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SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016
 
Back when I was in college, I used facebook every now and then, maybe updating my profile once a week, and seeing what my friends were up to once every few weeks. Afterall, I saw them just about every day, and really didn't need to be using Facebook to keep in touch with them. This was back in the early days of Facebook where 95% of your friends were from your college, and you had to write a letter to Mark Zuckerberg just to get a network for your college to be created. Now, like most people, my friends list is compiled of virtually anyone I've said "hello" to in my life time, and I check my Facebook every few seconds. Mostly because these days I sit infront of a computer from 9-6, and can steal some Facebook glances every now and then. And with all this Facebooking, I've started to notice two very obvious categories that all my friends fall within. The political, and the apolitical.

As a quick clarifying, or a definition in terms, when I say apolitical, I don't mean those who have no interest in politicals or world events. Rather, I mean those who do not make their political leanings very clear on Facebook. I myself, would fall into that very group. While I love to engage in political debate, and do have my strong opinions, Facebook is not my forum for it. Afterall, my bosses are my Facebook friends, and they too have apolitical accounts. Now it's not to say that there aren't the occasional debates I find myself in - currently, I'm following and have thrown my cents into a large censorship debate - but I find myself avoiding any strong political convictions within these forums. For me, Facebook isn't the place for politics, or a forum for advocacy. It's a place where all those things should be checked at the door for the simple fact that there are too many people with too many views who are all exposed to one another's opinions - and things can easily get out of hand.

But then I have a large number of friends who fall deeply into the political group. While I call them political, I don't mean they wear their politics on their sleeves, but just about any issue they feel passionate about. Whether it's vegetarianism/veganism, advocating human/animal/environmental rights, campaigning for political groups and leaders, and even those who are members and advocate particular charitable foundations/scientific research/medical research. And while I highly doubt anyone would be offended by someone joining a group related to curing cancer, I find myself more reluctant than I would be outside of Facebook, as I could foresee it opening the "opinion" door - which I'm working hard to keep closed. I'm not sure if there's a middle ground here... from what I've seen, people fall into either extreme, despite it's evident absurdity. Clearly, when you compare too extremes you can't claim one is better than the other, as they both are at beyond the point of ridicule.

And while I think Facebook should be apolitical, I'm constantly feeling as though I'm being goaded into debate from those friends which update their profile pictures to relate to the latest currently world issue, post articles, invite me to join groups (some which I would join, and some which I would never join). I'd very much rather just use it as a tool to keep up with the very friends who are asking me to vote no on a particular issue - partly out of fear of offending other friends who would want me to vote yes, partly out of fear of offending current and prospective employers, and partly because I feel that if I were to engage in issues, I'd be using Facebook even more than I do.

Those are my thoughts... what are yours?
Comments

Hogan

Hogan

I've noticed the same thing, Alishah. And for reasons that go beyond Facebook, I don't think that "social networking sites" (whatever that means) or even the internet in general is a great political tool. Of course it's used for that, but I think it's the wrong way to go, especially with FB.

Just yesterday I got over 70 god-damned group invites from a guy I confirmed as a "friend (someone I don't remember having met, and probably didn't), ranging from "Arabs are not Terrorists" (fair enough) to "Why can't everyone just speak English". I ignored them all, which took a while, and am ignoring all invites from this mystery "friend". My fault, I know...

Politics on facebook, I think, denigrates politics. It reduces public participation to clicking on an "accept" button, plus you get that warm feeling from knowing that others will see your political affiliations. How impressed they'll be!

I do join groups (mostly because people I actually know in REAL LIFE are part of them, and, of course, because I believe in the cause) and I can't say the public, if minor, recognition isn't part of it. Like all things facebook, it's about being seen, and being seen to be seen, and being seen to be seen being seen, etc.

I post my WordArc articles and send around some links every now and then. But I haven't created a group. And I hope I never will. I'm not religiously opposed to it, though, because, like you point out, Alishah, either side of the extreme is silly.

When I said facebook politics denigrate actual politics, I meant that on the internet there is no, and probably cannot be, any sense of solidarity, at least beyond narrow group identifications. The reason is, I think, that the internet gives everyone and anyone, no matter how narrow and specific their identity, tastes, or fetishes, a website to go to for just that narrow interest. The internet, so the cliche goes, is a unifying power, one which brings us together from the farthest reaches of the planet. My guess is most internet communication is between people who are very close geographically. Same with phones and other technically modern forms of communication.

So, instead of actually bringing people together when before they were not, the internet more likely brings people together who were already together, and if they were brought together from far away, it was probably by way of some arbitrary, narrow fetish or hobby.

In this sense people don't go to the internet to find something new - something they're not familiar with, something to expand their horizons - they go - or rather, stay, retreat, withdraw - into their own previously-held interests and search out only the like-minded. Not a lot of bringing-together, or uniting, or horizon expansion going on.

And I think that's what's going on on facebook. Lots of easy familiarity and like-mindedness, but little debate or discussion of the kind that moves people from their already-established mindsets.

Anway, those are my thoughts.

genius_advice

genius_advice

Facebook is only efficient in sharing photos and reminding you about birthdays, in my opinion. (When on earth did everybody start putting up their real birthdays on the internet???)



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