Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Court of FaceBook

Facebook has some wonderful qualities.  It's a great place to spread a message, promote a business, announce an event, share an interesting article, thought, photo or story.  But lately, I have come to think that Facebook is also down right dangerous. I'm not talking about trolls or online bullies, I'm talking about all of us, intelligent people, good people, thoughtful people, people that are concerned with the state of the world and social justice.

Facebook has narrowed the gap between ourselves and our barbaric, medieval ancestors who enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of watching a man get gored to death.  Facebook has brought us closer to our Puritan ancestors who burned women at the stake for witchcraft.  Facebook is bypassing a long evolved system of justice and any standards of accountable journalism.  Where once we lamented that people were tried by the press, now they are tried by a sea of opinion.

I have engaged in my fair share of Facebook discussions.  Actually, Facebook discussion might be an oxymoron.  I can think of one time where two people with opposing views heard each other.  In every other circumstance, a well mannered Facebook discussion looks something like this - person one states opinion, person two states opinion, person three states opinion....If opinions differ, then person one emphasizes opinion, person two restates their opinion and person three gets louder.  Occasionally, a tidbit of information gets thrown in.  Might be true, might not be true.   If the information aligns with the opinion holder then it's kudos and bravos, if the information doesn't suit the opinion holder then it's ignored or attacked. If the aim of discussion is to broaden our thinking then Facebook fails as a platform for exchanging thought.

If this were as bad as it gets then I'd just leave bad enough alone, share what I want to share and try not to engage in a debate that has no hopeful outcome.  But this is not as bad as it gets. Take this recent example:  A photo of a  classified ad from The Cape Breton Post has been circulating online.  The ad reads, "House for rent, two bedrooms, one bathroom, Well maintained home for family (white) within downtown of Sydney, NS, and then the phone number,"  I saw this post myself and did what most people did.  I flipped.  What kind of backwater, racist moron writes something like that? I did the Facebook thing and I shared it with a strong dosage of indignant outrage.  Then a friend sent me a message.  Apparently, English was not the first language of  the people that posted the ad. Someone who saw the post called the number and talked directly with the owner who confirmed, in less than perfect English,  that the house and trim were white and they did not care what colour the renters were.  Oops.  I took down the post. Chalk it up to an editing oversight.  But so many other people had shared it as well.   I watched the comments.  A few people chimed in, explaining that there was a misunderstanding.   I would have thought that the discussion would end there, but it didn't.  Lots of back and forth, questioning the motive.  No way could someone make that mistake.  I don't believe that for a minute.  A flurry of opinions and not a fact to be found.  Call them! Find the house! Teach them a lesson.  (Burn them at the stake, stone them, feed them to the lions!)

I confess, I really wanted to join the discussion, but I resisted.  The last thing I need is to unleash an ugly mob of Facebook comments.  But seeing as this is my blog, I'll write what I wanted to write here....
Who cares what you think?  Your opinion could easily be right as it could be wrong.  Haven't you watched enough law and order to know that things are not always as they appear?  Do you think that lawyers spend years in law school to finely hone their opinion? What gives you the right to pronounce anyone guilty without even speaking to them?  Think of the damage that your opinion might be causing.  If that stupid error was shared on 1000 pages, what's to say that some wingnut vigilante won't find these people and hurt them?  Watching these Facebook discussions feels like watching a barbaric ritual.  We really aren't as evolved as we think we are.

Cat videos.  I'll be sharing cat videos.


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