Averting One’s Face.

I’m spending too much time on Facebook and not enough time writing or with my partner. It’s not that I have Facebook open all day, respond to every notification or read all the articles that land on my page. In fact, it’s more about the quality of my time on line, rather than the quantity.

I joined Facebook in 2007 when a friend posted photographs of her overseas trip on what was to me the new and somewhat intimidating social platform. When I met my partner three years later and subsequently announced our relationship on Facebook, I added many of his friends and family to my growing list of ‘friends’. In the ten years since I registered, Facebook has ‘helped’ me reconnect with many family members who, for a range of reasons, were once lost to me. I admit I relished the careful refortifying, albeit mostly on line, of these precious family ties and I’ve loved seeing, in ‘real time’, several cousins and aunts, something that might not have happened without Facebook. I also enjoy the opportunity to connect with other writers and writing sites.

social_mediaOver the last couple of weeks, however, some of my friends have decided to take time off from Facebook or leave altogether. One of them explicitly cited the current political situation in the USA, and its alarming resemblance to Germany in the 1930s, as a reason for his decision.

I tend to agree with his position. We can compare, at the very least, Hitler’s appeal to sections of German society through speeches full of clichés, catch phrases and promises to reclaim Germany’s lost glory, to the emotionally laden rhetoric of Donald Trump. His promise to restore ‘order’, the way he targets and scapegoats people from different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds is terrifyingly familiar, and implies the same inevitable conclusion; to appease one group, another group must be eliminated. As described on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website,

Nazis demanded that Germans accept the premises of the Nazi worldview and live their lives accordingly. They tolerated no criticism, dissent, or nonconformity … Guided by racist and totalitarian principles, the Nazis eliminated individual freedoms and pronounced the creation of the national community, in whose name they seized every opportunity to turn Germany into a unified racial collective … Hitler’s political opponents were the first victims of systematic Nazi persecution.

Recent Facebook posts describe the potential for public servants to feel morally compromised when they implement the new policies. If they refuse, they risk losing their jobs. This and the cavalier creation of poorly conceived and potentially dangerous policies and executive orders, are two instances that, I believe, have caused several of my friends personal despair. I can empathise. The negative and destructive actions of the government of the United States, and of my own government, is indefensible; I want no part of it. I too, am considering closing my Facebook account. But is this a rational decision?

Leaving Facebook may give me more time to write blog posts, work on my novel and my collection of flash fiction. I’ll have time to read more novels and reputable, balanced news feeds that back up their content with sound research and judicious investigation. One of the problems with Facebook’s continuous news feed is deciding if the content contains carefully researched facts, mere opinion or blatant lies. Rather than an open access to the world of ideas, much of what we read on Facebook exists within a bubble we, with Facebook’s help, create. Our newsfeed is a construction that confirms and reinforces the values and beliefs we already have. Quitting Facebook might give me more time to explore issues with my friends and family, rather than working out what they mean in their posts, or what they believe by clicking on sites they share. Leaving Facebook could also  mean that, rather than lamenting the gathering dark, I will have time to volunteer for the causes I support and light a few candles to illuminate and nullify the portents of doom. It seems to me that a time is looming when we will be asked to make actual (real time) changes in the world instead being satisfied with clicking on a sad or angry ’emoji’. Is it possible that, as an answer to every tragedy, every act of treachery, Facebook’s abbreviated method of response actually stops us from getting off our chairs and making real changes?

On the other hand, if I leave Facebook I may lose the ineffable connections with those I love best; family who live interstate. Yes, we can phone each other, we can get on a plane and visit, but sometimes it is nice to log on and see that my son is relaxing with friends, my daughter has managed to find a permanent home for an abandoned puppy, my daughter-in-law has organised another fund raising event. I also wonder how my leaving Facebook will disrupt the very things that could threaten my family’s well-being. Will deleting my Facebook account mean I am burying my head in the sand, refusing to see the world’s situation for what it, inexplicably and dangerously, is? By being ‘less informed’ about the plight of innocents might I be culpable for their suffering?

I cannot possibly answer these questions until and unless I decide what to do. But in a way, leaving Facebook is not the real question here. The real issue is how can I positively influence the state of the world? Is the turmoil and strife many of us fear inevitable? What can we do to prevent it?

To resist something is to hinder or prevent its progress, to oppose, to refuse to yield or comply. Those of us nervous, nay frightened, of recent events have a moral choice. We can comply or we can resist. Either option has its consequences. At the moment, we are exposed to rhetoric that focuses on one thing: America and its interests. In a recent post I pointed out that we are a family of nations. I know from bitter experience that when the needs of one member of a family are more important than the needs of other members, the family will be destroyed.

What I don’t know is if deleting my Facebook adequately signals my refusal to accept the current status quo. If you leave a room while an argument is taking place, are you showing tacit acceptance of the situation, or exercising your right to directly resist a situation you can no longer abide?

9 thoughts on “Averting One’s Face.

  1. “Is it possible that, as an answer to every tragedy, every act of treachery, Facebook’s abbreviated method of response actually stops us from getting off our chairs and making real changes?” Oh my, I’ve thought about that so much. I’ve started to think the same about petitions from Avaaz, SumofUs, Change.org etc. adding your name is easy, but isn’t a way to strike at the root of the problems we have. I’m starting to think that the deluge of despair presented to us is a way to desensitise rather than sensitise ourselves to the issues.
    Great post, so grateful Calen shared it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, Janet! Those are huge, important questions you pose there. Thank God I don’t do FB! I find WordPress to be more my cup of tea. I will be curious to see what you do and why. What a marvelous post. And I am so glad that I’m not the only one that sees the similarities in events in this country and Hitler’s Germany. I’ve read so much about WW2. I’m full expecting Trump to start telling churches now that they’re all starting to put their statements against him out there what they can or can’t say from the pulpit, and if they don’t comply they’ll lose their tax exemption. In Germany they hauled the pastors into a dungeon, beat the crap out of them for a few days, then returned them to their families where they dutifully went to church on Sunday and preached that the Nazi’s were great. I doubt we’ll see that again, but who knows! Trump’s a wingnut.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I decide I’ll let you know. Part of me wants to maintain my FB connections, but I am discovering more and more that WordPress contacts encourage more meaningful ‘conversations’ on a range of diverse topic with people from across the world. Perhaps it’s because spending anything from ten minutes to three hours writing a post makes one more thoughtful and measured? Since starting my blog and reading other blogs (something I still struggle to find the time for) I feel as if FB is where you meet people at the bus stop and WordPress is where you sit down to a meal. Even contact with lifelong friends becomes abbreviated on Facebook, which makes me more than a little sad. Something I have found somewhat confusing is that most of my long term friends don’t read my blog, or if they do they don’t comment. Maybe they think the ‘me’ on FB and the ‘me’ on WordPress is the same person, but the FB me is the person you’d meet at the bus stop. WordPress me is more like the ‘real’ (?) me How did deep and intimate friendships get reduced to ticking ‘like’? Maybe there is another blog post hidden in the fold of that question. Thanks Calen. X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I feel as if FB is where you meet people at the bus stop and WordPress is where you sit down to a meal.” Oh yes! That explains my feelings perfectly. I would really like to reblog your comment if it’s ok with you. I won’t unless I hear from you, but I’m just wondering how many other people feel the same way. I was on FB for just a little while so I could see my grandkids pictures and people started coming out of the woodwork. People I hadn’t seen in years. But it never engendered further conversation outside of the medium. On WP, however, I’m in touch by phone now with five different folks from here, England, and Australia. WP has built lovely relationships to my way of thinkin’. In f act, I’m trying to find a reasonable international calling plan!

        Like

      2. Yes. I’m happy for you to share the comment. And agree with you about people coming out of the woodwork. The initial pleasure in the reconnection turns to either ‘likes’ or indifference. No one’s fault, just happens. Thanks. 😀

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