Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Alas, Poor Facebook

If I only had a nickel for all the apologies I’ve made. Or was asked to make. Or a dime for the ones people think they deserve.

To wit: My Facebook activity wanes when life’s other distractions loom larger. But, as many of you know, FB has a nifty feature aimed at dragging you back by reminding you of what you posted a year ago, two years ago, and so forth. “Here’s your memory!” it says. And sometimes it’s appropriate to revisit the post.

I wrote about Chuck Dixon and Tony Isabella and the politics of comics (and the comics of politics) three years ago, prior to the recent presidential election. Post the election, I’ve only written about politics when paid to do so. I won’t explain that. You either get it or you don’t.

You really don’t? Fine, I’ll explain.

Most people mark time by the BIG events we have in common. As in “before Emancipation,” “after the Stock Market crashed,” and so forth. In my short lifetime, it was “after Kennedy was assassinated,” “before the Beatles played Ed Sullivan,” and “after 9-11.”

And, most recently, “Post November.” Some of you call it “Post Trump.” Others, “After Obama.”

Before the Beatles played Ed Sullivan, there was one set of expectations about music. After they played, there was another. Don’t bother arguing with me. On this subject, and few others, everyone is wrong and I’m right.

No need to go into what occurred after 9-11.

But “Post November,” things got ugly. The power shoe was on the other foot. The emotional civil war (which is more dangerous than the ideological civil war) went into overdrive. People really got their hate on.

On Facebook (because all roads lead to Facebook), I watched people banning and “unfriending” each other like it was a bodily function, which was sort of sickening. Most bodily functions are, unless they’re your own. These weren’t my own. Mine smell okay to me.

I decided to stay out of it. No politics on Facebook. I wasn’t stumping for “my side” (who is it? who is it?) or any side, or joining any conversations about the president, the parties, or the various tribes. Unless, of course, someone was paying me to do it. Because that’s what I do—I write about things professionally (as in “for a living”). I’m okay with that: I've maintained my convictions; I don’t write anything that I don’t believe, regardless of who I write for, but neither do I jam my professional writing into my personal social media space. I save Facebook for hobbies and things I enjoy. Comics. Music. Family. Martial arts.

Three years ago—“Pre November”—I wrote about writer Chuck Dixon’s take on Conservatives being banned from comics and writer/editor Tony Isabella’s disagreement with Chuck, and Chuck’s with Tony. That was something I wrote for fun, as in I wasn’t paid to write it. It wasn’t really fun but I was interested because I like Chuck’s comics writing very much and Chuck and I are several degrees more than friendly, and Tony Isabella was very kind to me when I was getting started as a writer (“Post Nixon,” “Pre 9-11”)  and has remained so on-again, off-again for three decades. I'm not sure how Tony feels about me today (is it Wednesday?) but we share a close friend in author Harlan Ellison, a terrific author who was born “After the stock Market crashed” but not very much after.

The piece I wrote about Chuck and Tony and Politics and Comics popped up on its third year Facebook anniversary, lest auld acquaintance be forgot, and I reposted it. And because I reposted it in a “Post November” world, it has already received 500+ comments. The comments come from members of various tribes. People who would, given the opportunity, banish their fellows to another country or even another planet and, failing that, block and “unfriend” each other on Facebook after a liberal (and I use the term as Oxford does, meaning “generous”) dose of criticism, often bile covered, minimally snarky.

I’ve been asked to chime in. I’ve been asked how I feel about a particular comment in a thread of 500+ comments. But I can’t answer that because I haven’t read most of those comments. Comments from people that I don’t know are graffiti to me and if I only learned one thing from Chargé D'affaires Harlan Ellison it is this: avoid the tar pit.

This doesn’t mean I don’t care what people write, or what they write on my Facebook wall, within reason. There’s certain things, I’m certain, that could raise my dander, and those who’ve worked hard to pull my tail over the years undoubtedly have stories to tell. But I won’t be drawn into the milieu of “Post November” tribalism. I don’t feel the need to banish and unfriend people that I don’t even know.

“Don’t even know? Why are you friends?”

We’re not. They “friended” me. The holy word Friend has been re-nuanced and defrocked and made into garbage. Like the words conservative and liberal. Like the word gay, which once meant “light hearted” and trump, which meant “to have superior power over.” People “friend” me for various reasons. Facebook tells me I have 3659 friends.

I only have six or eight Friends. And only three of them are on Facebook.


Richard said...

The separation of person from consequence allowed by a glowing screen, has seemed to exaggerate people's vitriol. People's vehemence suddenly comes true hate. This seems to feed on itself and the next poster has to out hate the first, until the entire point of it, discussion of ideas, is lost. No one can argue, or discuss ... The can merely accuse. I hope to personally remember how to duscuss, disagree, and learn from the people who don't share my point of view. But I know I will growl too.

Mike Pascale said...

Well-worded, well-written, well-thought-out. Well done, my (real) friend.