I don’t post on Facebook anymore, and haven’t since August 2012.. Like many conservatives/libertarians most of my friends are liberals. In fact just for kicks I went through and categorized my “Facebook Friends” into Liberal, Moderate and Other political categories based on their posts. 60% of these “friends” were avowed liberals while the remainder was split evenly between moderates and “other”. This exercise didn’t take much time; I don’t have all that many “friends” on Facebook. In fact I’d quit it completely if it wasn’t for the posts of a small subset of friends and George Takei.
I quit posting on Facebook after finding myself drawn into an argument with a liberal friend from my college days. I’ve been on the Internet since before it was called “The Internet.” When I was in college I hung out at a local BBS and frequented Usenet groups. I quickly learned the perils of flamers and trolls, and so by the time the 2000’s rolled by I had a full education on what topics to avoid and which to pursue and more importantly, how to pursue them, on the Internet. I learned that writing or posting in a faceless medium tended to make one abstract a friend into an opponent, an opponent into an enemy, and an enemy into a representation of pure Evil. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and I’ve fallen into it many times, usually here on TheRazor, and sometimes in discussions with like-minded friends. But usually I’m smart enough to recognize when I’m stuffing straw into a scarecrow in my arguments and realize that it’s a conscious fight to remain civil. Most of my liberal friends know I am no longer one of them, and they avoid reading this journal.
Unfortunately Facebook makes it easy to demonize the other side, whichever side that is on an issue, and the forum does not accommodate disagreement. There’s a “like” button but not a “dislike” button, so one can agree with a post but cannot disagree. This encourages conformity within a post by making it easier to like something that dislike. If one disagrees with a post, one has to express it in the comments.
When did we begin to expect people to agree with us? Was there ever a time in the past when people disagreed with each other without, to quote Gerald Ford, being disagreeable? Facebook’s culture of “like” makes any opposing view appear harsher in a post regardless of how gently it’s worded. Instead of offering a chance for intellectual stimulation that leads to growth, the culture of “like” demonizes alternate perspectives, encouraging group-think and conformity. Those who express contrary points of view in a post risk jeopardizing the “friendship”. The boosterism and jingoism of the “like” also encourages the poster to “play to the crowd” by providing posts and opinions that are known to be popular, thereby reinforcing the overall conformity of the group. I have learned that at heart I am a contrarian with a natural distaste for majority opinion – which can pose a problem at parties which is why I avoid them at all costs.
If I designed Facebook I’d have not only a “dislike” button but a “you’re f—-ing off your nut” button. I need to say this to my “friends” sometimes and hear it myself. I believe that all of us need to be challenged in our beliefs, and perhaps even change as a result.
And that’s another issue that depresses me with Facebook. The liberal friends I knew back in my college days without exception are liberal today, while I have gone from being a liberal to a conservative/libertarian. I don’t understand how one can hold the same perspectives and worldviews at 50 that they did at 20, or even want to. The world is so much richer and more complex than anything I imagined 30 years ago, and how could one’s beliefs resist the travails of time and experience?
So I’ve given up on Facebook, and it appears that others are doing the same. I’m increasingly seeing fewer and fewer people responding to the posts of others as they are drawn to a few popular figures like George Takei, just as the traffic for blogs has gravitated to a few sites, leaving others to speak or write to the void. This too shall pass, a wise man once said, and for Facebook (and the Obama administration) it can’t pass fast enough for me.