Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fallacies and Falsehoods on Facebook

I like politics and I like healthy debate.  However, I try my very best to avoid political discussions on my friends' Facebook walls.  I don't steer clear because I am uninformed or because I can't get my point across (some may well say that I'm a little too pointed), but I generally try to restrain myself from participating because it has become abundantly clear to me that political Facebook statuses are meant to become a circle jerk of like-minded believers.  That is, dissent is not usually appreciated or tolerated. 

Why not participate?  I mean, we are all adults and we should be quite aware that the entire world doesn't share our viewpoints.  Besides, learning about and hearing other ideas and thoughts is one of the ways that we achieve personal growth as individuals.  In an ideal world, both preceeding statements would be true.  In the real world, we appear to be stuck in obstinate toddlerhood when it comes to politics - we want to oppose, but we can't truly handle opposition from anyone else.

Put simply I try to avoid commenting on these statuses because, at best, I alienate a friend.  At worst, I end up learning that a friend is too cowardly to let their thoughts (and others') remain and they make active use of their delete button.  I've already blogged about how I feel about trying to erase thoughts as it relates to blogging and I feel the same about people, friends or otherwise, doing it on Facebook.  It doesn't mean that I won't be friends with them any longer because I'm an adult and I accept my friends as they are, perceived flaws and all, but it is disappointing when it happens.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't care if someone is so narrow-minded that they can't handle reading a difference of opinion.  I certainly do care when someone who I care about is off-the-charts judgemental and mean-spirited toward those with different political persuasions.  Those "different" people would be those who share my political thoughts and ideals.  I have to say that I even find it hurtful to some extent because engaging in and condoning name calling against "those" people is the same as doing it to me.  Get it?  What is said about "them" is being said about me.

I don't exactly wear my heart on my sleeve so, my personal feelings aside, I'm more disturbed when I see that someone I care about is whole-heartedly approving outright fallacies and falsehoods.  Seeing a friend spreading and applauding fallacious arguments and outright falsehoods feels like it did when you found out that a friend was behind the vicious rumors about you in high school and it's very much the same thing your Facebook friend is doing now.  "I don't get her or her way of thinking so she must be fill-in-the-blank."  I've actually seen that "blank" filled in with words not based on any facts, but solely designed to incite a violent reaction (verbal or otherwise):  racist, misogynistic, @sshole, stupid, unpatriotic, Rethuglican, Dumbicrat, etc. 

I respectfully submit that it's intentionally ignorant to ascribe a negative name toward someone when you aren't even interested in hearing why they believe the way they do.  This childish name calling is essentially the internet way of putting your hands over your ears and saying, "la, la, la - I can't hear you!"  Even worse is that it's not that they can't hear, it's that they won't hear and there is a huge difference between the two.  Who knows, maybe they have been so conditioned to have an "us vs them" mentality that they really can't hear.  If that's the case, I find it profoundly sad that they've been so brainwashed to have tunnel thoughts. . .like tunnel vision, but infinitely more detrimental.

I have written some controversial blog posts.  I have shared some controversial content on Facebook.  I have sometimes stirred up an entire hornet's nest of venomous activity.  One thing I haven't done, and will not do, is talk sh*t about friends who think differently than I do.  And I surely will not be chickensh*t about it and phrase poisonous ideas about "those" people.  It's not about "you," it's about "them!"  Yeah, keep telling yourself that and perhaps someone will eventually believe it.

Another thing I won't do is delete comments that aren't in perfect lockstep with my own thoughts.  See, I may be an unpatriotic, racist, misogynistic @sshole (all that would be news to me and, I hope, to those who know me - well, except the @sshole part!), but I am not a coward and I am not afraid of people who think differently than I do.  As one who loves freedom, I sure as heck am not willing to censor other people who are flexing their own freedom to share their thoughts.

I love Facebook because it's a great tool to keep in touch with people who I don't often see or have an opportunity to chat with, but sometimes I can really do without the things I learn about friends and family.  Of course, the flip side is that those friends and family members are probably thinking the same thing about me.

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