22 April 2013

You never know who your friends really are until they post a nasty Facebook rant


 

Last week I wrote about using social media for positive change. On the same day, I had to hold back from commenting on a hateful Facebook rant against the New Zealand gay marriage bill. So I unfriended that friend instead. And their religion is supposed to be compassionate. They're a colleague. I am disappointed knowing their beliefs.

I feel that you never know who your friends really are until they post a nasty Facebook rant. And often friends surprise you with their social media activity. Just because they may be passionate (and compassionate) in one area of human or animal rights, doesn't mean they'll be tolerant across the board.

A friend who has congratulated me on my diversity work shared a photo of a Muslim woman on a train holding a bag with a store logo "bang". Someone else I know who champions positive body image posted a mocking picture of an overweight woman in a fast food queue (picture below). A religious, compassionate friend shared someone else's racist rant about our soldiers fighting for Australians - stating that anyone who doesn't agree with the display of the Australian flag should go back to their country. And most disappointingly, two friends who are all about acceptance and inclusion of disability commented on one of those disgraceful 'tag someone you know' photos - of a vulnerable, visibly different looking person - and I can bet that in most cases, their pictures are used in those memes without their permission (see an example of this below). Again - tolerance and passion in one area doesn't mean tolerance and acceptance across the board. Or people just do not think.

(Apologies if these pictures offend you - I am using them to exemplify the pictures and rants I have seen on my social media feed.)

I have recently gone on an unfollowing spree on Twitter. When the tweeters often did well to peddle their own causes and agendas, they were also ranting about something else. While disagreement and differing opinions doesn't equal bullying, their values and online behaviour were qualities that I don't want in a friend. Boring. Next! I feel lighter without the constant anger and passive aggressiveness of some of these people. As my Twitter friend Kirsty tweeted last night:

She also wrote this piece of brilliance.
 
I have also private messaged a couple of people about their Facebook activity, questioning the homophobic and disablist pictures they're sharing. And after my messages, they told me they just didn't realise they were promoting homophobia and disabilism, and removed their posts. Perhaps education rather than unfriending is the key, though in the case of the anti NZ gay marriage rant, there would be no reasoning.

I am not sure if people are aware of their actions on social media. And I also think people forget that their social media activity reflects on them as an employee, despite using it in their private time. Reactions to issues and social media posts are so immediate, and it's a quick, effective way to voice an opinion after an event that may have pissed you off. People think their friends don't see when they 'like' a pornographic image. There is no self censorship, and often the ranty narrowminded statuses are seen as heroic, receiving a following and trail of echoing comments from equally as bigoted friends. Anyone who dares to disagree is called out, and encouraged to unfriend. Despite how 'private' a Facebook or Twitter profile is, someone is always looking, and judging. And while free speech is allowed, hate speech seems to spread so quickly. It's easy to forget that your angry/sexist/homophobic/racist/disablist rant can define your personal values. And this can make 'real life' interactions very difficult. The 'hide from newsfeed' option on Facebook comes in handy.

Chloe Angyal writes on Daily Life:

"As we spend more and more of our time online, and reveal more and more of ourselves through the sharing nature of social media, perhaps the unwritten but closely observed rules of Facebook interaction will evolve: In addition to starting fights, we should be able to resolve them, too. Digital pecan pie, so to speak, at this weird online Christmas lunch table. For now – until Facebook offers some new mediation tool – we're still stuck negotiating the awkward, uncharted middle ground between the digital and the real. We're stuck inviting people who "liked" Sexism to our IRL (in real life) events."

While I am opinionated on social media, I am always mindful of who may be reading, and how my opinions may be perceived. And I am always conscious that I interact with so many of my social media friends in person, and would hate them to be surprised about some of my beliefs they'd read on Facebook. What I write online is what I believe offline. And I'd like to think I'm quite open minded and inclusive of diversity.

I am so so proud of New Zealand's progressiveness and I hope Australia follows suit soon. Equal love for all.

 

How do you deal with questionable, misinformed discriminatory rants on social media?

If you're looking for me on social media, I use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

33 comments:

  1. Your post speaks to something I have been struggling with for awhile now, how to keep the balance of friendship with social media. My own conclusion was to shut down my Facebook account. Many of my friends are conserative and while I don't understand that mindset I can agree they have the freedom to their own belief system. I just coudln't handle reading their uber conservative rants anymore, and get myself all in a tizzy. I would so often have a response written up, and then I would delete it because arguing never changes their minds.

    I wish that everyone would be mindful of what they say on Facebook. But to keep my blood pressure down, I will remain "unfriendly".

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment MamaPants. How sad that YOU had to shut your personal space down because of others' actions, but I am so glad that you feel all the better for it. Life is too short to read narrowminded vitriol.

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  2. The first time I deliberately "un-friended" someone was when I saw a picture of President Obama with the word "TRAITOR" in big block letters under the picture. It felt, frankly, like a knife to the gut, and I decided then and there I didn't need that person in my life. Since then I have un-friended or hidden people whose opinions I do not respect. They add no value to my life. Buh-bye, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    I don't need a whole Newsfeed worth of posts of only people with whom I agree, but I do feel a closeness and kinship with people who have the same values that I do. Those are the people whom, if we met in real life, I would choose to spend time with.

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    1. Yes - its not about agreement but values, I feel this way too Cheryl. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. Just delete them from your friends list. It's that easy. If they even notice and ask you, then you can tell them why. Alternatively, you could contact them and tell them why you are about to remove them from your friends list... but why would you bother reasoning with someone who has proven they don't reason very well... Either way, the burden of their bigotry is gone from your Facebook experience.

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    1. Thanks so much :) its often harder reasoning than deleting them.

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    2. Wouldn't it be more charitable to talk to the person first? To let them know what they did. I think one of the nicest things that a friend did to me not long ago was to gently pull me aside one day and let me know why my opinion on a matter was not well formed in her opinion. Because she took the time to explain it, and her approach was kind and caring, I was able to develope in that area as a better person in an area that I didn't realise I was struggling.

      A lot of people have their rants on facebook. I see political nastiness and anti religion memes and attacks all over my facebook newsfeed. Because they are so frequent now I struggle with rationalising their views each time.

      Having said that, I have seen people attempting to be charitable on facebook, and attempting to enlighten people's views in nice, friendly ways only to be PERSONALLY ATTACKED in group pages. It is disgusting. Recent examples have been attacks on a friend who is a pro-life advocate who was using logic and reason to debate the discussion of when life begins (please, I'm not keen to discuss that here) only to be attacked personally and labelled as a non-thinking, bible-following, no-brain individual of little worth. It really is so disappointing to see. In the same breathe, I find that people who attempt to comment (nicely) on the gay marriage topic to sit on either side of the fence, and if you are not on their side then you are in contest with their views and attacked with your views and beliefs in why or why not gay marriage should or should not exist be attacked, with the individual used as the punching bag.

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    3. Hey Melanie - thanks for your comment :) I definitely see the examples you've mentioned when blog commenters go to defend the BlogHer being criticised. It's a danger in thinking one opinion is right and the other is not - amd sometimes the personal attacks on the misinformed may be worse than the misinformed's opinion. Great comment!

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  4. There hv been a few times I hv questionned friends' statuses and on occasion I hv requested to not receive their "joke" emails that are blatantly racist but I was unfriended this week by a woman I know online through the quilty/fabric world. She posted a picture of the 8yo boy who was killed in the Boston explosion. He was holding a handmade sign that read something like "People should stop hurting each other. Peace." She titled her repost
    "Let's find the killers and hang them."
    I pointed out the dichotomy between intent and demand. She questionned my commitment to freedom and justice. Twice. I replied with freedom of speech, foundation of democracy, blah, blah, yada, yada. Again she questionned my principles. I made a comment about logic and reading the words of the poster he held.

    When I logged in next day she had vanished from my feed. I laughed and wished her Tea Party-crazed, American arse farewell.

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    1. I agree - sometimes there is no logic and an eye for an eye mentality - especially when large scale tragedies happen.
      Thanksmso much for sharing your experience.

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  5. I have unfriended and unfollowed people because of the social media activity. I ain't got time for that...

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    1. Love that expression Dorothy. Thank you for your comment

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  6. Love this blog post Carly. I also defriended somebody on facebook because he proudly posted that he was writing to his local MP to protest against marriage equality. I found myself getting really angry, even when he posted totally benign things on his feed, because his views had disappointed me so much. I found the defriending to be good for my mental health.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. It's a pity that it takes so much to positively influence someone.

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  7. Sadly we are surrounded with intolerant and narrow minded people on a daily basis. Facebook is definitely not the place these people should express their negative opinions especially but such controversial topics. I agree with you about "you never know your friends until they rant on FB". I have also unfollowed and unfriended people who made comments which I judge where very inappropriate and also people who use rude language and swear words at every sentence - social media can show the best and the worse of its users.

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    1. Hey Cyndie - so true - I do see horrible things on social media but I also see wonderful acts of kindness and so many positive messages and interactions. Thank you for your comment.

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  8. I sometimes wish I had a well known forum like this to express my similar opinions, I am glad you can get the point across for all of us Carly. Social media is becoming the 'faceless' means of being offensive, I could never imagine a world where people express the things they do in person just as they do on facebook and alike. What a yucky place that would be when it already is bad enough.

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    1. Thanks so much Anon.
      I think that people forget social media is not faceless. Especially Facebook on which people put their names to it. Perhaps they think because they're not verbalising their beliefs, it's not really an opinion outside their head. Bit thoughts can become words which can become actions.

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  9. You have such a wonderful, thoughtful way of seeing the world Carly. You live with real respect for yourself and for others. I must admit that in the past I have just clicked away or quietly unfollowed. I had an old work colleague comment on how much they love TA after having met him and though I don't agree with him at all he was so completely respectful in the way he put his view across. Really, I think that's about the best you can hope for, that regardless of people's views that they act with respect towards other people. Hateful speech is not something I can abide.

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  10. Carly, you have such a lovely, thoughtful way of seeing the world. I always like hearing your perspective. I've just clicked away or unfollowed in the past but I think it's so important that people act with respect regardless of their views. I can't abide hate.

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  11. Do you know how many times I have blocked friends from what I see they post on FB? I guess deleting them would have been the wisest choice but at least blocking what they post doesnt aggravate me and tempt me to get in a FB comment war. It is so true that these types of comments or shared pictures really show true colors. I am so happy for New Zealand and the video makes me tear up. Equal love for ALL! :-)

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  12. Initially I had the same reaction as you. I unfriended someone who was whinging about the administration costs of charities. After thinking about it I regreted it. Have you heard of the Google bubble? Google remembers the searches you do and only returns items which it thinks you will like. How will I expand my horizons if I'm only shown things that already fit into my views?

    That's why I no longer unfriend people on facebook when they post things which I vehemently disagree with. Instead I use the rage I feel to do something about it. I've even tried to rationally engage people on these topics. I don't think an ignore it and it will go away approach will work for this kind of stuff.

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    1. So true Jess - I think the Google Bubble term is known as "homophily" where you just find out about the things you're interested in.
      I know I always try to educate people in my personal life and also on social media through writing and speaking about diversity. But sometimes it's tiring reasoning with really narrow minded people. It's more than just disagreeing in the cases I've outlined in this post, it's about values not aligning. Thanks so much for your comment and for making me think! Good on you for trying to change things positively :)

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    2. On the path of self improvement we must all strive to better ourselves and search for the truth. If more people took the time to UNDERSTAND before they JUDGE ... whoa, what an interesting, enlightened world we would live in! :)

      Thank you Jess for trying to make the world a bit better. :)

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  13. As always, a very well written post! It seems you have a quite a vocal set of FB 'friends'. I had a few who do strange rants about the meaning of life but nothing too extreme in terms of political or social views. I recently unliked a memes group as it was getting too political with the whole Margaret Thatcher death and being quite rude to people who were only stating what they went through in the UK...

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    1. Thanks Sass! Oh some of those memes groups have horrible memes. I unfollowed a few of them. They started off funny and now quite vulgar.
      As for Margaret Thatcher - I had a few English friends very vocal after her death but nothing as bad as the homophobic and racist rants I've seen.

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  14. I have sometime deleted people from Facebook because of their rants. Other times I have tried to talk to them about my point of view. But there are some things I just will not tolerate, and hate is one of them.

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  15. I'm not sure if anyone else has done so, but I can identify the person in the smeared makeup photo as the wonderful performance artist and activist Scottee (http://www.scottee.co.uk/) and zie is in full performance and activism mode in that photograph.

    I refuse to have people in my life who engage in bigotry. I usually operate by calling them out once, and if they refuse to rethink their attitude and make amends for their actions, I move on to people who deserve me in their lives.

    When it comes to the places I cannot avoid people (work, friends of friends), I make my position very clear that I will not tolerate bigotry in my hearing, and then I am formally polite with them, but nothing else.

    I just have to take a zero tolerance stand on bigotry. It is never going to change unless more of us take a zero tolerance stand on it.

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