I have long had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with Facebook. There is much that is good about the site – and, with my son gadding about around the world, the Messaging service has been a life-line and the perfect way of keeping in touch.
But – and I am going to be honest here – if it weren’t for Lad’s absence, I would, by now, have quit Facebook altogether.
It attracts bullies. It attracts those who prefer to sneak in unseen and deposit a turd of a comment upon the clean duvet of one’s Home space. It encourages a culture of waspish nastiness because there is no central moderation and nobody actually has to talk the problem through face-to-face.
But, to me, most worrying of all is this: it creates an atmosphere of fear and oppression; a place where one is forever walking on eggshells; a board where moderate comments are despised and seen as weak or unsupportive; a place where many feel they cannot like or comment upon a status which goes against the needs and loudly blaring wishes of the dominant few.
It has become a space in which derogatory and personal comments – which most of us have been taught, from the earliest age, to keep to ourselves – are spat out in fiery abandon; in which sentimental memes are held threateningly out under our noses as something we must share or like in order to prove that we are true friends; in which people are too afraid to agree in public with views which are seen as moderate or calming; in which unfriending is used as a Sword of Damocles over the heads of anyone who dares to disagree with a ranting and nasty status.
It has become a playground of taunts and ganging-up and name-calling and back-turning. It has become the break-time asphalt on which primary school age children shout insults at one another and threaten to bring in their respective fathers if they don’t get their own way.
It has become a place in which personal grief and fear and disagreement, far from being handled privately between two friends, spreads out ever-wider and more viciously to encompass the entire friendship group, with sides being taken and metaphorical fights breaking out.
And it is so sad. Most people on the site have a social conscience and lament the way Leadership in the world deals with the lesser beings. Most of us can see that war-mongering and sabre-rattling only destabilises and does not achieve the world peace we all strive for.
Yet, on Facebook, this knowledge, this world consciousness, all too often gets thrown out of the window as we indulge in yet another pointless and personal scrap about something which would be better handled in person and off the internet.
I am not for one moment saying we should agree with everything another says, or that we should hold back from expressing our discontent if another has been rude and inflammatory; what I am saying is that such arguments should be conducted with the individual concerned, one-one-one, and not in front of a wider audience.
Once Lad returns, I think it likely I will keep only a minimal online contact going. Those I value I see anyway, and contact through text and face-to-face meetings. The nasty, brutish and long-winded element I neither need nor want, frankly!