I love Twitter and Facebook. Especially during these stressful times when I can't much commit to regular blog posts, I like the idea of "micro-blogging." And honestly, that's how I use social media of all kinds. It allows me to stay in touch with the community I've developed through blogging, during times when I can't blog. And bloggity-blog-blog, blog on the blog with extra blog-sauce. OK, there. I think I've said that stupid word enough for the rest of the year now.
Though I've had an active Facebook account for quite some time, something interesting, and of late, a bit disturbing, has happened with Facebook. My high-school classmates have discovered it. You wouldn't think that would be a terribly big deal--at least I never suspected that it would. The friend requests from old classmates seemed to come in large groups, as if someone had passed around a memo. I didn't recognize all the names right off the bat, but I've got a pretty liberal Facebook policy, so when I get a request, I generally go look to see what friends we have in common and establish the relationship from that context. The requests that I approve fall into one of just a few categories:
1. You are my longtime friend or a family member. I don't have the kind of friends or family who keep secrets from each other, and they all know me well, so I have nothing to hide from them. They probably wish they knew less about me, but OH, WELL, TOO BAD FOR YOU.
2. I know you from blogging or from Flickr or Twitter or other Internet forums. I may have met you in person, or we may have an Internet-only relationship. There may be no "relationship" at all, outside of the fact that we have read each other's writings and have a sort of common sympathy, due to bonding interests such as motherhood, mental illness, food, politics, or even poodles.
3. You go to my church. Again, I apologize for the familiarity, but again, TOO BAD FOR YOU. I yam what I yam. Jesus loves me and says you have to, too. HAHAHAHAAAA.
4. You went to my high school.
It's that last category that's causing my brain to ache right now. Apparently, the vast majority of people who attended Jacksonville High School in the 1980s have grown into hardcore right-wingers. Waaaaaaay right. Which, you know, is fine--not my choice, obviously, but fine. That's kinda what's great about this country, that we are able to align ourselves with whatever sort of political philosophy feels best to us. Further to that, we have the right to TALK ABOUT THAT.
I've always prided myself on the ability to get along with just about everyone, and to overlook differences of opinion on politics, faith, and whether or not Velveeta is actually food (it's not). So unless you're a blatant racist, bigot, homophobe, or any other brand of hatemonger, or you insist on bringing that Rotel dip to my Superbowl party, I'm generally pretty happy to go along and get along. Because unless you're shoving it in my face, your beliefs are your own, and NO SKIN OFF MY NOSE.
Now, I do not write scathing political rants on Facebook. I do, however, pass along things I see on my friends' walls, and link to articles that interest me, and occasionally comment on those things. I self-identify as a progressive/liberal thinker RIGHT THERE in my profile for all the world to see--if that's a deal-breaker for you, then you should NOT "FRIEND" (seriously, that's a verb now, apparently) ME. But honest to gosh, if you do, that does not earn you any input into what I choose to post on my stupid Facebook wall. It's MY stupid Facebook wall, not yours.
I have, in recent weeks, received messages from old classmates complaining about links I've posted or comments I've made on my wall. MY wall. They usually go on to complain about Socialism, taxes, etc. etc., omgscarygub'ment, etc. Because, you know, I obviously don't understand these complete black & white issues. I don't know if these people with their tender psyches are new to Facebook, new to social media, new to the Internet, or just have an incredible sense of entitlement as far as what it's OK for other people to say. The only commonalities I've identified is that they're all male, white, and went to my high school. It's bizarre.
When I identify a person as someone who's going to continually post things that angry up my blood, I have a few options. I can ignore their posts--this is what I do most often. If they're just unrelenting in opinions that I find particularly abhorrent, and I know that the mere act of reading these things will upset me, I use the Facebook option of "hiding" their posts so that they don't appear on my home page. What I don't see can't piss me off. This was my solution with one prominent blogger who I've met in person and truly do like and care about, but whose political agenda I just can't stomach. Finally, if the person in question seems particularly rabid in their rantings, and there's no real value in the relationship, I can "unfriend" (darn you and your coinage of stupid words, Internet) them, and in extreme cases, block them. I have blocked exactly one person, not because of things they posted on their own wall, but because of things they posted on mine.
I really do believe that we can get along better than we do in this country. And I understand that the status quo in America is changing, and that that scares the living wampus out of a lot of people. Particularly certain white males. I get it. There's a lot going on that I can't stand, too, so I sympathize with that frustration. And I have dear friends and family members whose politics are 180 degrees from mine. I still love 'em.
Several years ago, I curbed the content of my own blog (dangit, said it again) because I was told that when I discussed politics it hurt the feelings of certain family members. I've since realized that those certain family members never, ever visit this website any more anyway, so that was a pointless muzzling of my personal expression. I'll be darned if I'll be told what I can and cannot post on stupid Facebook. It's stupid FACEBOOK, people, not a manifesto. My liberal-ness is hardwired into my personality. I am not who I am because of my politics. My politics have taken shape the way they have because of who I am. I'm proud to be a progressive thinker, and I'm not in the least ashamed of my bleeding heart. My social and political convictions can be boiled down to one simple commonality: I care about other people, including strangers, and have a strong desire that the basic needs of EVERY person are met. I do not much care if that means higher taxes. That's pretty much it, really. So if you want to slam me for that, feel free to do so.
Just do it on your own stupid Facebook wall, and quit worrying about mine.