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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hate invades the last civil vestige of chat: Facebook Oh Dear, What shall I do?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hate invades the last civil vestige of chat: Facebook

Oh Dear, What shall I do?

Today, I am debating whether or not, I should surrender, abandon, shut down and never again log into my Facebook page and eliminate from my busy schedule all of the time spent on writing, chatting, witting and just having good old fashioned digital conversations with a world full of people, both personally known and known just through the acquaintance formed on the Internet. Not that my staying on-line or logging out would have even the slightest impact on Facebook or would diminish the perpetual traffic in and out of this hugely popular world-sized chat room. My leaving Facebook would be for personal reasons and not in protest over privacy invasions. My leaving Facebook would not be because of the myriad of mind-numbing and inane requests for a missing sheep, to join a gang to rub out some imaginary Mafioso ne-er do well or announcements that some marginally known relative has found this gem or that stone. My leaving Facebook would not be to escape the 2500 or so colleagues and fellow class members from my 1960’s era High School Graduating class who haveyet to uncover where I am hiding on-line.

By eliminating the amount of time I spend on Facebook, if I choose to shut down and padlock my electronic doors, would certainly benefit other projects that sometimes sputter and stall due to the lack of available time during an ever shortening day.

No, the reason I would leave Facebook is Hate. Not hate for me in particular, but hate and hate expressions and hate groups and hate pages and hate speech in general. Hate directed at anyone that disagrees with them, hate directed at people that agree with me, hate for anyone that does not back the mob in the plethora of battles, demonstrations, pronouncements and intended disruptions that are waged on Facebook every day with ever increasing frequency.

Let's begin with a little history.

For a over a decade, I was an active seller on anauction website. On occasion, I would come across an item, a vase, and an unusual toy or plate pattern that I was unable to locate and identify with my own resources. The Website offers a series of Category-Specific Boards within the auction “Community” where people with items that need some additional identification can go for help. The auction website states “discussion boards are a great place to meet other members, get advice, and share and find information on everything from art to travel. Browse the discussion boards below to find an area that interests you.”
Sounds friendly right? A nice community of Collectors, with common interests, to help each other identify previously unidentifiable collectibles!

This is an excellent resource to make sure you are correctly identifying the item you have for sale.
After a few years of simply logging on with a brief description, a simple picture and a friendly request for some assistance, things began to change. Leaders were born and anointed, each with little quasi gangs of minions that would digitally kiss the leader’s digital butt on the Auction board publicly as well as through various back channels. You could eventually tell that someone making an inquiry was not among the “Chosen People” of the Board, and that little chats had taken place through the back channels before any newcomer or occasional drop-in could be addressed directly. We occasional peasants, outside the walls of the Palace of Collectibles Definition, would then get increasingly bombarded with an ever expanding set of “rules”. These were arbitrary rules that had not been established by the auction site, but by THE BOARD, presumably to save their valuable time they had graciously donated to identify our unworthy goods. Occasionally, THE BOARD, which was a loosely knit group of ego’s masked as experts, would convince the auction site that THE BOARD’s suggested rules, should be the auction sites Board rules to which, on occasion, the auction site adopted.

From, how big is your picture to the structure of the words in your title of your query, the rules were shared with everyone and under no uncertain terms, everyone at that time knew those rules must be followed if you wished to be graced with an identification. There were actually people on the board whose sole purpose in life was to warn all, newcomers included, that their time was extremely valuable and the poster must follow the rules if they were going to call upon the knowledge of the Almighty and Knowledgeable Board Leader’s. These people, some known as “trolls” never identified a queried item; their purpose was to remind us of the rules.

Many of these Anointed Ones had actually been to the factory where their particular collectible specialties had been produced!

This eventually got even more bizarre. Little sects developed. Fostoria Glass people, Staffordshire fanatics and the most critical and vitriolic of the all: The Blenko Gang. At one point, Pottery & Glass gang members tracked down private property ownership, liens, criminal charges, financial information of anyone who would dare challenge their expertmanship. A popular comment, frequently made in response to some inquiry about the origin of a piece of art glass, was that it merely cheap Mexican glass. The minions took particular glee at dashing the hopes of some would-be seller with the “Mexican Glass” response. These smirking comments were frequently wrong. Some “trolls” even offered incorrect identifications so the unwary seller would describe their treasure using the information received on the Board, only to have the items purchased at an extremely low price when it attracted no buyers during the actual auction.

Posting to these auction boards for information, became such a maze of unknown rules and demanded expectations, got so nerve-wracking wondering whose wrath you were about to incur, would your background be checked or would you get a mysterious package of white powders, fecal materials etc in the mail from these giggling Internet bullies, that I stopped using the BOARD and sought my information elsewhere. I was always surprised that this largest of auction sites would allow these little fiefdoms to be established and these people to continue to wreak havoc to what could have been helpful boards. Society eventually identified these types of Board attendants as the Internet Bully.

The auction site eventually came up with rules for identifying Pottery and Glass items that included discussions of

• “Vulgarity" includes references to bodily elimination
• "Hate Speech"
• "Disruptive or Hostile Comments"
• “Interpersonal Disputes"
• "Threats of violence"

Threats of violence from a group of little old ladies, identifying porcelain tea cup patterns or the age of a glass vase. What happened? These back channel chats included visits to courthouse records of the offender to research all of their crimes against Humanity, paying People Search fees to gather any internet available information. Plots were hatched, retribution plans drawn up.

Even today if you peruse these auction boards, new Leaders have emerged, polite but snide comments still pepper the discussion. Things have really not changed. They have just gone further underground.

A group of outcasts were wholesale removed from future access to the auction boards The actual auction site administrators were flooded with well orchestrated sets of nasty complaints directed at a certain group. Coordinated by the Board leaders and their minions, the auction site responded by removing the disruptive rule breakers. This group of Board outcasts responded secretly by forming a refuge from the web bullying and put strict limitations on their membership. The outcasts set up another board site, where Identifications could be made without fear, retribution, condensation, or verbal abuse. The outcast were soon chatting and sharing, posting music and speaking of the old days. It was real fun. Information about collectible pottery and glass flowed freely. Bonds were created, friendships began.

It was only a matter of time before the group of outcasts, began to plot their vengeance on those nasty BOARD trolls that had them exiled in the first place. These collectable refugees, by employing equally invasive tactics of seeking out personal information through Court filings about their enemies, even engaged innocent Board bystanders to supply the newly exiled with fodder for their anger. Eventually these hateful and spiteful conversations about retribution changed the mood of the new home. Chat degenerated into racist commentary on political candidates, inappropriate humor on the direction of the Nation and even personal attacks on members of their own group.

They began to eat their own refugees. Peace was intermittent and the barbs and flaming began to occur with greater frequently. I then realized I was spending too much energy and focus on what this new Board had become. People, digitally beaten and bruised from challenging the new rules of the new Leaders, began to limp away and leave the Board.

I didn’t need that and again I packed up my goodies and in the dark of night, unceremoniously left.

In a few weeks, yet another group was formed and I was asked to join. Its purpose was described as:
This group has been created as a place for owners of shops at (Site Name) to come together and discuss ideas, problems and anything else related to our business.

So grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea or wine from the bar. Sample some of the finest chocolates and cookies to the right. Pull up a chair and let’s get to know each other :)”

Doesn’t that sound nice? Well after a year or so, some voices that had been so virulently vocal in the previous group, began to migrate to this new group and it wasn’t long before I found myself dodging the barbs and flames and nastiness that I had found in previous groups. Again I left and this time…for good. No more little groups, no more time spent in these negative dens of Internet iniquity.

And then I found Facebook.

Wow, Facebook is chat and sharing friendly pictures and what did you have for dinner. There were those bothersome sheep and occasionally bloodied victims of Mafia hits staggering through, but they were only mild annoyances.

Things started out nicely. Grandchild this and that, nice summer vacation pictures and an occasional blushing joke picture or video filled the pages of my Facebook.

But slowly, we, the Facebook Family were asked to back this position or that, profess our love of God, Mother and Country by inserting a few words into our “Status Update” Box.

Actually, preceding the invasion of our “Staus Box”, was the “join my farm” or “join my Mafia gang” or various requests from this or that group of gamers. I turned them all down and would occasionally send out a guilty note that I don’t join for this reason or that reason, because I didn’t want to offend someone asking me to play with them that I refused. But the guilt of not playing was growing and the concept of “join this group” emerged.

When the requests for Support the Troops or Profess your undying love for the Lord Jesus started to hit the board, I, at first, acquiesced and would temporarily post this or that phrase in support. And then the numbers grew, sometimes getting three or four requests a day and I knew there was some Facebook troll sitting out in some basement somewhere, giggling to see how viral his or her “Post this on your wall” request had grown.
I stopped. My wall, My space, My words! Sure I was raised Catholic. I had guilt for not posting that I accepted Jesus as my one true savior or that if I accept one, I had to accept all. It got to “If you don’t support the mutilation of babies and puppies for the purposes of developing hair care products in Indonesia, then show you have the nerve to post this on your wall” and I really struggled with posting about my bra Color!. Some things should just not be discussed. This is a family board and I didn’t want some stranger asking my Mother about her Bra color…Where would it end?

How could I support mutilating babies by not posting for God’s sake? To not do so would support the mutilation of babies AND PUPPIES!!

And then came the Political Groups. As the temperature outside Facebook and on the streets of America got hotter and hotter and the Cable News channels turned the anger volume up to a scream with Tea Parties and Panels that would kill your grandparents and Socialist and Communist and Nazi’s and Socialist Nazi Communists that wanted to kill Grandma, some Facebook members brought the battle to the Status Update postings of Facebook. Pitting poodles against cable news commentators, frantically trying to reverse democratically determined Congressional decisions and invoking the name of every God to intervene everywhere, Facebook pages and hate groups were formed faster than an Internet Virus Scares. People were being forced to take sides. Failure to take a side meant certain ostracizing from Facebook and maybe the Web as a whole.

And now, we are being asked to pray for the death of our President and anyone associated with him.
And then that was it!

What had been a wholesome share kid vacation pictures with Mom & Dad, had become a screaming angry bomb throwing vitriolic over-blown mob chat room where friend was pitted against friend, where you checked the groups that someone belonged to BEFORE you accepted them as a friend.
The outside, the growing hate in America, the racism from the street and the TV, the total lack of Civility and even the understanding of basic American Civics invaded Facebook. And now everywhere you turn, you cannot escape the anger.

America has its problems. Some people say we are stupid and poorly educated. Maybe some are, but not all of us. Some say we are sheeple and victims or Patriots. Whatever. I have a hard enough time being me.
Well I can escape the anger. I can be an ostrich. I can turn off my TV. I can stop reading the news. I can be an uneducated idiot, like so many, that are running, streaking, screaming madly like some Ritalin-riddled Anarchist through our lives.

I can leave Facebook. But I shouldn’t have too!

Is that what I have to do? Where did I go wrong? Do I eliminate friends on Facebook and if I do that, I eliminate the pleasant exchanges as well. Do I contribute to the Hate Mud? I found myself looking back at all my posts the other day, making sure I wasn’t the one that caught up in the moment, that wished Death to my opponents and every one in their miserable lives. That is when I realized there was a problem. I was even getting caught up in it.

I realize that the Hate Groups and the Hate speech didn’t start after I joined Facebook. Facebook started general access usage for anybody with an e-mail address in 2006. Banned in several countries, it is the largest social-networking site in the world with over 400 million users and amazingly 50% of those 400 million log in and check their updates everyday! These users have on the average of 130 friends and spent over 500 BILLION minutes on line each month.

Mike Godwin wrote in 1990, Godwin's law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin's law of Nazi Analogies”. Goodwin’s Law is simple "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” Facebook had reached “1” and Goodwin’s Law had been proved out once again…

So I go back to my dilemma: Facebook or No Facebook. Is there any way to enjoy this digital escape without being caught up in America’s anger?

When queried on Facebook, those lucky few who I identify as my “friends”, came back with helpful suggestions that involved choosing future friends more careful, stay and fight the Hate Goods, delete, hide, de-friend anyone of my little group that “crosses the line.” One says that she “admit(s) to often posting things that have political overtones, but I would hope that I never encourage intolerance nor discourage civil discourse. If you think any of my posting comes across otherwise, I want to know”.

Another states “I ignore many things on Facebook, and choose my "friends" carefully. And I'll "de-friend" those that get carried away with their hateful messages. Everyone that knows me or takes a minute to look at my choices on FB knows my political stance.”

And yet another “I agree, there is way too much hate in the world. What I do is hide any applications etc that I don't want to see posts about. I have enough serious issues in my personal/family life to let posts on Facebook worry me. I come here to relax, look at people’s pics, see how/what they are doing and even play those dreaded games you wrote about. :) This is what I do for relief from real life and I don't want drama

Yet another adds If you leave Facebook, can I have all of your Friends?”

I can leave Facebook. The Hate will still be there until we as a society recognize it, condemn it and send it back underground in the dark dank caves it deserves to be condemned to. Maybe Facebook is the face of the world and maybe this is where the World is right now.

Another writer on the emergence of and growing popularity of Hate groups of Facebook put it nicely:

In the end, all we can do is step back, breathe and walk away when life, and the people who populate it, are caught up in dramas that threaten our own karma. Karma has nothing to do with payback, positive or negative. It is an entirely individual thing that one must mind and guard for one’s own sake.”