[Written about a year ago after Facebook-witnessing the enormous outpouring of my neighbor’s historical ignorance and inability to reason. In order to defeat philosophical and political laziness, and likewise Patty Ritchie in the November 2018 election, I will have to persuade Facebook to file for bankruptcy. This will be a most difficult task.]
That’s a bear atop the Burlington Electric Department up in Vermont, where it is cold, like Siberia. This huge Russian bear empties an old honey jug of hydrochloric acid all over the electric grid in order to infiltrate American homes with fake news and pro Donald Trump propaganda. He is also a consummate hypnotist and can manipulate any mind away from reason and rationale into a devoted post neo-con loving, Confederate flag waving, Rudy Giuliani, gaudily over-dressed in endangered animal skins.
This most recent fake news story came from the powerhouse news corporation, The Washington Post. Coupled with the almost declassified intelligence report on election hacking by Russia, it had a huge impact on worldwide media opinion and turned many in my nation, (who by virtue of what I have learned through social psychological research, were already very North Korea lite and vulnerable to government propaganda), into Facebook political hacks. Even some of my intelligent Facebook friends couldn’t leave it alone. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Chicken Littles with very little, or at best, woefully forgotten historical education. It seems the only political triumph sought is the removal, by impeachment or volunteer abdication, of the most recent president-elect. No ideologies are being expressed. No anti-war protest, or reminders of rapid environmental deterioration—all of the bad in the world, many of these Facebookers decree, can only be fixed by the removal of this one man and his sinister lair of cabinet appointees. He is the sole road block to every potential good mankind can promote or achieve. If we rise up collectively to Facebook and Twitter troll him day and night, then surely we can oust him from power, and then all will be right with the world. Our government will cease to be the number one arms dealer to Earth, Inc. The U.S. will immediately sever all connections with insane states of insanity like Saudi Arabia—and we shall get back to the clear-minded and reasonable policies of Barack Obama, and continue where his administration left off, pushing for a trillion dollar nuclear upgrade, bombing the be-Jesus out of poor oil path nations, charging the poor for health insurance, watching helplessly while BP or its equivalent, churns another Gulf of Mexico into a thick crude oil shake.
I am witnessing people use social media to right the world order, when they have never known a right world order, nor are even able to dream of one unless their political enemies are defeated. They can’t or rather, won’t do it themselves. That kind of thinking is crazy, forgetting all the while that both Hitler and Gandhi were small, rather insignificant “themselves” at one time.
If Facebook is to work as a tool for positive change, it needs to replace it’s “Like” thumb with a meet-up link. That is, if you like Jimmy’s post about a beer he drank in Harvard Square, you can arrange for a place to connect with Jimmy (perhaps a pub) and discuss the virtues of that beer and maybe more of its kind. Or, if Jimmy is a staunch, flag-waving Democran or Republicrat, you can forgo the cute little thumb’s up, or the deafening silence of the dreaded “no-thumb” disapproval, or worse yet, the tell-tale non-plussed reaction expressed in comment mocking of your politics, and actually spend an hour or two peacefully assembling with others of like-hope in Jimmy’s house, if he ever can let go of his many internal fears, and actually invite you over sometimes. Nope. Let’s Facebook our politics instead. That is how we can tell revolution is just around the corner. Or, wait a second… Check out this adorable puppy licking that parrot’s eyeball!
Otherwise, and I believe this to be the more likely scenario, Facebook will remain just a cyber hangout for some very nice people, but also quite a few impotent trolls as well, discussing the vices and much less often, the virtues, of each other’s ranky-dank under bridge hideout.
Finally, I’d like to finish with a popular story out of the annals of social psychology research describing the “bystander effect”…
In 1964, a young woman named Catherine Genovese was raped and killed in two separate attacks in Queens, N.Y. After investigation police noted that 38 people had either witnessed the violence or heard Genovese scream, but at no time did anyone make an effort to scare off the attacker, and just one woman called the police. There are many situations like this happening every day. They used to call it cowardice before PC made everyone equally special so long as they possessed a router in their home.
Facebook is by and far the greatest promoter of the bystander effect. And it works a kind of magic on our brain’s sensitive clan approval cortex. Nobody does anything of substance anymore. Or, at least it appears that way. The completion of a published book is liked as well as the latest video of a cat stuffing itself into a flower vase. This summer, thanks to Facebook Live®, I even got to witness with my own eyes an actual murder on the side of the road. I didn’t like it one bit. I left my angry face emoticon for all and sundry to contemplate. I was so mad. I went into the kitchen and made myself a sandwich.
Zuckerberg bets we don’t do a damn thing with our minds and bodies besides twiddle our thumbs and continue to debate news stories we read or see on TV. I think he likes it when some nonconformist fool tips the moderate scales just a wee little bit with a comment about world peace. You should see the bystanders rise up and… comment like the world is about to end. But then Jeopardy is on at 7:00 PM, and the victim probably deserved exactly what she got anyway.
Facebook is a place for mind and do rot.
One last quote, and then Facebook is that embarrassing fluff book I hide away when guests stop by.
I have named the destroyers of nations: comfort, plenty, and security—out of which grow a bored and slothful cynicism, in which rebellion against the world as it is, and myself as I am, are submerged in listless self-satisfaction.
—John Steinbeck (famous non-Facebooker)