Tuesday, December 18, 2012
I've not ever "unfriended" anyone on Facebook--or hidden posts from anyone. There are times, of course, when I've felt like it. (As I'm sure some of my FB friends have felt like unfriending--or hiding--me after I've posted something annoying.) During the recent political campaign season I often read posts from FB friends who were articulating positions antithetical to my own. I cringed. But didn't click. And very seldom replied. When I did reply, I tried to use the "message" feature instead of make a public comment. (Maybe I messed up a few times? Can't remember. Choose to think I didn't.) I've refused a friend request only one time (long story).
After the recent school shootings (isn't it horrible that we all know what a school shooting is now? the locution was unknown in my own school days) I had one FB friend who announced that he wished to be unfriended by anyone who owned a handgun; another declared he was going to hide posts from any of his friends who expressed support for gun control. "I've looked at life from both sides now"--as Joni Mitchell sang in 1969, the year I was married. Well, FB is kind of "all sides now" in today's complicated polygon of political and religious opinion and belief.
I'm no saint, believe me. I don't like to hear opinions I don't agree with. In the coffee shop where I often go in the morning to read ("Dawn Reader," remember?), I overhear positions--often loud, always peremptory--that I find disagreeable at the least, deeply offensive at the most. I don't say anything, don't argue--ever. (I keep my nose buried in my book, try not to hear.) But every now and then, weary of it all, I go to some other coffee shop. Just for a break. But soon I'll hear something there that will set my blood a-bubbling, and back I'll go to the other place.
I don't watch any TV news channels anymore. None. It seems that TV news has only one guiding principle: Report what the most depraved people in town/country/world are doing. Instead, I watch The Daily Show, read the New York Times on my Kindle every morning, read a variety of magazines (online and otherwise). I try to read columnists I don't usually agree with (not easy), but I confess that (like most other people?) I am most comfortable reading writers whose biases are akin to my own.
Many of my FB friends are former students--some from as far back as the 1966-1967 school year, my first in in the classroom. And I confess that I'm often dazzled by what I read from them. Some are now (were they always?) far to my right (politically, religiously) and routinely share or post things that alarm, even horrify me. Others are now on the left--and since that's where I reside, too, I find their posts far less troubling! Others are apolitical (and/or areligious) and usually post only about their pets, their children, spouses, favorite recipes and restaurants, etc. FB, in a way, is like being in a crowded coffee shop, sitting and listening: You can hear just about anything.
Most of my own FB posts are my lame attempts to remain an English teacher nearly two years after I retired. I note the birthdays of writers I like, post newspaper/magazine cartoons that relate to works I used to teach, post interesting (to me) words-of-the-day from various sources, talk about what I'm reading or writing. I've been doing a series of silly posts about a character I call "A Dumb Guy"; I post a bit of doggerel every day (which I cleverly call "Daily Doggerel"). That's about it. I generally avoid provocative FB posts. (Don't always succeed.) (And I will "Like" some political/religious posts I agree with.)
When I do have something political to say, I usually say it here, in the blog. And so in recent months I've written about gay rights, labor unions, and other Lefty issues that I try to keep out of my FB posts--though I do post a link to the blog. (Okay: "I am large, I contain multitudes," as some bearded poet once said. I contradict myself. Sue me.)
When I see someone else's post that annoys me, I usually just keep scrolling--the equivalent of concentrating on my book in the coffee shop. Sometimes I reply (personally, not publicly). Sometimes I percolate all day but resist the temptation to respond.
I'm not convinced that responding--arguing--does any good. (Do you know anyone who ever changed his/her opinion because of someone else's FB rant? Or saucy meme?) What does more good, I think, is to keep the coffee shop open, to continue going there. Maybe some of my deeply conservative FB friends will realize--seeing my posts, remembering our history together, remembering me as a person--that all liberals are not insane, all Obama supporters do not want to see the country destroyed, all advocates of gun control are not political stooges, all supporters of gay rights are not out to destroy the family, all advocates of labor unions are not socialists, all atheists are not evil. And so on.
And maybe I--reading their posts--will understand the other side(s) a little better?
Probably naive. Pollyannaish.
But I loved my students--back then. And it's awfully hard for me to turn that switch off. Mostly because I don't want to. Usually ...