In response to my earlier post, Some Notes to Progressives on Criticizing Conservatives, I got this comment:
Greta, what you are citing is not issue advocacy. It is mindless and immature ranting, which is the lion’s share of what is on Facebook. I have almost given up trying to have anything resembling an exchange of ideas on Facebook. It is just not the type of forum that is conducive to a rational discourse, without heavy moderation and a commitment among participants to keep it at a sensible level. Too much ignorance for me.
It’s a commonly expressed sentiment, so I wanted to amplify my reply. Thus, this blog post.
For another: Interaction on social media is human interaction. It’s people expressing their opinions and feelings and experiences. Yes, people do this differently in different media: human interaction is different at cocktail parties, town hall meetings, conference panels, conference after-parties, quiet dinners among friends; yes, it’s different online than it is in person, and it’s different in different online forums. But it’s still human interaction, and people are still responsible for what they say and do. Yes, this was mindless and immature ranting — and it was mindless and immature ranting that was hurtful to women, trans people, and gay people. It’s way too common, and it does harm, and it’s worth calling out.
And finally: Interaction on social media isn’t just human interaction. It’s an important place for political conversation. An ENORMOUS amount of political conversation is happening on social media — and it’s not trivial. It has an impact. Some of that interaction sucks, and some of it is awesome, and a lot of it is in-between. But the fact that it happens on Facebook doesn’t make it trivial. I hear from people all the time who tell me that they changed their minds because of me — and while some of that probably came from my books, most of it came from my work on the Internet. The content of political opinions isn’t lessened when it’s expressed on Facebook. When you tell women, trans people, LGB people, and other marginalized people that Facebook just sucks so we should discount it or abandon it — you’re basically saying, “Your fight to improve the world shouldn’t include one of the central places where the world takes place.” You’re telling us to either isolate ourselves, or suck it up.
If you don’t enjoy Facebook, by all means, don’t do it. (Although, if I may venture a suggestion: If the only Facebook interactions you see are mindless and immature ranting, maybe you need different Facebook friends.) But please don’t respond to critiques of sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, ageism, ableism, and other forms of marginalization and oppression that happen on Facebook by simply saying, “That’s just how Facebook is — whaddya gonna do?” It amounts to saying, “That’s just how the world is — whaddya gonna do?”