Friends in the age of social media (revisited)

*** Opening disclaimer – nearly all of this post came from my July 30, 2016 post on the same topic. A couple of things were bothering me today: one relates to the known falsehoods still being shared by some friends/”friends” on social media – some of which, it now seems, were part of an orchestrated attack, by Russians, intended to influence our 2016 election (indictments were made public this afternoon); and one was a disturbing display of anger in a response to a offensive comment someone had made on a news item

The relationship to the first thing is perhaps clearer, since that was essentially the topic of the original post. The second was not behavior that I covered in the original post, but I have, in other posts, discussed our perpetual state of manufactured outrage, and the impact that it can have on people with emotional control and anger management issues.

So now I have an excuse to vent/pontificate a bit about the nature of friendship and how social media not only taxes friendship, but also reduces its meaning. But before venturing into that aspect, there is the subject of what to do, or perhaps say, when a friend/”friend” turns out to be one of ‘those’ people that threaten instead of ignoring. Now, there have been other times when friends/”friends” said incredibly offensive things to other friends/”friends”, but eventually those things were worked out, hurt feelings acknowledged, and escalation avoided – or sometimes social media-only friendships were severed, but this was different in that it was a threatening knee-jerk reaction to something that was out of proportion to the trigger. And it disturbed me a great deal. It was also a fluke of timing that I saw it at all – if I’d logged in at a different time of day, I would have missed it. And then I wonder – does this happen often? with this particular friend only? are there others? And does it matter? I honestly don’t know. What does matter is that I did see it this one time because a thing once seen cannot be unseen. And that leaves the conundrum of what, if anything, to do. I don’t know that, either. But I’m both disheartened and concerned, so I’ll work it out somehow. But in the meantime, Thomas Paine had very some very wise advice for those that are quick to anger: “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”  

As far as the primary topic of friendship and social media is concerned, in the days before social media and the internet, we had friends, we had acquantainces, we had coworkers. Sometimes, for many reasons, those relationships shifted and changed over time – close friends became more distant, acquaintances became partners, unbreakable friendships shattered and new ones replaced them. Most of us knew, understood, and respected our differences (or when we didn’t actually respect them, we knew to choose our battles). Most of us, too, were raised with certain social boundaries – especially with acquaintances – don’t discuss anything more controversial than the weather. So mostly we didn’t – and maybe sometimes opportunities to understand another point of view better were lost, but mostly, especially for women, it kept the peace. Something we were also raised to do. I should note that I’m not only NOT waxing nostalgic here – I think that those lost opportunities should not have been necessary. I think there are always ways to respectfully discuss our differences to try to understand. Not to try to change an opinion. Just to understand. And I should also offer the disclaimer that I suck at social convention – but fortunately for all concerned my introversion kept me from saying too much to people I didn’t know well too often.

Now, though, friend is not only a noun relating to someone with whom you have a bond or feel affection for, but refers, too, to a member of your social networking circle, and the word has also become a verb related to the act of connecting to someone in social networking. It is the broader application of the word that gives me pause.

For most of my life, I’ve kept my personal life separated from my work life  – there were exceptions, especially as a young adult. For the most part, though, I’ve shared little personal information or views with most people; and I can honestly say that I’ve never ended a friendship over differences in politics, religion, or whatever, but I have over issues of honesty and trust. And therein lies my social networking dilemma.

We all use social networking differently. I’m not big on personal sharing, so Facebook, for me, is far more a combination of interesting information shares, humor, inspiration, politics, but very little personal stuff bleeds through – except, perhaps, for my blogging which I also do share on my personal Facebook.

With that baseline established, I can get back to my dilemma. I sincerely live by the idea that ‘you are entitled to your own opinion (or belief), but not to your own facts’. I understand that ‘facts’ can sometimes, although perhaps less often that some may think, be open to interpretation. And sometimes, especially in the realm of scientific discovery, something thought to have been fact can change with new information. That’s all okay. It’s actually a good thing. And I also don’t get overly rigid in holding onto my own opinions – I can, and do, change my mind based on new information. My current quandry is that not everyone thinks as I do about truth. Anyone that knows me – or has been reading this blog – knows that I am a critical thinker by nature. I live by the rules of logic. Somehow this is woven into the very core of how my brain functions. I research pretty nearly everything that interests or worries me – and I don’t limit my sources. This sometimes puts me at odds with my friends/”friends”‘s thinking on some issues, but that’s okay, too. Dialogue is good and the world would be awfully dull if we all agreed about everything all of the time. The problem comes in when I give in to my natural tendency, when I encounter something that isn’t true – be it a misattribution or a debunked urban myth, to call it out. Especially on social networking, where things spread like wildfire, never retract themselves, and prove Lenin’s infamous “a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth” axiom. For indeed, now more than ever, this is true. We are in an age when information travels at lightening speeds, and corrections get lost in the uproar. But I try. Perhaps I’m wrong. Sometimes I just don’t know. Perhaps I’m just being a pain-in-the-ass-know-it-all. But today’s indictments bear out my concerns.

To be fair, many of my friends/”friends” do take the more inflammatory posts down once they realize that they aren’t true (and in some cases have been repeated periodically for years). But some have said that regardless they though the meme was funny, or the quote too good not to share even if it wasn’t real. I’ve been argued with about the veracity of a quote even if the attribution is incorrect. I’ve been told, more than once, that I lack of sense of humor (this is likely true in certain instances), and most alarmingly, that the poster didn’t care if what they were posting was true or not since a) some percentage of news is untrue, anyway, and/or b) since whoever the story was about (& this crosses ideologies) is generally bad, it mattered little that this particular story was proven false, and/or c) both parties/all religions/whatever all do the same thing, anyway. None of these rationales make sense to me, and, although my circle of social networking friends is larger than the circle I would normally have been sharing “controversial” topics with in an earlier era, these are all family, friends, former coworkers, or others that I’ve forged a relatively comfortable relationship with & that I respect. But it’s hard for me to respect people that don’t place the same premium on truth that I do. But for a variety of reasons, I will not ‘unfriend’ them – much like with classically defined friends, it would take something quite egregious for that to happen, but it does make me uncomfortable. And it leaves me respecting their judgement just a bit less. And in the dark, pre-internet, ages, this would have been something that would probably have led to friendships fading away over time, but social networking makes it feel trickier. So I content myself with continuing to call out the truly inflammatory posts (since there is just too much hate out there already without fueling the fire with more misinformation), and just ignoring the rest.

Does anyone else have a magic formula for dealing with this? Does anyone else share my concerns at all? Among my friends/”friends”, I think I may be an outlier, but I find it hard to accept that this would be true. Maybe everyone else is just better at ignoring it? Maybe I am just a pedantic pain-in-the-ass.

To borrow a quote from Thomas Jefferson “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Yet, I’m not so sure about that when it comes to different sets of priorities when it comes to truth.

“People who fail to regard the truth seriously in small matters, cannot be trusted in matters that are great.”  — Albert Einstein, 1955

 

 

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Tuesday’s Quotes February 13, 2018 – Thinking

“Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking”

— Leo Tolstoy

Not common then, and it seems to be becoming less common now that we have instant access to so many things that reinforce our own beliefs & prejudices. We no longer feel compelled to challenge ourselves – and are unwilling to accept views that do. We need to get there, somehow, and find a way to live with our differences. The future depends on it.

I felt compelled to repost this again because, to me, it never ceases to be relevant – and important. And we can always use the reminder.

And we can use this reminder as well:

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The oft-repeated, by me, 10 Commandments of Logic meme was taken from the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner Facebook page.

Just a thought…

For some reason that I can’t pin down (yeah, okay, I can), this quote by Aldous Huxley was on my mind this weekend:

“In one way or another, as vigorous he-man or kindly father, the candidate must be glamorous. He must also be an entertainer who never bores his audience. Inured to television and radio, that audience is accustomed to being distracted and does not like to be asked to con­centrate or make a prolonged intellectual effort. All speeches by the entertainer-candidate must therefore be short and snappy. The great issues of the day must be dealt with in five minutes at the most — and prefera­bly (since the audience will be eager to pass on to something a little livelier than inflation or the H-bomb) in sixty seconds flat. The nature of oratory is such that there has always been a tendency among politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex is­sues. From a pulpit or a platform even the most con­scientious of speakers finds it very difficult to tell the whole truth. The methods now being used to merchan­dise the political candidate as though he were a deo­dorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything.”

Image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley

Reminder for a new week…

This may surprise some of you, but, although there is much I could, indeed would like, to say about some of what went on this week – particularly the past couple of days, I’m not going to (yet). The relentless extreme cold of the past couple of weeks has gotten to me (as it will), so I leave you, instead, with this very timely thought from one of our Founding Fathers, Samuel Adams:

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”  — Samuel Adams

Pax.

Etching of the White House from the White House Museum website

Looking inward…

Adapted from my post of December 11, 2016

As another week of too much manufactured outrage, far too many pieces of distorted, or flat out inaccurate, historical information, ends, and a new one is likely beginning, I wish that those I know who are so full of manufactured hate that they’ve stopped looking at anything objectively, would look inward to find out why.

“Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
― Thomas Merton

Change always has to start within.

Pax.

 

Hoping for a better week ahead…

The past couple of weeks, and this week in particular, has seen an incredible display of hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and a blatant lack of a moral compass from so many in Washington – and more alarmingly, from their supporters. From those that see any behavior acceptable as long as the one doing the misbehaving, or saying the disturbing things,  is if the same political party or religious denomination. Anything is better than ‘the other’.

Ultimately it is only by our actions, by the things we say and do,  that we demonstrate to ourselves, and others, who we really are. Find our purpose. Avoid hypocrisy.

When our values are at odds with our actions, that is when we suffer the greatest turmoil. In order to be at peace with ourselves, we have to live our values. As John Ruskin put it over 150 years ago, “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” True words indeed.

Hoping for a better week.

And yes, December has brought cold and snow to much of the country, including here in the Northeast – photo taken last night as the snow was winding down.