Friday, April 23, 2010

Differences in the Time of Social Media

Lately I've been thinking about differences. With a big D, that is: Differences. The kinds of Differences which can ruin friendships. Specifically, I've been thinking about Differences in the time of social media.

Thinking about this makes me wear my "I'm keeping my mouth shut, behold my utter seriousity!" face, which I've helpfully demonstrated for you over there on the right.

You see, for me, for the kind of person I am and the kinds of friends that I have, it's usually been the case that once differences of opinion get addressed, that's that. To co-opt a gross cliché here, some of my best friends are Republicans! Our differences? They're okay, because we are entitled to our opinions. What I mean to say is, overall, we just don't need to constantly hash it out. We keep our mouths shut. Seriously.

Politics, religion, global warming.... heck, in the times of the Mommy Wars, it was, is, and will probably always be about how breast is best, or circumcision is genital mutilation, or my kid's carseat is safer than yours... whatever. You know how I feel, I know how you feel, and we move on.

So here's where Facebook, in specific, is causing me some discomfort, and some introspection.

Facebook groups and pages are the new Fish/Bicycle t-shirt, or "Don't blame me!" bumpersticker. Sure. I get it. What scares me about this, though, is how you can make a statement without actually making a statement, just by way of being a "joiner". You don't own that shit. You're not saying "I, Self Me, believe that the Holocaust is a lie! Wanna make something of it?"

No. You're not taking that heat.

You're saying "I passively agree with this thing someone else said, and did you happen to notice the moist and chewy pre-packaged safety in numbers deliciousness? No? Oh, well, then it's just a JOKE Holocaust denial anyway, quit being so reactionary".

It feels like receiving a "Dear Jen, learn how to park, you asshole!" note under my windshield wipers - not that I've ever received one of those, Aaron - every time I see a friend joining a group or liking a topic that I, personally, find reprehensible. No, I know it isn't about me. Yes, I am just as guilty as the next guy. Only my Passive Joiner Statements of Difference were things that I agree with. Acceptance. Equality. Understanding. Choice.

You know what They say about opinions.

So I think about the kind of person I am, and the kind of person I want to be. Do I want to be the kind of person who only surrounds herself with people of like mind? Because that sounds pretty boring. Do I want to embrace or ignore my (admittedly) knee-jerk reaction of "You know what? Friendship over." when I encounter these really grotesque statements that my friends seem to be supporting? Because if I got friend-dumped over being pro-choice, for example, I'd be pretty pissed. I'd be making noise about my right to my opinions. If I got friend-dumped for being Caucasian, well, aiiie discrimination!

It's always about rights and discrimination when it's not originating from your own self, innit?

I don't know what's right or what's wrong, here. I don't know where it starts or where it stops. What does it say about acceptance and equality if I'm going to refuse to be friends with you because you feel differently than I do?

As I said, lately I've been thinking about Differences. I don't have a clear answer, but at least I'm thinking. I hope my friends are, too.