Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't show your ass on Facebook

As of this writing, I have 223 friends on Facebook. Not a huge number when compared to some of my friends, but a manageable number. My newsfeed is varied and interesting, and even on my busiest days, I can easily scroll through and see what’s going on with everyone. I access FB almost exclusively through my phone, so I can check it anytime I have a few extra minutes. I have a Twitter account, a blog, and I read other blogs daily, a select few religiously, but FB is the social media form I touch most.

I scrolled through my list of friends and broke it down based on how I knew them. Some friends fell into multiple categories, so I placed them in the one where I knew them first.

Family members – 13
Friends from high school – 31
Friends from college – 13
Friends I met thru work – 62
Friends I met in my capacity as a football coach’s wife – 26
Friends I met thru my kids – 22
Former students – 36
Friends I met thru Jazzercise – 8
Friends who don’t fall into any of the above categories – 12

My friends fall all over the spectrum politically, religiously, socially, and culturally. My friends are old and young, male and female, black and white, gay and straight. They are in college, established professionals, stay-at-home moms, in the military, working odd jobs trying to find their way in life, and retired.

One of my favorite things about FB is the diversity of my friends. I love that I never know what I’m gonna see. One friend’s baby pic might be followed in my newsfeed by a pic of the margarita someone else is about to drink. An inspirational quote might be followed by a rant on the rudeness of people in traffic. Last fall, a status praising the example of Tim Tebow was immediately followed by a status mocking the example of Tim Tebow.

I rarely get bent over anyone’s political or religious views because I was raised to respect divergent points of view. I teach my own kids and my students to respect divergent points of view. I don’t choose my friends based on their political or religious points of view, but rather on the content of their character.

Unfortunately, nothing reveals the content of a person’s character like politics and religion. Most people are able to express a point of view reasonably, without shouting and vitriol. I know this doesn’t seem true based on what the media shows us daily, but think about your personal experience. Do your friends and co-workers rant like assholes on a regular basis? Mine don’t. But here’s the thing. Even a rant can be accomplished without showing your ass. I understand that sometimes, people feel so passionate about something or so disgusted by something that they need to rant. I get that. I really do.

The rant is by definition, emotional. You rant because you FEEL. The trick is to feel and convey that feeling without divorcing yourself from your rational brain. Passion is most effective when combined with reason. When passion overtakes reason, there is a significant danger of your ass falling out and revealing itself to everyone within hearing distance.

When your ass falls out on Facebook, “hearing distance” grows exponentially.

I have seen my FB friends’ metaphorical asses from time to time, and I’m aware that once or twice, I’ve shown mine. Mostly, I shake my head or laugh and move on because I realize that it’s coming from a place of exuberant youth, or drunkenness, fear, or loss. I can forgive those things because we’re human, and I’ve been there too.

What I will not forgive is willful ignorance and bigotry.

Last night, I had 224 FB friends. I was watching the NCAA championship and scrolling through the joyful posts of my friends cheering on the Cats. Right in the middle of the celebration was a post that made my jaw drop, a steaming pile of crap in the middle of a banquet table. It was so unexpected and out of place, that at first, I thought it had to be a joke and I somehow wasn’t in on it.

It wasn’t. I won’t repeat the status she posted, but it was ignorant. A mutual friend called her out on it in the comments section, but was drowned out by a chorus of voices who saw that one bigot had showed her ass and were now vying to get their asses front and center as well. My friend texted me and asked me if I thought the post had racist overtones. I said no. There were no overtones. The post was blaring racism through an air horn.

I unfriended her. The friend who texted me said she would unfriend her too as soon as her daughter showed her how. None of the bigots in the comments section who raised their heads like vile little gophers thinking the coast was clear were my FB friends. They never will be.

My former FB friend was not a former student or one of Bruce’s former players. Those young folks have more sense than that. She was not a friend from high school or college that I haven’t seen in ages and have very little in common with anymore. She was someone I thought I knew.

The whole incident made me feel sad and sick and slightly disillusioned. I’m not stupid or na├»ve. I’m too old for that. I teach public school for heaven’s sake. I guess it’s more that someone in her position would not only espouse such a hateful point of view, but express it publicly and inspire others to join in.

I can’t change the world, although I’d like to think I’m trying to change my own little corner of it for the better. I can absolutely change our friendship status, both on FB and in real life.

This morning I have 223 Facebook friends.

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