughts About Facebook, Politics, Privacy, Blah, Blah, Blah...

While walking the dogs this morning, I was thinking about the value of Facebook. My wife and I have a long-standing difference of opinion about FB and social networks, in general. She hates the whole concept, while I have always enjoyed using Facebook, even though I'm aware of its perils--especially as a time-suck. When we've discussed it in the past, I always say that I like keeping in "light contact" with a large group of friends and acquaintances. She thinks it's a superficial waste of time.

It's the difference between having an intimate dinner with one or two other couples and having a big, blow-out party where you invite everyone you know and encourage them to bring friends. The truth is, I like BOTH types of socializing, while my wife dislikes big parties for the same reason she hates Facebook. The small dinner allows for real, quality time with your guests that just can't happen in a big party. However, a big party lets you mingle with a larger group of friends all at once, meet new ones, and help foster connections between different groups. It wouldn't be possible to plan small dinner parties to include everyone in our combined social and professional groups, unless we had multiple dinner parties per week. Actually, that sounds awesome, but the idea is neither practical nor affordable!

Big parties and Facebook interactions may not be inherently "deep," but I find real value in maintaining these online encounters and feeling that I have a general sense of what's going on with my friends. Maybe it has a lot to do with the fact that I work at home by myself, and I don't have the "light contact" that everyone who works with other people take for granted. No water-cooler conversations going on here between me and the dogs, I'm afraid.

Anyway, this morning after a brief Facebook interaction, I got to thinking about the description "light contact," and I feel that I may need to revise that term. Before I continue with that let me tell you MY general "Facebook Policies:"

 #1. I only 'friend' people who I actually know in some way (either 'real' friends, relatives, people I've worked with in some capacity, and a few colleagues who I know by reputation). Because I work in comics and other parts of the entertainment biz, I get a ton of 'friend' requests from comics fans, but I generally don't accept those (sorry!), and refer people interested in my work to my "fan page." Many of my friends and colleagues will connect with anybody because they use FB primarily as a means to promote stuff, but I prefer to keep my page somewhat personal.

#2. That said, I do tend to keep things "light" on my FB page. I don't get too personal, and generally do not post anything political, religious, or otherwise controversial. I'm also very private about my family, so my friends won't find pics from my kid's birthday or anything. People who know me well have access to that in other ways, I prefer to post goofy stuff like photos from Comic-Con, or my new hat, and links to The Onion are as political as I like to get.

Which brings me to this morning, and the point of this blog post. Sort of. Yes, I tend not to post anything political on my FB page, but occasionally I can't help but comment on somebody else's post. When I do, it's almost always because I'm pointing out that something is unfair, inaccurate, or illogical; never to make a partisan argument in support of one party or the other. You can call that 'wishy-washy,' if you want, but I'm not interested in blasting my "friends" with my ideology. Frankly, from what I see every day in social media, I don't think anybody is actually listening to differing points-of-view anyway...

This morning I commented on someone's much-forwarded, election-themed meme, just because I thought it was completely nonsensical, and couldn't help myself. I only commented on the illogic, but I'm certain that someone I don't know, who is connected to the poster, will mistake my comment for championing the "other guy." I'm just waiting for the thread of abuse and party-lines that will follow in my comment's wake! This often happens when I chime in like this, and I'm always shocked at how vehement, disrespectful,or downright rude people will be to complete strangers posting on their "friend's" wall. Last time I did this, someone made all kinds of (incorrect) assumptions about my positions (and intelligence!), and called me many nasty things. Imagine if I'd posted something that actually took a side!

This whole election cycle makes me think about the concept of "light contact," and how eroneous that description might be. It seems to me that a huge percentage of my Facebook friends regularly post comments which may actually be a deeper view into their character than we'd normally find around the water cooler at work, or even at a party. On any given day, my news feed is filled with strongly stated opinions on politics, religion, news items, etc. It's definitely not all fluff and, in an era where everyone is conditioned to avoid hostile workplace accusations, much of the discource is decidedly "not safe for work!"

It's actually alarming to me how many people don't edit themselves online. In the past few months I have been shocked several times by the posts of people who made the cut into my 'friend' list. I've seen some truly stupid, hateful and even SCARY-CRAZY stuff posted by people I thought I knew... at least a little.

 I guess when you work with people, and have the friendly "light contact" that comes in the workplace, it's easy to assume that they are reasonably intelligent, relatively decent, and open-minded. Why not? The deepest conversation you may have had was about last night's episode of "The Walking Dead."

Could it be that Facebook is actually a means to really get to know someone on a deeper level than you ever could in person? I guess this is what people mean when they talk about the 'end of privacy.' The ironic thing is that Big Brother is irrelevant if you volunteer all your personal thoughts, beliefs and private information in exchange for the attention of an audience.


Steve Buccellato said...

Postscript: In a refreshing turn of events, I only received ONE dopey reply to the comment I left on Facebook this morning...(which was even stupider than the actual meme I was complaining about). Otherwise, the discourse has been civil and even thoughtful. There is hope for humanity, after all! ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh, but I so want to make a partisan comment here... ;)

I am not so much FOR one party as I am vehemently AGAINST the other. I have a hard time not expressing myself on facebook. For me, it's become a bit of an outlet.

And this year, of course, has raised an inordinate amount of political babble -- added to by things such as the meme phenomena. I have been thinking lately that I may be more caught up in it all than I ought to be. Can't help how I feel, though. Perhaps I've just seen -- and experienced -- too much to be objective. But one thing I promise won't do: claim to be objective when I'm not. Although, on a deeper level, I am convinced that I came to my biased opinion through an objective examination of what is out there. So who can say, right?

The best point here is that we *can* still have a political discourse without it becoming irrational. I may not understand any support for the "other side," but I am still willing to listen to rational, fact-based thoughts. It would be nice to see more of that.

-- gb

Steve Buccellato said...

Very fair, GB. One overarching point I'd make is that in the current climate, I don't think these tweeted political rants and memes are convincing anyone of anything. Those who agree with the poster's POV seem to laugh, cheer and hit the "share" button to pass it on, regardless of whether or not it makes any logical sense. Just a bunch of yelling and name-calling without any real discussion because people are so polarized on the issues that they barely regard the "other side" as human! Certainly their opinions are not worthy of actual, thoughtful consideration.

That's my opinion, anyway! When I'm on Facebook, I'd much rather hear about how people are doing personally... what projects they're working on... What they thought of "The Avengers..."