Maybe I’d forgotten how bad Facebook can be around Electoral Season. Or maybe things have gotten worse, this time around. All I know is, this kind of stuff wasn’t nearly as prevalent at my Dad’s deli, in the 90’s- and my Dad’s deli played Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity at an ear-cracking decibal (Ok, I’m not sure when Hannity came to AM fruition, but you get the point, don’t you?) The Original Philadelphia Deli was the Facebook of it’s time. (And yes- you could be “unfriended” at my Dad’s deli.)
At the deli, you friended people, met friends through friends, photographs were on the walls and far-back table, which were liked and people were spewing forth opinions of all kinds and shapes, albeit a little more delicately than what I’m seeing on Facebook, these days. Let me show you some of the differences between what my friends at the deli did, and what my friends do on Facebook, now. (For the record, I am also guilty of some of the below.)
At the deli, if someone wanted to criticize The President, or a politician, they’d share it with someone who was interested in the conversation. Only a few (and there might have been a few) would swing the west-main door wide open and with a red face proclaim, “Anyone who’s voting for Clinton is a no-good, welfare-abusing, lizard-skin-wearing SOB and isn’t deserving of the air they breathe.” (The aforementioned voice is Yosemite Sam-style. If you’re too young and have no reference pointer to Yosemite Sam, you may use “Plankton”, from Spongebob Squarepants’ Spongebob Squarepants.) Most would have whispered these political concerns at the table with friends, or shared it in a reasonable voice over the counter with a patient ear.
If a friend with a differing point of view came in the door of the deli (and they might even, currently, be wearing the lizard skin at the time), voices were hushed and the friend was ushered over, anyway, to the table to hang out and talk about other things- things that were probably held in common by politically-differing friends. Like why our Cheesesteaks were so good.
On Facebook, however, individuals regularly blast entire groups of people, all of whom they are “friends” with. There is no concern for hurting feelings or offending those who might be closest to the poster. It’s too easy. Access to Facebook, a couple hundred friends in the captive audience and an opinion. And then spewing. Sometimes every hour…or worse- every time the person walks by their computer with a political synapse firing through their brain. (That last sentence seemed a little inappropriate, but it made me laugh, so I’m leaving it. I just wanted you to know that I know that it’s not an ok sentence.)
Inciting the riot:
Sometimes it’s just the same post, over and over, but with slight variations:
“Romney’s a Mormon and probably in a cult.”
“Romney, the Mormon, is probably in a cult.”
This can continue for days. Sometimes the poster becomes so desperate for clicks and likes and comments, that, if business is not booming (so to speak) they’ll become rabid:
“Mormons are in a cult, stealing furniture from Ikea on Wednesdays, and I have proof…proof which is upcoming…and is poorly cited.” (Possible status comment from Mormon friend: “Heeeeeyyyyy….”)
Again, at the deli, this kind of popping off probably would not be tolerated, even from friends. Unless it was a joke. A well-executed joke, from someone the staff and customers love and trust. Even then, pitchforks were in supply in Dad’s office.
The undisputed post:
The most annoying political post, I think, is from the person who feels that what sets their opinions apart from others, is that they are more studied, well read, or have “proof” to support their post. Oftentimes, the individual feels that they have the corner on truth, because they have “been there, done that”, or have a degree from Undisputed Eternal Proof University, or whatever. It has never crossed this thoughtful, educated person’s mind, that equally smart and learned people have differing opinions- and are their friend on Facebook. But they blast away, anyway, because…They. Know.
The passive-agressive post:
Toward the end of an offensive post: “Just sayin’.” Sometimes this phrase is used to lessen the blow to friends. As in, “Anyone who voted for a democrat in last year’s county election is on crack cocaine, and is probably somewhat descended from a lamprey. Just sayin’.”
Try insulting, in person, your friend’s intelligence in a harsh manner. Use this person’s sister as a subject for this exercise. Now, see if things blow over after you say “Just sayin’.” Did it work? Is that friend still your friend? Are you missing a number of appendages? How many? Explain.
Here’s my point, I guess- There used to be a time when our mothers would remind us that, if we couldn’t say something nice about a person, maybe we shouldn’t say it at all. That time has passed. We’re saying things that are not nice about our friends, anyway. Except, now we’ve stepped it up a notch and say it publicly and with intent to insult. So, here’s the new quote, since we’ve failed our mother’s advice:
“If you can say it on Facebook, you ought to be able to say it to your friend.”