Friday, October 10, 2014

Ramming the Worst of Social Media Down Our Throats

Now they’re arguing about lawn signs.

I belong to this Facebook group – and I use the word “belong” loosely – that I thought was created to discuss our local schools. (The school district has made some pretty major decisions in the last few years or so – including “repurposing” my youngest’s elementary school and moving her and my oldest to different facilities – and lots of parents have felt left out in the cold.) It seems, however, that the group has become the preferred hangout of every bored, combative, sour, miserable Facebooker in this community.

On top of that, the administrators subjectively and selectively remove some posts and threads while leaving others alone, regardless of whether or not the group’s standards have been violated. (There’s of course no requirement that administrators have to know how to administer anything.) Because I mentioned someone by name when pointing out how some posts lack civility, my comment was removed. Others, however, are allowed to stay, even when people are insulted by name and folks are told that they deserve to get punched in the face.

I actually went back and forth with one of the administrators via private messages because he accused me of calling someone a bitch. (For the record, I DID NOT.) He just got nastier and nastier – refusing to apologize or acknowledge his mistake but saying he was sorry I couldn’t see things his way – until I finally had to tell him to stop sending me messages or I’d block and report him.

Why do I share all this when people are getting their heads cut off in the desert, black men and boys are being murdered by police and the president who was elected in part to end war continues to mount and escalate them? Because it’s a diversion, an escape from reality, from what really matters.

A hint about the community
to which I refer
What really matters to many of the folks in the group in question is not right and wrong, or grammar and punctuation, or students and schools. What matters is that they can attack, deride, insult and display less maturity than my nine-year-old without fear of retribution.

Someone who just posted about school board candidates’ lawn signs being removed from a local business without permission was told that his posts make people want to punch him in the face.

Someone else keeps talking about pots so much – for example, “pot meet kettle” and “tired of stirring up the pot” – that it’s probably safe to assume this person works in a kitchen, used to work in a kitchen or ought to work in a kitchen.

Several people have little to offer except the tired old “If you don’t like this post or that post, don’t read it” clich√© which never made sense to me because how does one know he or she doesn’t like a particular post until he or she reads it? And by then it’s too late to follow this sage advice, isn’t it?

There was even a debate about whether the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with its assurance of freedom of speech, applies to Facebook groups.

Some groups and pages to which I belong are worthy of regular visits – people post interesting stories and images, good information is shared and laughs and smiles are even generated – but others represent the worst aspects of social media, where trolls and ignoramuses, protected by the anonymity of the internet, are free to sully and defile, distract and disgust, falsely accuse, condescend and misrepresent with abandon.

Guess which category the group this post is about belongs in?

I’d leave the group, just block certain characters and be done with it, except that our local schools are important and our students and parents do need a voice regarding decisions that affect us. I keep hoping that wiser heads will prevail and the group will be infiltrated by grownups who know how to spell and share and be civil to each other.

I’m waiting.

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