Social Media

The ugly face of Facebook

Another weekend, and another carefully calculated self-love link fest where some A lister makes a bold and basically useless announcement, and others rush to support. If you want to increase your link count, writing self-centered, arrogant, and useless posts with bald titles filled with hyperbole works rather well.

What was particularly sad about this weekend’s lovefest, though, is that the subject was about Facebook but didn’t reflect the real story that was going around: the bias and bigotry in Facebook against older people.

I didn’t last on Facebook enough to see it’s ugly face. I found out about such through Ronnie Bennettodd time signature, and Freydblog. What they found was an undercurrent of hatred against older people, manifested in groups like the following:

F*CK** OLD PEOPLE: 107 members
Asking old people for a quarter then throwing it in there face…..hahaha!: 143 members
I Beat up old people: 53 members
I like to beat the living crap out of old people. (sic): 15 members
Pill pushing nurses to the possessed elderly….: 32 members
Eradicating the elderly: 12 members
If this group reaches 2′000 people, i will push a old lady down the stiars: (sic) 164 members

Among the messages posted to the groups:

Let us unite and join for a common cause, abolish social security and legalize euthanasia.

Who is with me on this, who thinks old people in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered for their annoyance , stupidity, and outright wasting of time.

Maria also writes on this topic:

I must admit, when I first signed on to Facebook, I felt a bit like a teenager sneaking into the house late at night, hoping not to wake up the parents — or, in this case, catch the attention of the kids. Reading the quotes Ronni gathered from Facebook makes the blood run cold in my veins, as does the realization that you can’t delete your account on Facebook, only deactivate it. (In some strange way, this maybe a blessing for the old-hating young whose words may well come back to bite them in their eventually sagging asses…)

(Maria also links to other good posts and comments including one by Yule Heibel, who wrote this weekend that Climates of trust are built on response and responsiveness. Not related to the issue, but compelling, nonetheless.)

Of course, youth has always rejected the older, and resented our positions of both authority and influence. Pushing back at old farts is a social phenomena that many of us remember from the days of Vietnam war protests (anyone remember Don’t trust anyone over 30! placards?) It’s not surprising to see such groups or even messages. I think what is disquieting is the fact that Facebook, which promises to abolish ‘hate’ groups, does not see these as such.

This isn’t surprising really, nor is it surprising that the 23 year old founder of the application, Mark Zukerberg, wouldn’t be overly concerned. In our rush to a new social network we have idolized youth; made them the pampered pets of social networking. More importantly, we have both taught and celebrated the right of free expression without promoting an awareness that the best expression is accompanied by both empathy and respect.

The younger the person the more self-absorbed and that’s natural; after all, it takes experience to become empathetic. Over time, society and our interactions within it help most (not all) of us to see beyond just our own needs, our own wants. We become friends with people outside our age group, race, class, or country. We learn that being aware of others, their needs and feelings, isn’t the same as ‘selling out’; nor is it destructive of ‘self’.

However, what I’m seeing with some of the social networking sites (just some, not all), is that rather than expose people to different viewpoints, they can reinforce barriers against the the natural processes that abrade self-absorbed behavior. When challenged in one’s day to day life to give o’er our preconceptions or biases, rather than learn to adapt and grow socially, we can rush home and twitter, blog, and Facebook with others who have exactly our same point of view. We can safely ensconce ourselves behind a buffer of like-minded folks, postponing, perhaps indefinitely, the need to challenge our “world is me me me” view.

An example: another reason I lost interest in Facebook, other than my disinterest in the distraction, had to do with the recent story about Facebook and Zukerberg being sued because another company says he stole their code and concept. The suit is still ongoing and who is to say whether it has merit or not. But one thing I noticed among the Facebook fans is that they were less interested in the merits behind the suit–the possibility that the code and idea may have been stolen–and more concerned about losing their special place and that harm could come to their ‘hero’. They were completely apathetic about whether Zukerberg stole the code or not. If the courts ruled he did, as long as they still have their ‘special place’, they would be indifferent to the finding and Zukerberg would still be their ‘hero’.

The world ‘bankrupt’ was flipped around this weekend, and used incorrectly and badly at that. The real ‘bankruptcy’ I’m seeing with a site like Facebook, and perhaps even some forms of social networking in general, is an empathetic bankruptcy–perhaps even a moral bankruptcy, if that term hasn’t been permanently corrupted because of its overuse and abuse by the religious conservatives–as sites like these become the sugar tit of upcoming generations.

But then, I am over 30, and therefore my opinion and this writing are not to be trusted.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

More on the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007

The Consumerist has more on the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007.

People Over Profits has an email campaign but it also helps to contact your Congressional rep directly. A letter of phone call also works wonders.

How important is this bill? There is no bill pending in Congress that scares Corporate America more than this one. There is no bill pending in Congress that could more help the American people than this one.

Due to rulings in the Supreme Court, mandatory arbitration agreements now trump the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when it comes to employment discrimination lawsuits. This means that an arbitrator can make decisions based on civil rights, can do so without following the law, can do so without following the arbitration rules themselves, and can do so without any transparency into the decision process.

…after Sherri Warner lost her discrimination and wrongful firing suit in mandatory arbitration, a San Francisco arbitrator not only charged her nearly $16,000 for his time, he ordered her to pay her opponent’s legal fees of more than $207,000.

The fee award would probably not have been allowed in court, and it forced Warner into bankruptcy. But after her lawyer, Stephen Gorski, asked the arbitrator to explain his decision, the arbitrator refused when reminded no rules required him to do so.

Arbitrators rarely issue written opinions, making requests for review virtually impossible.

What’s scarier is that this case was ten years ago, and since then, the Supreme Court has given even more power to arbitration, including giving it power over ruling on employment discrimination that now supersedes that of the EEOC. The Supremes have even given it power over the law, itself. In recent case, one of my favorites, Buckeye Check Cashing vs. Cardenga, a man sued a check cashing company claiming that the conditions of the loan were illegal. The company, which had a mandatory arbitration clause, demanded that the claim be taken to arbitration. The state of Florida disagreed, saying that an arbitration clause that was in a contract deemed to be illegal is not enforceable.

However, our Scalia controlled Supreme Court doesn’t allow a little thing like an illegal contract deter it. It decided that it wasn’t up to the courts to determine the validity of an arbitration clause just because it happened to be in an illegal contract — the only item the courts could determine is whether the arbitration clause is, in and of itself, legal. The rest of the contract was then up to the arbitrator.


Under the Federal Arbitration Act, may a party avoid arbitration by arguing that the contract in which the arbitration clause is contained is illegal?


No. The 7-1 majority (Justice Samuel Alito not participating) ruled that challenges to the legality of a contract as a whole must be argued before the arbitrator rather than a court. The opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia explained that “unless the challenge is to the arbitration clause itself, the issue of the contract’s validity is considered by the arbitrator in the first instance.” The Court held that the Florida Supreme Court had been wrong to rely on a distinction between void and merely voidable contracts, because the word “contract” in the Federal Arbitration Act includes contracts later found to be void. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented due to his long-held view that the FAA does not apply in state courts.

This is a frustrating topic for me, because I’ve watched over the years now as arbitration has eroded all of our judicial rights, as granted by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. It’s frustrating because I can’t seem to convey, in this weblog, how serious this can get.

A legal expert in Texas once said that he felt in ten years, there would no longer be a civil court system because of how much it is being eroded by an act that was basically put into law in 1925, as a way for businesses to come to ‘gentlemanly agreements’ in regards to a dispute. It was never intended to be used by corporations against the common citizen.

This is also a case of the breakdown of the system of checks and balances built into our government. The Supreme Court has empowered arbitration and supported mandatory arbitration to the point that it now is undermining the very nature of civil rights in our country, and was allowed to do so, unchecked, in the Republican controlled Congress.

Now we have a Democratic controlled congress. More than that, we have a congress where even many Republicans are beginning to look askance at the miscarriage of justice that occurs under the auspices of ‘arbitration’.

American Corporations do not want this Bill. American Corporations, who have delivered shoddy equipment, surly service, and bad faith consumerism.

Who supports this bill?

The Feingold-Johnson bill is supported by a host of consumer advocate organizations including Consumers Union, Public Citizen, American Association for Justice, Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Federation of America, Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings, Home Owners for Better Building, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), National Consumer Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, the National Employment Lawyers Association and Public Justice.

The list is only growing, as word of this Bill slowly trickles out.

Support the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007. Please.