I like the friends I have on Facebook. I’ve culled my friends list ruthlessly, like a dog breeder drowning puppies while trying for a new type of canine, maybe a Saint Berdoodle. So now my friends list contains real friends, or at least acquaintances I like. This has led me to do far stupider things than I did when my Facebook friends included my dentist’s uncle and the guy I met at the gas station.
The Wise Folk advise us to avoid certain subjects in polite company. We should not discuss sex, religion, or politics. I think this is usually great advice. But now on Facebook I’m not in polite company, I’m among my friends. So I say to the wise folk, “Screw you, you god damn commies!” I feel comfortable talking to my friends about delicate subjects. They’re my friends.
Allow me to show you the stupidity of my ways. Say I’m scanning posts and see that a friend linked an article. It reveals that last Christmas Eve the Republican National Committee held a cross-dressing orgy and sacrificed goats on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. My friend has commented: “This is outrageous! These guys are traitors to the nation!”
Back when my friends list included the guy I met at the gas station, I would no more have responded to this than I would have inhaled Drano. But now I’m among friends. I may freely read this article and offer friendly insights.
I admit that the image of the RNC writhing in ecstasy under Abraham Lincoln’s gaze is amusing. Yet I try to be honest, and I comment: “I read the article and am not sure it’s accurate. The article was written by a plumber in Little Rock who said he’s never been east of the Mississippi, and he relied on his nephew’s field trip to DC for his source material. I couldn’t locate anyone else who saw this event, and unless the RNC has a Romulan cloaking device then someone should have seen them and said something. And while the article appears on a website named www.window.on.truth.com, it’s in fact owned by the non-profit ‘Kill Republican Maggots Who Kick Orphans.’ I’d say exercise some skepticism.”
Half an hour later my friend responds: “Maybe, maybe not. There’s no proof that they DIDN’T have this orgy, is there?”
I suppress my knowledge that it’s impossible to prove a negative. My friend knows how she feels, and I’m not determined to change her opinion. She likes her opinion. We had a friendly conversation, polite on both sides, and I’m happy. So I comment: “I see what you’re saying, and you’re right—I can’t prove the orgy didn’t happen. If some of these guys have their penises fall off later, that could be evidence that an orgy might have happened. But overall, go you!”
Fourteen seconds later a comment appears from one of my friend’s friends. I’ve never heard of this person, and if he was on fire I probably wouldn’t bother to write an app to simulate a stream of urine directed onto him.
He comments, addressing my friend: “I don’t know where this guy came from, but he’s just the kind of shit-for-brains reactionary who’s going to drive this country into a revolution that will end in an influenza pandemic and nuclear war! Just because someone’s a plumber doesn’t mean his words are false—that’s nothing but elitist thinking from a lackey of the rich and privileged who have filled this country’s prisons with the innocent poor and are conducting scientific experiments on them to create a super-soldier! I’ll bet he’s never even been to an orgy! I’d like to see this asshole debate the real issues instead of drooling his opinions—I’d shred him in 2 seconds! But I doubt he has the guts!”
As I read this, I reflect that they are called Wise Folk instead of Pretty Folk for a reason. I should listen to them more. I feel a gut-wriggling urge to respond to this snot-streaming cretin, but it’s evident that hours of spiteful conflict will ensue with a person I do not know, care about, or wish to see in the gene pool. Only evil lies at the end of that path.
There is salvation. It’s called the “Block” button, and I punch it as if it was the ejector seat and my F-18 was flaming out.
Sure, Facebook is a social network, but social isn’t always good. Most murders are committed by someone close to the victim, and the most vicious wars are fought between people with only a few degrees of separation. If I want to enjoy my time online, I’ll keep my fingers in my pockets when those touchy subjects float by. If I want a fight, I can always walk up to someone in a bar and call his mother a clot of nose-filth.