See your friends as more than words on a screen
I lifted the title of this post from a post of the same name I found today.
These exact same words
seem to be occuring to a lot of people lately
I found the post after I saw yet another occurence of the latest Facebook meme (which you can see to the left). It’s very similar to another FB meme I wrote about back in April. I was pretty harsh about the April meme, mocking it and citing it as an example of stupidity on FB. I could do the same for this latest meme—you’re “going to be watching to see who takes care of the friendship” by copying and pasting a meme!?—but that’s not why I am pointing out this version.
No, I’m writing because after having googled to see how many copies of this meme I could find, I found John Pettitt’s post, “See your friends as more than words on a screen.”
John’s post starts off with the meme’s text—“It occurs to me that…”—but issues a challenge and offers a reflection about a lost friend.
What pushed John to the point of writing about “the same inane, unoriginal copy and pasted pablum” was that a friend of his recently committed suicide, and John was struck by the “endless cries [on Facebook] of why didn’t he reach out, we’d have been there for you etc.” That reminded me of similar responses in a FB group that I blogged about earlier this month.
In his post, John challenges his friends “instead of copying [the meme] blindly, [to] write something original about their friends, friendship and life.” He points out that “if you really value your friends, if you really need help, a shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to, turn the damn computer off and go and talk to a real person.”
Something about John’s challenge that’s important for me to be mindful of is that it’s not directly only at people I might think should be making an effort to contact me but that it’s also directed at me. I should turn my own damned computer off (and stay off FB with its stupid memes) and go and talk to a real person.
P.S. John Pettitt has a really fun domain name, only four characters long: p.tt
What’s Facebook good for? (church edition)
How Facebook isn’t good for church
(click to embiggen)
I’m resurrecting my Facebook series for one more post because God wants me to. Okay, okay, I don’t actually believe in God, but given the timing of two things, it’s tempting to think God is calling me to write about how Facebook is not good for churches.
Two days after my blog post about becoming unchurched, a church friend of mine posted in our (former) church’s FB group. She wrote, “I am still in such disbelief of the lack of support/contact from what I previously considered my church family.” That resonated with me because I feel the same thing, but unlike me, who posted on an obscure blog that no one reads, this friend, by posting on Facebook, made sure that people at church (at least 58 of them) would see what she wrote.
And cue the surprised and the “if only you’d said something” responses:
- “I don’t remember seeing a post from you saying you needed support.”
- “I may have missed your posts about a need of support.”
- We “would love to see you back at church. That way we would definitely see you more than twice a year.”
- I am “also puzzled by your post. I have scrolled back over the last 2 months of posts on this site and could not find a request for prayer or assistance from you.”
- “I too scrolled back 2 months and couldn’t find a post either.”
- “I sent you an IM; it might have gone to your ‘Other’ folder.”
Click on the image to the right to read the whole sad thing (including my snarky response at the bottom).
In my blog post last Sunday I wrote that “being in community requires effort on the part of all who want to be in community,” but I also wrote that “each person’s ability to work on being in community varies.” So while it’s not good to judge people who can’t read minds and don’t know when someone in their community is feeling alone or depressed, it might be helpful too for them to realize that someone who’s feeling alone or depressed might not have the energy to reach out for help.
In other words, “if only you’d said something” is not a very helpful response to someone who complains about not having received support.
The thing is (and I’ll use God language here since I’m writing about church even though I don’t believe in God), God doesn’t call us to be mind readers but does call us to be mindful of one another.
Sometimes typing a comment on Facebook is the wrong thing to do (believe me, I know). Step back from your stupid computer, and pick up your phone. Wonder why someone’s no longer coming to church? Call him. Wonder why someone is venting about church not supporting her? Call her.
And do not ask your pastor where someone’s been. Your pastor may very well know, but if you want to know, you have a tool that you can use to find out. And it’s not Facebook.
I got a friend request today from someone I was already friends with on Facebook.
At first I wondered if he’d accidentally defriended me and was therefore refriending me, but I checked my friends list and he was still on it.
Then I went back to the new profile and looked more closely at the URL, which was https://www.facebook.com/deji.waleola.
No, my friend’s name is not Deji Waleola.
One smarter friend posted on our friend’s original FB timeline about the fake profile.
Dozens of our other friends in common had already accepted this fake account’s friend request, apparently without wondering why this friend had set up a new FB profile or chosen such a strange URL. They shouldn’t feel too bad, though, because lots of people on Facebook do stupid things.
Listening to Amy Grant again
Having just written about my past with Amy Grant, I figured it’d be appropriate to listen to her music again, so yesterday I pulled up my Amy Grant albums on Google Play on my phone and headed out for a drive in the gay car with the top down and Amy Grant blaring.
I got as far as the first song on Amy Grant’s first album before I burst out laughing.
“Beautiful Music,” the first song on Amy Grant’s self-titled debut album, wasn’t a song I remembered. Part of what makes this song unmemorable and rather laughable is that its melody so fits in with the 1970s bubblegum pop genre, contrived sugar sweet teenybopper music.
What really killed me, however, were the lyrics.
Fresh-faced and virginal, the teenaged Amy Grant in 1977 was singing to Jesus, “Since you came inside me… I’m hooked on your lovin’.”
Yes, no one wants to be judged years later for choices we made when we were seventeen—I wasn’t much older than Amy Grant when I first had someone come inside me (don’t judge me). “Beautiful Music” isn’t even a song Amy Grant wrote (no, Lanier Ferguson is the one to blame), but oh my God, Amy Grant liked the lyrics well enough to sing them with a straight face.
Amy Grant’s not the only Christian singer to love having Jesus inside her. In “Christian Rock Hard,” a 2009 episode of South Park, Cartman becomes a Christian rock star, and he, like Amy Grant before him, sings to Jesus, “I just want to feel you deep inside me.”
Jesus Christ, South Park didn’t even have to make this shit up. It’s real.
An Amy Grant song that I do still like musically is “Angels,” from her 1984 album Straight Ahead. But, again, the lyrics get me.
If you ask Amy Grant (at least 1984 Amy Grant) what Christianity’s about, she’ll answer that it’s in large part about “Angels watching over me, every move I make, angels watching over me, every step I take!”
That’s a nice comforting “His Eye is on the Sparrow” kind of thought, isn’t it? Have faith, and God and God’s angels will protect you from any “reckless car” by making it “[run] out of gas before it [runs] [your] way.”
Except God doesn’t work that way.
I know I said my last blog entry about Facebook would be my last. I lied. This FB post is such a good illustration of what some Christians believe that I wanted to share it here.
God loves you but if you don’t repost this on Facebook, God will have no choice but to send you to hell.
Don’t believe me? Ask the four girls murdered in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. God protects Amy Grant from runaway cars but God won’t protect innocent girls worshipping in church?
Or google “pastor killed in car crash” and then tell me why the fuck God can spare angels to watch over Amy Grant but not over any of these dead pastors and their families.
Maybe there is an omniscient omnipotent God who works in mysterious ways but we have evidence before us that God does not work as Amy Grant claims in her song about angels.
Another of Amy Grant’s songs does give us a clue as to what Amy Grant’s songs as a whole tell us about God and Jesus. That song is the oh-so-aptly named “Fairytale” from her 1979 album My Father’s Eyes. The melody and Amy Grant’s youthful high pitched singing in this song are about as appealing as the bubblegum “Beautiful Music,” but the lyrics of this song, written by Amy Grant and Brown Bannister, are informative.
On the one hand, Amy Grant sings:
My life was just a fairytale.
I was letting an illusion
Come into this heart of mine.
While on the other hand, in the same song, she sings:
There’s a world out there that human eyes can never see,
But it’s just within the reach of the heart.
Two princes wage the battle for eternity.
But the victor has been known from the start.
In other words, Amy Grant’s been fooled by fairy tales before, but now, with the tale about the struggle between princes of light and darkness, she just “know[s] this time the story’s true.” You gotta have faith and all that.
I don’t have faith, not in the literal truth of the fairy tales in which evangelical Christians believe.
Fairy tales aren’t all bad, however. Melissa Taylor does a good analysis that provides “8 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are Essential to Childhood.” And of course Joseph Campbell did great work examining the purpose and value of myth. Truth can be found beyond facts.
Indeed it’s only by looking for the truth beyond the facts that I was able to find value in returning to involvement in a church, and it’s only by considering Amy Grant’s music as old familiar fairy tales that I’ll ever be able to listen to any of it again.
What’s Facebook good for? (part 5)
I’ve written about how Facebook is good for interacting with strangers and how it’s good for pissing off friends. This post, which will be my last about Facebook, is about how good Facebook is for making us stupid (or perhaps it’s that Facebook makes our stupidity more visible).
Examples of stupidity on Facebook
Stupid stuff like that to the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look) is all over Facebook. Perhaps it’s always been on Facebook but it’s certainly more prevalent now that your friends can see when you make a comment on a photo, even if it’s a photo posted by a person who’s not a friend of your friends or by a page your friends don’t even like, so long as the photo is public.
Can you see a word in the scramble? You can? Well fucking good for you! Do you want to be one of 292,820 people who typed a one word comment on the photo? Why?!
I did happen to see one clever bit of humor when I pulled up the comments on this example — Bill McLaughlin took the time to remark, “Could not find a single word. I did however see what looked like the face of Jesus on a piece of toast.”
Only problem is that with 292,820 comments, the chance that anyone would see Bill’s wit is minimal.
If you saw the warning to the left (click to embiggen to get a closer look), with its bizarre mix of UPPER CASE and strange punctuation and its urgent pleading to repost to all your family and friends, would you really feel compelled to share it?
If so, I’m sorry, but you’re just stupid.
Yes, a friend of mine on Facebook is stupid, bless his or her heart, and re-posted this stupid image. Will I feel bad if this friend ever figures out that I’ve called him or her stupid? Ugh, perhaps I will, so if you’re not that friend but know who it is, please don’t tell on me.
What makes this stupidity even more painful (unfortunately not painful for the stupid, though) is that the warning says “THIS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED BY FACEBOOK AND SNOPES,” in all caps, so it must be true, except it’s not, which the non-stupid would find out by searching on Snopes, where you can find a post debunking this stupidity.
Even people who aren’t stupid enough to pass along this stupidity can be made stupid by its appearance on Facebook, however, because it’s oh so tempting to post a comment on posts like this linking to the Snopes article debunking it. Doing so is stupid because it’s a waste of time—people stupid enough to share this shit never learn. It’s also stupid to bother commenting because correcting stupid people is a good way to piss them off.
Have you seen photos like this one on the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look)? Did you know you can type a word in the comments on photos like this and something magical will happen? What? You did type the word as instructed but you didn’t see anything? Are you sure you didn’t make a typo? Perhaps you should try again.
Wouldn’t a heartfelt message such as the one to the left (click to embiggen to get a closer look) just make you feel special if you saw it from one of your FB friends?
Too stupid to know how to copy and paste? Well bless your heart!
Well of course it wouldn’t if your FB friend had shared it from someone else’s post instead of copying it as instructed.
Jesus, nothing says “I really care about you” like copying and pasting a oddly punctuated generic message a million other people have posted.
But if you refuse to copy this message and re-post it, I’ll know you never really loved me.
Facebook seems to have hundreds of photos like that on the right (click to embiggen to get a closer look), all challenging you to name a tree without an “a” in it or a state without an “o” in it or a band without a “c” in it, etc., etc., et fucking cetera.
And tons and tons of Facebook users just love to show how smart they are. “Cherry” or “Alaska” or “Beatles,” they post.
Ooh, you’s so smart! Mommy’s so proud of you!
And thus the TV stations and car dealerships and other businesses targeting stupid people boost their pages’ visibility.
I do think some of my friends on Facebook are stupid, but you know what? I’m stupid too. You saw my examples of posting stupid stuff on Facebook that pissed off friends.
Facebook doesn’t make me a better person.
It makes me judgmental and less, instead of more, likely to love my neighbors.
So I decided, after the incident with George which prompted me to write this series of blog posts about Facebook, that I should take down all my posts on Facebook and not make any more posts there.
I still do comment occasionally on others’ posts, but I do so much less frequently and I try to think about whether what I want to say is something I should say. Perhaps I should delete my Facebook account completely, but I do need a FB account to update my employer’s page, and I’m too curious about other people to quit FB completely.
Not posting on FB has caused me to post more frequently here on my blog, something I’ll probably continue to do. As you can tell by this very post, I might very well be too blunt here, but I figure that people likely to be offended by what I say are much less likely to see what I say here. That’s a bit ironic given that my website is completely public, but people have to make the decision to come here.
See you later—that is, if you’re not too offended ever to come back to check for new blog entries.
What’s Facebook good for? (part 4)
This post is the third of three entries showing how Facebook is good for pissing off friends. Unlike example #1 and example #2, this example ended better and moreover doesn’t involve my saying anything stupid.
The pissed off friend in this example—let’s call him Salvatore—is someone I’ve known for a long time. He’s from Dayton but has lived in another city for almost 20 years. I know his family and would run into his parents around town because we had similar tastes in places to go. I stayed with this friend and his husband when I visited their city. Salvatore is not just an acquaintance (like George) or the partner of a friend (like Louise). No, Salvatore is more important.
Unlike with Louise, I do not regret what I said on Facebook that pissed Salvatore off. It wasn’t anything that was in poor taste, and it’s something I still believe (although I wouldn’t say it again to Salvatore—I’ll explain why not below).
What pissed Salvatore off was a comment I made in response to something he posted about President Obama. Both Salvatore and I voted for Obama in 2008 (and, as it happens, we both did again in 2012 too), but Salvatore was extremely disappointed in the president, for multiple reasons.
Now I don’t blame Salvatore for being disappointed in President Obama. For example, in 2008 then-Senator Obama, during his campaign, pledged to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay once in office, but he’s broken that promise. (See this CNN article, “Why has Obama abandoned his Guantanamo pledge,” from just this week, to learn of the shameful situation President Obama has let continue.)
And Guantanamo is just one example. If you’re a peace-loving progressive, you can certainly name other reasons why you might be disappointed in the president.
Salvatore’s certainly a peace-loving progressive and he gets it honestly. His parents, also friends of mine, have demonstrated a lot for peace and have been strong supporters of the Dayton Peace Museum.
So in 2011 when President Obama announced the end of the American occupation of Iraq, despite the plan for thousands of private American military contractors to stay (see this 2011 Salon article, “No, the U.S. is not leaving Iraq”), Salvatore was justifiably upset.
But I think Salvatore was a bit too extreme about President Obama, and I said so when Salvatore said that all he got for voting for Obama was a continued American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s just not true. Did Obama fail to keep all his promises? Sure. Were the president’s decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan wrong? Perhaps. But even if President Obama did nothing else good (and isn’t the Affordable Healthcare Act something worthwhile?), we did get two Supreme Court appointments—Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—out of him, and as a gay man I think that’s important. People who are pro-choice might also appreciate those Supreme Court appointments.
I have another friend, even more liberal than Salvatore, who refused to vote for Obama in either 2008 or 2012. This friend supports third party candidates, and I’ve gotten into discussions on Facebook with him about whether voting third party is throwing one’s vote away. I think it is because someone even worse might get elected, but he thinks if some people vote third party then it might encourage others to do so, and he refuses to compromise his principles even if the candidates he does support have little chance of getting elected. This third party friend hasn’t defriended me, and I’ve given up trying to change his mind (which might be why he hasn’t defriended me).
But Salvatore did vote for President Obama in 2008 and actually did so again in 2012 despite his grievances during the president’s first term. And that made his response to my comment both puzzling and hurtful. My comment apparently not only had no merit in his eyes but also was enough for him to defriend me. “Bye!”
As in the cases of George and Louise, I also sent Salvatore a message in response, but unlike with George and Louise, this message was not an apology. No, instead I told Salvatore that I was hurt and disappointed and that I was surprised he felt our friendship to be of so little value. I told him that if he wanted to reconsider, we could put this behind us, but that if he meant what he said, I had enough self esteem and other friends that I could deal with his decision.
And this is where this example differs from the first two. Unlike with George and Louise, I did get a response from Salvatore, an apology which I accepted. Salvatore and I are still friends, on Facebook and in real life, and I value his friendship and that of his husband.
But I also learned to censor myself a bit on Facebook, or at least to manage my audience there. I never again commented on any post Salvatore made about politics, and when I posted something about President Obama, I made sure the post’s settings were such that Salvatore couldn’t see the post. At least until later in 2012 when Salvatore again became an Obama supporter, perhaps because the idea of Romney being our next president was even more unpalatable than having promise-breaking President Obama be re-elected.
In Salvatore’s comment above you may have noticed his reference to my being “Christ-centric.” I don’t address that here because I already wrote about that in a post titled “My so-called Christian life.”
I still hadn’t completely learned my lesson, however. Example #2, with Louise, happened before the Salvatore incident, but example #1, with George, happened afterwards, this year. As you can see from these examples, it’s really easy to piss friends off on Facebook.
Why? I think there’s something about Facebook that
makes us stupid.
If I were still posting on Facebook, I would have just done a brag post there about how I’d just made a loan on Kiva.org with a comment that “I lend because my uncle Bill did.”
The loan I made today was to the Masaka Group of Dar es Salaam. Part of the Masaka loan will help a woman named Salama, who runs a business selling charcoal and who has successfully repaid 11 prior loans. You can read about Salama or you can use this link instead to make a $25 loan on Kiva for free.
Now it is true that the reason I lend on Kiva is because of my uncle. I had some vague awareness of microlending but it’s because Uncle Bill made loans on Kiva that I really learned about it. And when my uncle died, I inherited his Kiva portfolio of loans. If I were truly a horrible person, I’d just have cashed in each loan as it was re-paid, but I didn’t—instead I’ve kept re-lending the money in Uncle Bill’s portfolio and have added a bit of my own money to lend. It’s a good reminder of my uncle. I think of him every time I get an email from Kiva saying part of a loan’s been repaid and every time I make a new loan.
It’s also true that one reason I posted on Facebook whenever I made a Kiva loan was to raise awareness of Kiva in the hopes that others would be encouraged to lend on Kiva as well. My uncle may be the reason I learned about Kiva, but I do make Kiva loans because I think doing so makes the world a somewhat better place.
But another reason I posted on Facebook about my Kiva loans was that getting “likes” on Facebook can be addicting. Facebook’s good for pissing friends off, but if you stick to innocuous stuff like photos of great food you’ve eaten or great places you’ve vacationed or selfless microloans you’ve made, you won’t attract much strife and instead will get some FB likes that make you feel good.
So why am I posting about my latest Kiva loan here? Partly as part of my ongoing processing about my thoughts about Facebook, partly because I’m in the habit of posting somewhere when I make a loan on Kiva, partly to remember my uncle Bill, and partly because Kiva really is a good thing that you can afford to do even if you don’t have much money.
What’s Facebook good for? (part 3)
This post is the second of three entries showing how Facebook is good for pissing off friends. Unlike example #1, this example involves not an acquaintance but a friend, or at least someone who I thought was a friend.
This former friend (let’s call her Louise) is the partner of a friend from church (who we’ll call Thelma). Louise is Catholic and doesn’t attend church with Thelma, although Louise does participate from time to time in church-related social events such as retreats or dinner groups.
Although I was and am closer to Thelma than to Louise, I considered Louise a friend as well. I had dinner in their home. I helped them with their computers and their WiFi router. I emailed Louise codes for Coke Rewards since she enjoyed getting prizes from Coke and I never wanted to bother with
entering Coke codes myself.
So what did I do to piss Louise off? I posted a link to a news article about a man who beat his girlfriend with an 18-pound crucifix that she’d had hanging on her apartment wall. Perhaps it wasn’t just my posting the article but also my accompanying comment, “A reason not to have big-ass crucifixes hanging from your walls.”
In poor taste? Yes.
Directed at Louise? No. Not posted to her FB wall. Not emailed to her.
But nonetheless poor Louise did have to suffer the indignity of seeing my link and my irreverent reference to crucifixes.
And Louise was really upset. Later on the day of my crucifix post, we were all at Thelma’s and my church, setting up for an event (though Louise didn’t come to services, she did help with Thelma from time to time), and when Louise saw me, she asked to speak to me privately in the kitchen. She was so upset she could barely talk, and I really had no idea why she was so upset until she sputtered that she was really offended by what I’d posted on Facebook. She turned and stormed out before I could even say anything.
Had I shown poor judgment? Sure. And I really did regret upsetting Louise. I valued her friendship enough that I didn’t send her a message on Facebook to apologize but rather sat down and wrote a note to her by hand, saying that I was sorry and offering to meet her for coffee to talk about how she felt.
But, as with George from example #1, I never got any reply from Louise. Perhaps my note to her got lost in the mail, but I rather doubt it. Unlike with George, however, whose non-response didn’t matter to me, I was a bit hurt in turn that Louise would so easily throw our friendship away. I can spend hours of my time helping her with her computer and her home network, I can spend time socializing with her and Thelma over the years, and Louise is so mortally offended by an admittedly tasteless comment that she’d rather never talk to me again?
What makes this sting even more is that really it’s the Roman fucking Catholic Church with which Louise should have a problem. The Dowager Pope, Benedict XVI, is on record as saying that gay marriage “threaten[s] human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” and the current Pope, Francis, called marriage equality in Argentina “a destructive attack on God’s plan.” Louise can’t stand to have a holy crucifix made fun of, but she doesn’t seem to mind having her relationship with Thelma called immoral and a threat to human dignity and an attack on God.
If Louise ever reads this post, I imagine she’ll be livid, but she probably won’t see this since I’m no longer posting on Facebook—hell, even if I were, Louise is no longer my FB “friend” anyway. Should I even be writing this? Probably not (yes, yes, “bitter, party of one”), but it’s good to get off my chest, and it does serve as another example of the perils of Facebook.
The third and final example ends better than the first two, so be sure to come back for another story of Facebook fun.
What’s Facebook good for? (part 2)
My last post about Facebook was about how Facebook’s good for interacting with strangers and gave three examples of that.
When is a friend not really a friend?
If you’ve used Facebook, you know that just because someone’s your “friend” on Facebook doesn’t mean that person is someone you could call to come pick you up in the middle of the night if your car broke down.
German makes a useful distinction between “ein Bekannter” and “ein Freund.” In English we’d usually use the same word, “friend,” to refer to both, but the former is really an acquaintance while the latter is a closer friend, the kind who’d help you out in a jam.
Facebook’s perverted the meaning of “friend” in English even further. Meet someone once at a party? You can be Facebook “friends” now. You can even be “friends” with people you’ve never ever met in person, for example, a Facebook friend’s Facebook friend who, perhaps, likes your comments on your mutual friend’s posts.
However, I also mentioned in that post that Facebook’s good for pissing friends off, which is what this blog entry is about.
One way you can tell you’ve really pissed someone off is when that person unfriends you.
I’ve got three examples I want to write about, but since I’ve got a bit to say about each, I’m going to do each of these examples in separate posts. The first example is the most recent:
This one involves the pissed off friend mentioned in my previous post about Facebook. Let’s call this friend George.
George was annoyed at first by my blog entry about red marriage equality profile pics, particularly by my saying that “I find the idea of changing my Facebook profile pic ‘in solidarity’ or of playing ‘high school Spirit Day’ by wearing red a bit silly.”
He didn’t comment on my Facebook post linking to that blog entry, but George did do his own Facebook post to say that he didn’t think he was silly for changing his profile pic. That wasn’t enough to make him defriend me though.
No, to piss George off to the point of defriending me took a series of further Facebook posts (which you didn’t see if you read only my blog and which you can no longer see even if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook—more on that in a later post):
- a FB post with a screenshot of red marriage equality fanatics bullying friend of teh gayz Kathy Griffin for not yet having changed her FB profile pic to red (to see that screenshot, go to my previous post about Facebook. (By the way, Kathy Griffin—or whoever does her FB profile—finally caved and changed her FB pic to red.)
- a link to a post on Vice.com by Brian Moylan entitled “The Red Marriage Equality Sign on Your Facebook Profile is Completely Useless.” I did say about Moylan’s piece, “I think he’s a bit too harsh but I absolutely get his point.”
- a link to a YouTube clip of from a 1995 Seinfeld episode in which Kramer won’t wear an AIDS ribbon. (Kramer walks in an AIDS Walk to show his support for raising awareness about AIDS; he just doesn’t want to wear a ribbon, pissing off the ribbon bullies.)
- a link to a piece by Orlando Soria entitled “Changing Your Profile Pic is not Activism,” a post that’s less harsh and more humorous than Moylan’s but to the point nonetheless. (Sample fun question on this issue by Soria:
“Is it wrong to do something because you’re worried about being a bad person for not doing something just because everyone else is doing it?”)
- and finally the straw that I guess broke George’s back:
a status update that asked: Okay, so if you switch from your red equality symbol back to your regular profile pic before the Supreme Court rules, have you given up on marriage equality or have you simply decided you’ve shown enough solidarity?
Another FB friend commented on that update that I was “being a provocateur, lol,” and he was right, but I had been noticing, now that the Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality were done, that people were starting to change their FB profile pics back from red marriage equality signs to their regular profile photos. We don’t yet have rulings on these cases from the Supreme Court—that won’t happen until June probably—so why are people done showing solidarity?
Now this question provoked a lot of comments from my Facebook friends, some of whom weren’t as amused as the one who accused me of being a provocateur. One commented, “Wow. Harsh.” Another said, “You do seem a bit surly today…what’s the deal?” (and also said she plans to keep her red equality profile pic until the ruling). A third remarked, “Just saying, you seem to be a little obsessively negative about the whole red thing.”
But none of these commenting friends defriended me. Just George.
I noticed that George had defriended me because I went to check his profile to see if he’d switched back to his regular profile pic (he hadn’t), only to find that we were no longer friends.
Actually we were never really friends, merely Bekannte (see above note about German), acquaintances who saw each other at church from time to time and who once or twice went to lunch in groups after church.
I didn’t want to leave it at that, though. Perhaps I felt a little bad to have upset him. Perhaps I figured I’d run into him at church. At any rate, I sent George a message on Facebook saying I was sorry I hurt his feelings, that my posts weren’t directed at him but that I understood his taking offense at them, that I know I can be a bit negative, and that I wanted to apologize.
George read my message (as I noted last time, something fun about messages on FB, as opposed to email, is that you can see when or whether a message has been read), but he didn’t reply.
So this example is one that doesn’t end well. George doesn’t think highly of me, and, while I guess I don’t blame him, I don’t really care—well, I did care enough to write about it but not enough to make any efforts to change George’s mind.
Unfortunately example #2 didn’t end well either.
What’s Facebook good for?
I’ve been thinking about Facebook a bit this week because my blog entry earlier this week as well as a few posts on FB about red marriage equality profile pics pissed off a “friend” and spurred some disagreement. Facebook’s good for pissing people off, but that will be another blog post.
The point of this post is that Facebook is good for interacting with strangers.
While we’re on the topic of the red equality symbol, here’s an example of how Facebook is bad:
People bullied noted friend of teh gayz Kathy Griffin because she had not yet changed her profile pic to the all-important red equality symbol.
Another FB friend (not the pissed off one) pointed out that a lot of people changed their FB profile pics this week, raising awareness of support for marriage equality because the red equality symbol made the news everywhere. For example, Jimmy Kimmel talked about it, saying “I think changing your profile picture to support something you believe in is the least you can do. Literally, it is literally the least you can do. You almost did nothing, but instead you did just slightly more than nothing.” Nonetheless that so many people “did just slightly more than nothing” got a lot of people to talk about marriage equality and showed that a lot of people support it.
Here in the Dayton area, a local Sunday school teacher got into trouble with her church for coming out in favor of gay marriage.
Misty Lynch, who formerly taught Sunday school at The Jordan, a small church in Germantown, did not do “the least she could do.” No, she didn’t change her profile pic to the ubiquitous red equality symbol. She flat out stated her opinion so people didn’t have to wonder what a red equality symbol meant, saying on Facebook, “I’m a Christian and I support gay marriage. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, purple, black or yellow.”
When I read about that, I looked Misty up on Facebook and sent her a message thanking her for what she’d done:
It turns out I wasn’t the only one with the idea to contact Misty. A friend of mine also took the time to contact her and to invite her to our church. I should have done that but didn’t think to (that might be the subject of another post some day).
So yes, Facebook is a great place to stand up for what you believe in (with just a profile pic or with an explicit statement) and to reach out to others who need support.
Facebook is also a great way to reach people whose attention you might not be able to get through email or via Twitter. One way Facebook is now earning money is by letting people pay $1 in order to send a message to a stranger that will land in that stranger’s Facebook inbox instead of the “other” bucket that messages from strangers usually go to.
Quick aside: Do not waste your money on the new SimCity
I hadn’t ever taken Facebook up on what I considered a marketing gimmick until earlier this month when I became one of the pissed off people who pre-ordered the new SimCity, only to find on its release that Electronic Arts had no clue whatsoever how to support a game that requires an always-on Internet connection (I should have known better, but I’ve liked SimCity since I first played it on my Amiga years ago).
But, having spent $80 on a game I couldn’t play, I figured I could waste another $1 to send a message to Kip Katsarelis, lead producer for SimCity, asking him why it was such a failure.
Something else fun about sending messages on Facebook instead of via email is that you can see whether the recipient of your message has seen it and when. So I knew when Kip saw my message, even before he graciously replied.
My sending Kip a message on Facebook didn’t really accomplish much, I know. He already knew the game his team produced was a colossal fuck up. I felt a tiny bit better venting, but I still didn’t have a game I could play reliably (even after Maxis added “a few more servers”), and I didn’t contribute positively to Kip’s life. I wasn’t profane with Kip and I’m not incredibly ashamed for anything I said to him, but yeah, this isn’t something to be proud of either.
So be a better person than I am, and if you harness the power of Facebook to interact with strangers, don’t send petty pointless messages.
Still, like many tools, Facebook can be used for good or for evil, and interacting with strangers is indeed something Facebook’s good for.
If you’re wearing red today, thanks…
but I hope that’s not all you’re doing.
As it happens, I am not wearing red today. It’s not that I don’t ever wear red. It’s not, of course, that I don’t support marriage equality (and I’m not some crazy homocon against marriage equality).
It’s just that I find the idea of changing my Facebook profile pic “in solidarity” or of playing “high school Spirit Day” by wearing red a bit silly.
I’ve been out a long time. Very out. My car has also been out a long time, and not with an HRC sticker that most straight people don’t even recognize. “GAY CAR” is pretty explicit, a lot more explicit than red (although, as it happens, red’s the color both of my first gay car, a 1991 Mazda Miata, and of my current gay car, a 2009 VW EOS).
So if you’re wearing red today for a reason, make it count. Go up to strangers today and ask them if they know why you’re wearing red. Then explain it.
While you’re at it, explain that it’s still legal in most of the United States for employers to refuse to hire LGBT people because of our sexuality or to fire us when they find out. (Not in Dayton, though, due to the courage of then-Mayor Rhine McLin as well as Commissioners Nan Whaley and Matt Joseph and no thanks to Commissioners Dean Lovelace and Joey Williams.)
Yes, we each have to come out when it’s safe and when we’re comfortable, whether we’re coming out for ourselves or for our family or friends. But think about how far you can come out. Is wearing red all you can do?
The futility of Facebook groups, and something concrete you can do instead
If you’re on Facebook®, something you’ve surely seen is the ubiquitous “join this group to show support for X.” These groups come in many flavors. A pretty common variety is the “I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who support X.” I have yet to figure out what precisely the consequences are of the success or failure of such bets. If someone who’s set up such a group fails to find 1,000,000 people who support X, does that person then have to give up his or her own support of X?
For example, there’s the group “We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe in Evolution before June,” which, as of today, with only just over a week left to meet its goal, has found only 494,631 supporters—if, as is likely, they fail, do these people have to become Creationists? If somehow this group does manage to attract another 505,369 supporters by June 1, what do they think will happen? Creationists around the world will suddenly say, “Oh, wow! You’ve managed to convince me. I do believe in the scientific validity of evolution now.”
If you’re thinking that I don’t find such groups particularly useful, you’re smarter than I think most people who create or join such groups are.
However, some groups on Facebook do have some value, not by amassing some magical number of supporters but rather by dispersing useful information. A recent example is the group “Gay Rights are Human Rights even in Malawi,” a group whose founding was triggered by the imprisonment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a gay couple living in Malawi who were recently sentenced to 14 years’s hard labor. Their crime? Hosting an engagement party for themselves and publicly declaring their love for one another.
I include the link for “Gay Rights are Human Rights even in Malawi” not because I think you should join the group. If all you’re willing to do in support of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is join some stupid Facebook group, you might as well not waste your time.
The United States should not stand by and allow Malawi to imprison LGBT people just for being queer
No, instead, I urge you to do something I learned about from having visited this group’s page—write a couple letters. Someone in the group posted Monjeza and Chimbalanga’s address in prison and suggested that people send them letters of support, letters letting them know that they’re not forgotten, that they have supporters around the world. You don’t have to visit the Facebook group to get their address—I’ll give it to you right here:
P.O. Box 30117
Mailing a letter from the United States to Malawi costs $1.76 (four $0.44 stamps).
As you can see, I sent Monjeza and Chimbalanga a card. I don’t know if they’ll even get it, but I do know that someone in Malawi will see that these brave men have supporters in the United States.
You can also see that I wrote a second letter, to President Obama, and frankly, if you can make time only to write one letter, I’d urge you not to write to Monjeza and Chimbalanga but instead to write to the President. What I said to President Obama was that the United States should not stand by and allow Malawi to imprison LGBT people just for being queer, that the President should condemn this action and that the President should withhold any foreign aid to Malawi until not only Monjeza and Chimbalanga are freed but also Malawi decriminalizes homosexuality.
I realize that President Obama has been leery of taking on gay issues for fear of losing support among more moderate and conservative Democrats, but surely even the most hard core Christian can agree that imprisoning homosexuals is unacceptable. I have to hope that sending the President a letter will be at least a little more effective than joining a stupid Facebook group.
A friend e-mailed a link to a New York Times article she liked and said she’d have posted it to Facebook, if only she knew how. Posting links on Facebook isn’t particularly intuitive, but it’s also not particularly difficult once you know the tricks:
Step 1: The icon for attaching a link doesn’t show up until after you click in the “What’s on your mind?" box:
Step 2: Now that you’ve gotten the stupid attach link icon to show up, click on it:
Step 3: Finally Facebook gives you a box in which you can paste a URL (the address, starting with “http://” of a page on the Intertubes):
Step 4: Many times Facebook is pretty smart about determining an appropriate title, introductory text and preview thumbnail image for a page, but sometimes it gets one or all of these wrong. Luckily you can edit the title and introduction and choose which preview image (or no preview image at all):
Step 5: You can also say why you’re bothering to post the link — what about the webpage whose link you’re posting makes it worth your Facebook friends’ time to read it?:
Another trick is that you can simply paste a URL directly into the “What’s on your mind?” box, and Facebook will figure out that you’ve attached a link, but that’s not nearly as pretty. Whatever works for you, though.
Once you’ve mastered linking on Facebook, you can set up endless Internet loops, with links on your Facebook to your blog, and links on your blog back to your Facebook links, which link back to your blog, which …