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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email