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April 23, 2010

It's only Facebook

Facebook A new group on Facebook makes my skin crawl every time I see that someone in my circle has joined it. It's based on a "joke" that circulated late last year:

DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN.

<rant on>

First, don't you know that all-caps on the Internet is the equivalent of screaming? Are you really screaming at God?

Second, if you're going to include famous people in your group name, you should at least spell their names correctly. It's F-a-r-r-a-h Fawcett. Two "r"s. It's Patrick S-w-a-y-z-e. No "i".

Third, God did not take Patrick Swayze. Cancer did. God did not take Farrah Fawcett. Cancer did. God did not take Michael Jackson. Prescription drugs did. God is the Author of Life and does not "take" people. To suggest otherwise is just bad theology, plain and simple. Harumph.

Fourth, you want God to "take" the President of the United States? Really? You want President Obama to die right now? Or soon? What is WRONG with you people?

<rant off>

The first time I saw this new group, I was disgusted, but not surprised. It was on the page of someone who had been vocally opposed to the new health care reform law. I thought about saying something, but I just did not want to get into it (again) with this fellow, having decided during those last days leading up to the vote that I simply wasn't going to engage people in politics on Facebook.

Then I saw it again on the page of someone who'd been silent about politics but whom I know to be a sincere Christian. I thought about saying something, but she truly believes that every soul in America should be a Bible-Believing Christian (so long as they believe in the the Bible the same way she does). No honest discussion of religion or faith is possible, because there is only One Answer.

Then I saw it again on the page of someone who probably just thought it was funny and didn't give much consideration to the implications of the "joke" -- that it was a prayer for the death of our President.  At that point I started crafting a statement for my status update, something biting that would tell these people exactly what I thought of their "funny" group.  I was intensely working on it when I stopped myself: It's only Facebook. Don't waste your energy on this. Just "unfriend" them. No; it's only Facebook. Just "hide" them. 

Then I saw it again on the page of someone whom I respect for her thoughtful opinions and passionate determination to help people in crisis. And my stomach churned.  It was late enough at night that the news feed was quiet, and those words just stayed at the top of my screen.  I went to the group's page and reported it to Facebook as offensive. I "hid" my friend, and I started working on this piece.

By the time I'd finished typing my four-point rant, I was able to remind myself that Facebook is a social networking tool. It is not a place for political discourse. It is not an educational forum. I was able to remind myself that most people don't take Facebook or the things they see there very seriously. I repeat: It is a social networking tool. I availed myself of one of the tools of the site when I hid the people who were joining that group. I've also been using another of the site's tools: I created a list called "staunch conservatives" so that when I do choose to post something political I can block those friends from seeing it. I really don't want to get into political flame wars with people on Facebook.

But then I start arguing with myself. Maybe my silence can be taken for tacit approval. Maybe saying nothing to people who've joined a group I find profoundly offensive makes me guilty of accepting the offense. Maybe I'm wrong to think that a personal objection to these individuals would have no effect. Maybe I really should delete them from my friends list. It's only Facebook. It is a social networking tool: nothing more, nothing less.

Before I went to bed last night, I checked Facebook one more time and was pleased to see that a new group had formed:

Petition to remove facebook group praying for President Obama's death.

I breathed a sigh of relief and clicked my mouse to join.

When she's not getting worked up about Facebook, Alicia writes more rationally at Forever Changed. This is an original 50-Something Moms Blog post.

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