What Facebook has become

I’ve been meaning to write this out for a while, but life has gotten the best of me over the past couple/few months.  I really need to get back on a regular blogging schedule, but we’ll see how that goes.  Hopefully my next post will be about what I’ve been so busy with (buying a house and moving across town), but we’ll see.

If you’ve followed me on Facebook for at least a year, you probably know that I make political posts sometimes.  You may have noticed that after the election was over, I slacked off, and if you’ve been following me since the last presidential election cycle, you’ll probably notice my political posts have generally waned.

This wasn’t an accident.  Politics are always relevant, and discourse is great, but Facebook has become more toxic than ever lately.  I’m not sure if that’s due to the current political climate or my own perception of the platform – and perhaps it’s both – but I lean toward it being the latter.  A lot of the people I am friends with were not politically involved until this election, or at least they weren’t vocal about it if they were.  I am pretty positive the 2012 election did not have this much Facebook commentary, but I’ve learned from 2008, 2012, and 2016 that political posts on Facebook are only good for fights and confirmation bias.  No one changes their mind on any heated issue because of what they read on Facebook.

And this leads me to the point of this post:  Facebook has become depressing.  When the platform first launched (or at least, back when my peers first started having kids, which was shortly after the Facebook launch), I used to groan when people posted pictures of their kids.  You know how cartoons and movies sometimes joke about the guy that’s always pulling out his wallet with an ever-expanding photo album of his kids inside of it?  He shoves it into someone’s face and the other person is awkwardly bound to look at the pictures and make comments.  That’s how I felt.

But Facebook was sort of different at the time, as Twitter wasn’t popular at all (that’s when my boys Leo Laporte and Kevin Rose (Internet famous tech nerds) ruled the Twitter roost instead of Lady Gaga or some other pop-culture celeb), Instagram didn’t exist, and neither did Snapchat or any other photo sharing social media platforms.  It was Facebook and I guess MySpace, and since that’s basically what my idea of social networks were, it didn’t feel like that’s what they were for (and it wasn’t just me; lots of friends complained about the same things).  I think what I use Facebook for now is basically short-form of what I used to use my blog for.

These days, I am more than happy to see pictures of my friends’ kids.  It’s good to open Facebook and see people spreading their joy amidst all of the negativity.  This recent election may have gotten a lot of people politically involved, but I hope they realize their friend circle can be a bubble of self-affirmation.  Let’s be real, when you see something you agree with, it reinforces that belief, and the more you see those things, the more negative the opposite viewpoint can appear.  It’s something we’re all susceptible to, including me, and maybe years and years of exposure to politically active communities before other people actually started caring last year is what has suddenly made Facebook feel so toxic.

It’s particularly frustrating for me because of how partisan the conversation is.  Every time the letter behind the name of the president switches from D to R or R to D, the conversation flips, and people that have been quiet for 4 or 8 years are now angry, while the previously angry people are now happily apologizing for any promise the president doesn’t keep.  The “Team R” and “Team D” mentality is absolutely infuriating, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that may be my biggest gripe about Facebook.

Anyway, it’s hard to say, and I definitely don’t want to block myself from opposing viewpoints, but the more I analyze it, the more I feel like Facebook isn’t the place for this kind of discussion.  Really, I’m not sure where that place is, but if I’m being honest, it’s much easier for me to ingest political posts on Twitter because Twitter doesn’t lend itself to debate.  It feels like nearly every time I’ve gotten involved in a political discussion on Twitter with someone that holds an opposing viewpoint, I end up excusing myself from the conversation because it takes two tweets to respond to one tweet, and then they take four tweets to respond to your two tweets, and so on until critical points are being missed and the “conversation” becomes unmanageable.

I think the bigger reason I find political posts easier to digest on Twitter is that on Facebook, you see a political post and then a war raging under it in the comments, likely involving many people you don’t know.  Twitter doesn’t show replies in your feed unless you follow both people.  Because of this, you end up seeing less garbage.

So, I’ve been unfollowing people on Facebook.  Honestly, it kind of sucks, but I’m tired of wading through 10 posts about how much Trump sucks for one post about someone’s personal life that I actually care about.  It’s not worth bringing your negativity into my life.  Sorry.  There’s nothing objectively true about your opinion (or mine) no matter how much you (or I) believe it, and while I may be more forgiving about posts that lean toward something I believe, those at least don’t frustrate me as much.  I’m sure that sounds terrible or whatever, but honestly, I don’t care anymore.  I don’t want to read your political opinion, especially if you only care to have one when your team isn’t in the White House, and even more so if I wouldn’t talk to you about politics in real life.  Actually, probably more that last part.

This is my commitment to my Facebook friends until further notice: unless there is a serious reason to post something political (the definition of “serious” will be up to my discretion), I won’t do it.  You may see me liking some political posts in your feed, but I don’t control how Facebook’s algorithm delivers updates to you.  If something that I like bothers you, please use Facebook Messenger to talk to me about it.  In fact, please use any messaging service (I’m on many of them) to talk to me about anything in general.

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