Monday, July 21, 2014

Facebook Activism—or Why I Liked Your Post But Didn’t Share It

Anymore, I see Facebook as a microcosm of the Internet—which ever stories are big on or Reddit inevitably show up on Facebook. Some of this is because I follow several pages. Some of it is because friends and relatives will share stories about what happened in Gaza in the past week or a thoughtful editorial about the Hobby Lobby decision.

And sometimes what people share is smart-asses political commentary or “turn your status this color because” links. Most of my friends share my political sensibilities, so I often like what they post—for real and with mouse-clicks. But in general I try not to re-share most of it even if I agree with it. Why is that? For one, I don’t like having arguments on the Internet. I don’t like having arguments, period. I’ve said in the past that I’m only willing to argue if someone is paying me to do it. For another thing, I think that discourse online gets, for lack of a better phrase, flattened. There are no nuances; no tone and no verbal or facial cues that would let you see how the author of a comment felt (angry, sarcastic, unsure.) As a result, everyone sounds more strident online than they would in real life.

This is not new—in 2000 I got a flaming e-mail from my boss because I asked the staff what kind of sodas I should order without consulting her first. If she’d delivered the same rebuke in person it wouldn’t have stung nearly as much. Because e-mail has no tone, some things come out sharper than you intend. The same thing is true of Facebook or Reddit posts. 

The other main reason I don’t often repost the political stuff is that I believe that with a few exceptions*, posting something on Facebook doesn’t actually entail doing something to further the cause you want to support. It makes you feel good—especially when your friends  like it. But it doesn’t make Net Neutrality any more likely and it doesn’t convince your Republican relatives of the error of their ways. I am skeptical to what extent people can change each other’s minds about these things, but I’ve seen it happen, so I know it’s possible. But I’m pretty sure it took more than a snarky Facebook post to change my conservative, Catholic, Ex-Army Uncle’s mind about gay marriage (for example.)

So, this may be a little extreme, but I don’t generally repost political memes, because that would make me feel I was actually doing something about the problem/issue in question and I’m not. Yes, I suppose you could argue that I was raising awareness of an issue, but if said issue is all over the Internet and 3 people from my group of friends have shared it, what am I adding to the conversation? Do I really think my conservative cousins from GA are suddenly going to start caring about Net Neutrality because I posted it?

So while I agree that Hobby Lobby is hypocritical for investing in birth control while denying it to their staff, and that the number of shootings we’ve had since the school shooting in Connecticut is disgusting, and that Israel should stop killing people in Gaza,  and states should stop making it so hard to get an abortion if you need one, I’m not going to repost. We all know the same people—so I’m not adding to the discussion.

*share this to show you stand with rape victim x/Trayvon Martin are exceptions in my mind.

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