7 October 2013

Bigotry and social media

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love social media for a lot of reasons.

But there is one thing I hate about it.

It gives a voice to bigots.

I've been really pleased to be contacted via Facebook by people I was genuinely fond of in my younger years.  Except the people who I find out within 48 hours are racists or homophobes.  Bigots with a capital B.  Absolute tossers when it comes down to it.

And I am always genuinely saddened by this realisation.  Because if they had come up in conversation, or via a shared connection, I would have been really pleased to hear their news, perhaps reconnect.  And in the course of conversation, our fundamental views on the world would never have come up.  And that is the nature of small talk and shared memories.  You don't delve deeper - there is no reason to do so.

But with Facebook, or Twitter.  There is no "OMG IT'S BEEN LIKE A BILLION YEARS WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO TELL ME EVERYTHING", it is more 'Ah.... Bill.... he was a lovely fellow - I'm definitely accepting his friend request' and then you log in the next morning and it's a series of 'Fuck off Australia is full' memes, coupled with a tirade against the illegals or that the gays are trying to donate blood so we all become gay and it's a complete conspiracy and by the way -Obama is totally a Muslim and a Kenyan because my mother's brother's best friend's goat's cousin's drug dealer saw the birth certificate.

And then I have to unfriend immediately.  But in addition to that, an earlier memory is ruined by the fact that I never really knew them, or knew myself.

Harder, more ambiguous, are the friends that you have met later in life who have been great and you miss having around now that you are scattered around the world and then one day you open your feed to find a plethora of ill informed jokes about religion, culture and colour.  And want to defriend them immediately, but you give them a few more chances because you really really really want to be wrong about them.

You want them to be having a moment of oops.  Where their interpretation of a joke was slightly off, or nuance means that they saw a different message.  And then they use the word 'boong' in a status or rant against the 'illegals' and you realise that truly, they aren't who you thought they were.


And you'd love to pretend it never happened.  But the fact is - to say and do nothing is as powerful as if I sent them the KKK secret emoticon.  Silence is an endorsement.  It's powerful.  People fill silence with the messages they most want to hear.

We are all learning.  I have no doubt that the younger me was less informed, more close minded, than the person I am now. I probably never questioned the casual jokes, the general stereotypes, the misinformation.  But as an adult, a functioning involved rational adult, I perpetuate everything I don't challenge.

I'm still learning, I'm still coming to a greater understanding of the world.  But I stand firm in the view that bigotry, in any form, in any context, is still bigotry.  And we must be active about eliminating it, in whatever form it takes.

Including ignorance.

Especially ignorance.

20 comments:

  1. Great point, some people really annoy me with this on facebook!

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    1. It just seems such a weird thing to be proud of when you think about it?

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  2. I just love the line I perpetuate everything I don't challenge. So much truth and sense right there.

    Leaving some fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOT

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  3. Yep, I agree with you on this one. Facebook can bring out the worst in people can't it? And the best.

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  4. Facebook has made me immune to so much, I am so guilty of just scrolling past and not taking in anything. I think I will be different when my kids are older. The election was a real eye opener with peoples views etc. Great post.

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    1. Thanks Ann. Elections always bring forth opinions dressed as fact - on all sides. and this past election was nasty.

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  5. interesting perspective. i hate racism and homophobia too, and find certain political policies obscene and unethical. personally though unless its constant i dont delete people whose views are different than my own. its a diverse political landscape and since my facebook friends are more acquaintences i expect that to be reflected. reminds me of the voltaire quote: i may not agree w what u say but i will defend to the death your right to say it. not obscene and beligerant stuff, but cringe worthy statuses, for sure.

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    1. Oooh, please don't misunderstand me. I do not defriend people that disagree with me - I love having people around me who take the world on in a completely different way - it is what makes the world interesting. It's people that peddle hatred and bigotry as easily as they breathe that I delete. Yes they are entitled to say such things, Voltaire is completely correct. But it doesn't need to be given a platform via me. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Oh I hear you loud and clear. I actually don't even have facebook anymore. I closed down my account a little over two years ago for a few reasons, one of them definitely being that I did not want to see and read so much rubbish. I definitely agree with you when you say that silence is a powerful endorsement. Great post!

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    1. Thanks Lizzy. You closed down Facebook? That's the kind of strength I admire!

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  7. "I perpetuate everything I don't challenge". Thanks for the reminder, and the push to act instead of ignore lest my complacence give the bigots room to thrive.

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  8. I have a love/hate with FB - it drives me bonkers but then I get FOMO. I actually don't have too many people with dicky points of view, but probably cause I do big culls so often! It someone hasn't commented, liked or done something in 6 months on my page - BOOM! GONE BURGER! x

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    1. I have a suspicion you're not a hoarder Emily? GONE BURGER btw is a brillliant expression. x

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  9. To be honest I don't really have the same feeling to it as you. I'm happy the bigots etc get a voice and are showing their true colours - I don't agree, but at least they're doing it as themselves (and I can then de-friend them if I don't want to hear it). What I *really* object to is people hurling truly hateful/bigoted statements to people behind a veil of anonymity when they would never, ever say such things if it could be reasonably easily be traced back to who they are (e.g. YouTube comments). Free speech is fine, but IMHO you should have to expect the societal consequences of what you say in a public setting... and if you don't have the courage to say it as yourself you should probably not be saying it.

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    1. Oh my - like GOMI? I recently discovered that and I couldn't believe that people spent all this time being a-holes in such a dedicated negativity zone. I agree with your IMHO. Absolutely.

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  10. Great point, I just love the line. And i really like Facebook because Facebook is the world's largest online social networking website.

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  11. Yep. Great post. I've started calling people out on certain things. They then sometimes de-friend me! If that makes them feel all powerful and like they had the last word, then so be it. Nuffers.

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