Recently, a fellow I know on Facebook mentioned unfriending someone (for very good reasons), and it got me thinking a little more on the rules on how I use the site.
I find that I have four fairly simple rules.
Rule #1: Add People I Might Respect as Friends
I add people who I think I would respect in real life as friends, and follow them. It means I don’t have a giant list of friends, I suppose, but it does tend to mean that when I have someone on my list, it’s someone whose name I would recognize in real life.
I add them because I know them (in real life) or I came across them through their interactions with others (i.e., friends of friends) and would want to interact with them.
It generally doesn’t matter if I agree with them or not, although there are some simple metrics that would probably prevent my bothering with them, I guess. A friend of a friend who constantly refers to http://rawstory.com and http://salon.com as God’s given truth is probably not someone with whom I’d interact. (It’s not that those sites cannot say something true, but they’re so typically slanted that … ugh.)
It happens that I add people who I get to know better over time, and … who knows? Maybe I regret it, but I’m not a fan of surrounding myself with people with whom I do nothing but agree. I don’t want to be expected to comply with someone else’s ideology; why would I demand someone comply with mine? (See Rule #3.)
Rule #2: No “Likes”
I use Facebook’s “Like” feature very very rarely. The general rule for me is that if I might “like” it, I’ll choose to share it or comment on it instead. This goes for everything; posts, comments, whatever.
It’s not that “Like” isn’t useful – it’s been designed to show a response to a posting, after all, and it’s gotten more nuanced than it was.
In general, though, I don’t want Facebook altering my feed based on what it thinks I will respond to.
Rule #3: No Unfriending
I want a heterogenous culture surrounding me. I want different viewpoints. I want different opinions. I want people to challenge me intellectually and emotionally. I don’t want a horde of potential sycophants providing content.
If I thought enough of you to add you as a friend, regardless of what wacko thoughts you had rolling in your head, then I trust myself enough to keep you as a friend.
This doesn’t mean that I will never unfriend someone, I guess, but it happens very rarely. (I don’t remember the last time I unfriended someone.)
I will, however, stop following people under some conditions, mostly related to problems with Rule #4.
Rule #4: Avoid Discussions with People Ruled by Emotion
When someone shows that their decision processes are ruled by emotion, I stop interacting with them.
Facebook has a lot of people on it who seem dominated by rage and offense. (I don’t think they’re this way in real life – but on social media, some aspects of personality are emphasized to cartoonish levels. People who don’t recognize this really need to stay off of social media altogether, but that means 99% of Facebook would have to quit.)
The truth is that a lot of the rage is probably justified. In the last week, we had the “Stanford Rapist” – a rapist who received an outlandishly short jail sentence – and the Orlando mass murder at the Pulse nightclub.
Both situations were horrifying, in different ways; both deserved a visceral response.
Spoiler alert: they got their responses.
However, the nature of the responses – especially through discussion – tells me a lot about the person with whom I might interact.
It doesn’t bother me if they’re emotional; these are emotionally laden events! Anyone who can read about a rape without emotion is a robot. Anyone who reads about 49 people killed and has no feeling of horror… that’s someone desensitized to being human.
My thought is: feel the emotion! Understand it – and then act rationally. Emotion is a perfectly valid stimulus for decision-making.
It’s a terrible sole source for decisions, though, just like “pure reason” would be.
The world’s not simple, folks. Emotion wants simplicity; the killer used guns? NO MOAR GUNS! FOR ANYONE! EVAR! The rapist was a white man? NO MORE WHITE MAN! ALL WHITE MEN ARE THREATS!
That’s stupid. That kind of insistence on trigger-laden decision making is something that I can’t deal with.
I recognize the validity of the emotion; it’s emotional, after all. It’s not that the person echoing these sentiments is unjustifiable, or invalid, or stupid. I don’t want to say “don’t feel what you feel” – that’d be wrong.
But reacting that way tends to lead to them telling me that I shouldn’t feel what I feel. That’s just as wrong as me telling them how to feel.
So once they show themselves willing to accept this kind of decision-making, I … simply … stop. I don’t tell them they’re wrong. I don’t inform them of their error. I don’t tell them that I’m not talking to them any more. I don’t unfriend or unfollow them.
I just watch and listen. I still (probably) value their expertise and humanity in other ways, after all. I just can’t interact with them without endangering their perceived safe spaces, and I don’t want to bother with their emotions. They’re not my emotions, after all, and if they’re not willing to treat me with rationality, well, I’m okay with that. I don’t want to inflict my views on them any more than I want them to demand that I comply with their views.
So there you have it; my basic four rules for social media. There are more, realistically:
- I try not to insult people (although it happens, because I’m sarcastic and have a very dry sense of humor).
- I try to avoid personalizing religion. I have no problem discussing religion, but it’s removed; I’ll explain religious orthodoxy but I won’t demand compliance to it (especially if it’s not, you know, my religion.) People have to make up their own minds. I despise ignorance; someone claiming a blood libel’s truth is going to get an explanation of the blood libel, but I’ll leave my own history with it (if any) out of the discussion unless it’s explicitly relevant.
- I try to write formally and precisely. This gets me in a lot of trouble, because people don’t know how to read precisely. (“My initial reaction was…” doesn’t mean “this is how I feel,” it means it was my initial reaction.)
How do you govern yourself on social media?