BY RON BARNETT, SOUTHGREY.CA –
It is said that religion and politics are topics unfit for polite company. Since politeness and respect for others were always important aspirations for me, I surround myself with friends whose decorum closely matches that of my own.
So when exactly did vulgarity infect the people I know on Facebook?
Well, if you’re like me, this happened. And it happened without warning. One minute I was watching a funny cat video. The next, I was reading about the war on Christmas.
Take the other day, for example. I read a story about the recent Islamaphobia motion before parliament and how our Prime Minister is subverting our democracy and robbing us of our freedoms. Then, as if to illustrate the wide range of opinions on this, I see another story about the very same motion and how the people who oppose it are walking us along a path to Naziism.
Now I’m a reasonable guy. As such, I don’t like either one of these machinations. To me, they represent the most extreme of political viewpoints. They are outrageous. They are misleading. But worst of all, they are insulting to the people on the opposing side of the debate.
I’m also not perfect. In fact, I have posted my share of political views on Facebook, but for the most part I resist the temptation to weigh in too deeply and I keep enough of an open mind to consider contrary opinions.
Before posting, I’ll think about the following:
Is it true? Have I taken the time to research the facts and present them reasonably?
Is it too bombastic? The last thing I want to do is inflame a situation by saying something outrageous.
Will it offend anyone? Since Facebook has changed the way it broadcasts posts, their reach goes beyond my immediate friends list, so I need to make sure I’ve considered everyone.
By following these simple steps, it’s hard to go too wrong. For Facebook though, it can’t be so easy.
I don’t know exactly where it all went wrong for Mr. Zuckerberg. What began as an innocent way for Harvard students to connect has turned into an unfortunate forum for religious and political rhetoric and a propaganda machine for extremists the world over.
Searching out, fact-checking and removing vulgarity is an almost impossible chore. It requires significant help from users, many of whom seem unwilling to cooperate.
In the interest of selling targeted marketing packages to improve their profits and boost share performance for investors, the echo chambers that Facebook unwittingly created has provided the fertile conditions for vulgarity to find purchase. Their lack of action in response, has allowed the problem to only get worse.
My hope is that some people can give their heads a shake and be a little more responsible. When all else fails, just share that funny cat video.
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