It starts with the greed and then goes all wrong. That’s why we can’t all just get along.
I can’t wait until after the election is over. Most people feel this way. I have heard this sentiment expressed in restaurants and bars, in conversations with neighbors, in the break room at work and in an elevator. I feel this way too. but I still think it is important to have the exchange of ideas, no matter how annoying it is.
I see our collective weariness reflected on Facebook as well. Stands to reason. Recently I have noticed an offshoot of this malaise–“Why can’t we just get along?” Someone may comment, “So, how about that local sports team, huh?” when people are going back and forth on an issue. Others appear well intended and appeal to some other authority. Like “friendship”. One example is, “I hope we can all go back to being friends after the election.” I don’t doubt the intentions of the people who say this. But, I think that there is more to it.
Those of you unlucky enough to be friends with me on Facebook know that my contributions range from “uncouth” to “jackassery”. Those are fair characterizations. I suppose I use Facebook differently than some other people in that I’m fairly unfiltered. My approach carries risk. I have brought upon the misfortune of someone’s mom (using her son’s girlfriend’s account) defending her son by speculating on my manhood. We all covered ourselves in glory that day, but at least it was hilarious. I’m fine with people de-friending me. They have their own expectations and desired results for their FB experience. They don’t have to match mine. However, I do feel like we all operate under the same conditions. Anyone that chooses to publish a post or comment puts their speech into a forum composed of their friends and friends of friends (your privacy settings may vary). Everyone in that forum can comment, if they choose. Both parties enter willingly. Both sides should take their lumps as applicable.
I began to wonder if there were tactical rationales behind those comments as well. Is it meant to stop two people who are willingly discussing a topic? Saying that may “chill” speech. Are they implying that their comfort is paramount? This is a bit of a weaker argument because I foist my bull in a china shop approach on people. But–there’s always a but–couldn’t these offended parties choose not to read the offensive comments? I was spinning a bit on this.
Then I realized what was bothering me. Facebook, for all of. its flaws, is an amazing platform for having these sorts of debates. For me, the more that we debate and exchange ideas, the better. Awkward moments are going to happen whether you participate or not. These awkward moments are sort of like car crashes. It’s difficult not to look. Unlike car crashes they are frequently hilarious.
I was also bothered by the implication that people can’t be friends and disagree. That’s a bit tribalistic for me. I think there is much more to be mined from friends that disagree on political or other issues than from an echo chamber. It’s possible that I’m being too literal with the term “friend”. But I still don’t think that Facebook benefits from this sort of self-policing. As I said above, there’s a built-in mechanism–de-friending someone.
For me, it is interesting that we are so divided right now. It is more interesting to ask why and how we are so divided. Or maybe we aren’t so divided but that we’re enmeshed in “politics as entertainment” so deeply that the scope of it eclipses all of the major sports combined? I’ll take off the tin foil hat but governing should not be commoditized in this way. Politics should come second to governing. I realize that they’re intertwined but they can still be prioritized.
I share the hope that we can all get along someday. Unfortunately, that day isn’t today. But I’m certain that choosing not to talk about our differences and suggesting that others not talk about them isn’t the right way to get there.